Things Scandinavian are often an acquired taste, like that potted fish stuff, and some of the furniture. Peter Hoeg is more fun, but not everybody gets his books. Smilla’s Sense of Snow is his best known and most traditional work. I liked it for its tough protagonist–a woman part Inuit, part Bogart. Nothing like the femininized version you see in the freaking movie. In fact, you can read the book thinking that Smilla is really a man and everything still works. I just finished The Quiet Girl, more an extended hallucination that traditional narrative. I had to put the book down a few times and take a breath. Then I started putting it down so I could write down some of the amazing riffs on philosophy, music, love, earthquakes, nuns, etc. But when I did that I’d forget where I was and what I was doing. Getting back into the narrative, rereading, I felt I was picking up someplace I hadn’t been in the novel before. Alienation never felt so good. Hoeg does that, makes you feel that existential isolation is cool, that maybe you should start smoking cigarettes again. Our souls are warped and scarred, but we can still pray to SheAlmighty and things will happen and we’ll figure out how to rescue ourselves so we can make more mistakes and get lost all over again. See? Cool. I made a big mistake and took this book out of the library. I want to go exploring in it and find some of those mystical passges again. When the paperback comes out, I’m getting one and marking it up the way I used to do with Thomas Hardy. Hardy would love Hoeg. Doomed relationships between the sexes, deathbed reconcilliations with parents one has mistunderstood and neglected. Hardy might have requested more description of Nature (capital N,) but Copenhagen’s weather might have satisfied. The device that gives The Quiet Girl its magic is the protagonist’s ability to hear the music of every person and every situation and relationship. Kasper believes that SheAlmighty has tuned every soul to tones laid down by JS (almighty himself) Bach. Kasper can hear intimacy, can hear the tones of grief and sexual arousal, can hear the entire history of his relationship with his father, not to mention the mysterious woman who desires and distrusts him. The only person he can’t hear is the young girl that gives the novel its title. She represents an absence of sound that has numinous layers of meaning. Don’t you hate it when people use words like numinous. Me, too. Let’s move on. Less interesting is the fact that Kasper is a professional clown. A world class clown. With a shitload of bad debts. Yeah, yeah, I get it. We’re all clowns and we all have metaphorical bad debts and can’t be trusted. Boo hoo. Rather than feel sorry for ourselves, we might consider that clowns can be entertaining. They have their own magic (when they’re not terrifying small children or audiences foolish enough to go see “The Dark Knight” at an IMAX theater), and they can pull coins and chocolates out of our ears. We all have to do the Hokey Pokey sometime.