cover image T Singer

T Singer

Dag Solstad, trans. from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2596-0

Solstad’s unusual, entertaining novel of restrained humor follows its protagonist, T Singer, over a lifetime of nonengagement. Singer is something of a Bartleby whose neuroses compel him to retreat from life, abandon his hilarious attempts to write the perfect sentence (“one fine day he stood eye to eye with a memorable sight”), and move to the small town of Notodden at age 34 to become the town librarian. The prose repeatedly swerves into digressions about minutiae—did Singer inadvertently make a fool of himself when he talked to K thinking he was talking to B? How can he not interact with library visitors who appreciate him? After a bizarre encounter with a millionaire who gives him a system for making infinite money, Singer settles into a dull marriage with Merete and helps take care of her daughter, Isabella. After the marriage ends, Singer and his stepdaughter move to Oslo and try to start over. As Solstad increases the pace and Singer shrinks more into himself, the reader begins to feel the wonder of his shaky connection with Isabella. The novel brilliantly shows the humor and pain of obsessiveness, and the anxious, analytic Singer emerges as an enduring creation. (May)