Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking

Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking
Title: Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking
Author: Scott Navicky
First Published: 2014
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars (average rating on Goodreads: 4:20)

It’s very difficult for me to review this book. It’s probably one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read, and yet it’s very hard for me to describe it. But I’ll try: Forrest Gump meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I was totally amazed by the protagonist: a character much like Forrest Gump who could easily have gotten lost in the world, but who never seems to actually feel lost. Instead, he made me laugh and smile. A lot.

But one of my complaints is that too much happens in very few pages. Whenever we’re introduced to a new setting, we’re quickly torn away and thrown into another. All settings were interesting and amusing, but I’m all for taking your time, getting settled in and getting to know the situation. It felt rushed to me and I felt sad every time Humboldt left one place for another. Whenever I was really enjoying the story, I had to remind myself to not get too involved or excited as it would be over soon and on to something else. I’m not saying less should have happened – we should just have had a lot more pages. Like 1.000 pages, that would have captivated me more.

I remember feeling the same way when I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: It was fun and amusing, but where’s the plot, the story telling? Another thing that kind of bothered me was that it felt as if the author was trying to force his opinions on me. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve kept going back and forward between 3 and 4 stars over the past two weeks since I swiped the last page.

So what changed my mind? Well, whenever I think back to the novel, I get a huge smile on my face. There were so many details that won me over – like the bit where there’s a therapist with a Scandinavian accent, and all Humboldt hears is the Swedish chef from The Muppet Show (“Hurleyburleyfergusbergus“). Being a Scandinavian myself (Danish, in case you were wondering) this stuff is perhaps extra hilarious to me.

And I adored how the author lashed out at post modern bestselling authors – like one of my favorite authors, Paul Auster. There’s a scene where Humboldt goes to a Paul Auster reading and despises everything (except the lovely Siri Hustvedt):

The author oozed a pompous, arrogant persona and he paused frequently to stare out over the audience with his dark brooding eyes. He did this so frequently that Humboldt wondered if he was simply reminding everyone that he had dark brooding eyes.

That cracked me up – even though I can’t help admiring those dark brooding eyes.

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