I reviewed Johan Harstad's book 172 Hours on the Moon on Monday, and if you're nodding off at your desk right now, I can only assume you bought it yesterday and were up all night reading because it is AWESOME. You know what else is awesome? Or who, rather? Johan! He took time to answer our famously intrusive questions and pitch the most amazing film concept yet, proving once again that some of the best films in the world come from Scandinavia (Norway, to be precise here).
THE ACTUAL BOOK-RELATED QUESTIONS
I like how the main characters are from different countries. Norway's obvious, but how did you choose Japan and France for the other two?
I'm a big fan of Paris and have been spent a lot of time there over the years, so I feel I know the city a bit. Tokyo I chose because I'm very intrigued about Japan and it's culture in general and the teenage fashion at the Harajuku station in Tokyo in particular. And, well, it also has to do with a possible sequel to the novel ...
One passage early on cracked me up -- it's where Mia has decided to like the Talking Heads, and is forcing herself to listen to them. I legitimately love the Talking Heads, but there are definitely some bands about which I've felt the same way as Mia when I was younger -- like I had to like them to maintain some sort of credibility. Who's your Talking Heads?
It is Talking Heads, actually. I came to them fairly late and struggled with the music for a long while, knowing that I would absolutely love them if I could just figure them out. Now we are inseparable and David Byrne is a bigger inspiration to me for every day that passes.
That sounds like the story of Tom Waits and me.
How would you react to a Return to the Moon lottery?
I'd be very worried and concerned. I'd have to make some phone calls… and I'd probably wouldn't sleep well for a long time. For very good reasons, I might add.
THE YA QUESTIONS
If your real life adolescence was a YA book…What would you, the main character, be like?
In (not so) short? … He's a guy who's sometimes (more often than not, really) a bit overwhelmed by it all, the possibilities, the music, thefeelings, his friends, the world going to hell all around him and all the girls he can (and does) fall in love with every day/every week. Probably a bit worried about it all as well. Surrounded by grunge music which is, he is dead sure, a musical genre that'll be remembered for centuries, he strongly believes he is in the middle of the most important era since the sixties (which, by theway, happens to be the decade he most would have liked to live in) and so times are generally good. He has recently discovered that there seems to be no limit as to how many bottles of wine you can drink and how many cigarettes you can smoke in a single night, especially if it is summer and only a few hours ofdarkness and you're so in love that your brain hurts. He's trying to be a poet and a painter (his painting skills are absolutely worthless…) and even though he has to get up early for school he'll usually sit up very late typing up poetry written during the day on an old typewriter from the early sixties. About 9 out of 10 poems are rubbish. He still types them down. He has his own small publishing 'company' called something that loosely translates to 'Wrangler' and he'll be selling or giving his small editions away from time to time. Oh, and he's in a band called 'Blomst' ('Flower'), he's the singer, though he can't sing. But he writes the lyrics so everyone in the band feels it makes sense that he should sing. He feels pretty sure that he'll never livepast 27, though he has no idea why. It just seems to be a fact of life. Let's see, what else? He's usually armed with a book of Rimbaud's poetry and pretends to understand it, but since no one else gives a shit about poetry, they don't give a shit about revealing to him that they know he doesn't understand it, either. He's considered very trustworthy and loyal to his friends, a bit morbid, takes great pride in being sort of an emotional supportive ambulance and probably a few people are afraid of him as well, since he's one of the very few that can walk around the schoolyard in winter without a single snowballbeing thrown his way. He's a fraud, but he means well. And he is desperate for a girlfriend, falling in love twice before lunch and eleven times before nightfall. He has trouble actually getting a girlfriend, though. He may not be trying hard enough, spending too much time writing poetry about them or forthem instead of actually asking them out. About 2/3 of his closest friends are girls, which some guys find intimidating, others are just jealous of the 'All Access' card this gets him into the feelings and private lives of the part of the population these guys have absolutely no understanding of. Finally, he usually wears a worn out, slightly smelly, repeatedly mended, but still highly treasured, blue, French maximum prison jacket bought for $3 at a flea market in Paris, that he thinks makes him look cool, but probably just makes him lookeven more like a hobo. Or Weirdo. Then again, a handful of his teachers arealready convinced he is on drugs anyway. Which, by the way, he isn't. But well, what can you do? After all, it is the time of Kurt Cobain and a lot of people look like they've just climbed out from a dumpster.
I think I knew you in high school, but your American self preferred Jack Kerouac to Rimbaud's poetry. I would have made out with the guy carrying around Rimbaud -- it would have seemed so exotic and intellectual.
Sadly, we don't get to see the jacket because all Johan's teenage photos are at his parents' house. One of many benefits to growing up before ubiquitous digital photography!
Who is your secret crush?
Hm, there are quite a few of them. Not simultaneously, but in, uh, quick succession … The most secret of them is probably Mariann, one of my closest friends for a few years during adolescence. Stunningly beautiful, definitely out of my league, and interest-wise completely incompatible with myself. But still…
What is your number #1 source of angst?
Death. Though I try to pretend the exact opposite.
At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?
When I, as the singer in our band, at our first (andlast) concert finally do what I have dreamt about doing for years and stagedive out into the crowd. Unfortunately, the crowd consists of just one poor guy. I almost break his arm when I land on him. But he is very forgiving. After all, I am in a band.
When I finally decide to go home after having left a New Year's Eve party, drunk behind all recognition, having spent the last half hour involuntarily upside down in some shrubbery outside the house of the party,trying to find my way out before finally ending up outside an abandoned factory nearby dressed only in a itchy suit from 1970-something, sitting down in the snow in 5F and considering sleeping there.
When I finally get the girl.
And who would play you in the film adaptation?
Bill Murray. Not because we look alike, (or that I generally looked like a 60 year old as a teenager) but because … I don't know. He's a great actor and it could be weird in a very nice way.
This is already my new favorite movie of all time.
THE SLUMBER PARTY Qs
What is your secret power?
What is your #1 favorite food?
Sushi. I'll bring.
Tell me about your area of expertise.
My ears and my mouth. I'll listen and then try to say something funny to make you feel better. If you're already feeling good, I'll do the opposite: First freak you out with a story that'll keep you from sleeping for days and then … I'll try to say something funny to make you feel better. And I'm pretty good with sharing utterly useful facts as well.
If you could assemble your own Ocean’s 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick and why?
Brains - Margot Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums. The only one who knows the whole picture!
Right hand (logistics) - The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Keeps track of time.
Con man - James 'Sawyer' Ford from Lost. Good at what he does.
Business - Omar Little from The Wire. Good at collecting funds in a friendly way. Sporting a trench coat and a sawed-off, double barred shotgun.
Security - Admiral Ackbar from Return of The Jedi. Will constantly yell It's a trap! when sniffing danger.
Munitions expert - Akira, from Akira. For when you need excessive force ...
Undercover - Zelig from Woody Allen's Zelig. The human chameleon.
Tech guy - Cobb from Inception. A dream guy for the job.
Transport - Driver, from Driver. For obvious reasons.
Grease man - Vince Noir and Howard Moon from The Mighty Boosh, in a pleasantly colored twin spandex suit(!). Combining the Electro Boy/King of Mods and a jazz maverick you get a package good for most jobs.
What is your best karaoke song?
I've only sung karaoke once, in a weird bar in the Faroe Islands, doing a song I choose not to reveal the name of, so this is more or less hypothetical: R.E.M's "It's The End of The World As We Know it (And I Feel Fine)". I know the lyrics by heart which should impress a few and I do this weird little Michael Stipe dance to score bonus points! Unfortunately, as mentioned, I can't sing. But hopefully we'll all get a few laughs from it. My wife also tells me I do a decent version of Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual," but, eh, who wants to sing Tom Jones?
Tell me something scandalous!
I once peeled off a small piece of a $500,000 contemporary art painting at a museum when I was 19 because I thought the artist had used too much paint. I feel horrible admitting this, but I felt now was the time to come clean.
What is your favorite adult beverage?
Wine, preferably French. Red and/or white. Don't have to be expensive. Btw, my doctor told me I drink too little (true!) the last time I saw her.
We could definitely help you with that problem.
What book have you read the most number of times?
A collection of poetry by Norwegian poet Jan Erik Vold called something like Mother Goodhearted's Happy Version. Yes (my apologies to all Norwegians for this horrible translation of the title). I still think it is the greatest poetry collection ever. His style is very talkative, inspired by jazz, beat poetry, prose and pretty much everything and nothing. It's horribly sad, very dark, extremely funny, full of love and hope and quirkiness. Vold himself refers to his way of writing as 'everyday poetry', as opposed to 'weekend poetry' or 'holiday poetry' I guess.
Who is your “freebie”?
Sofia Coppola. I just think she's great in every way.
She's our favorite champagne!
YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?
Well, I guess I should give one to my best friend Harald. Not only is 'DARLAH' in the novel an anagram for Harald, which I thought was funny, since he absolutely hates scary films and stories. But also because he would feel as awkward as me if he had to wear the BFF charm in public.
Out of all of the characters you’ve written, which one do you most wish you could be?
The girl Leni in my novel Hässelby. She only plays a small part in the part of the book where she is the main character's girlfriend in Paris. I really liked her and missed her when I finished the book. She's very into music, studies art and writes a thesis on Yves Klein. She has a lovely, but weird father and generally seems to be happy with life. Ithink in many ways I wrote her like I would have wanted to be if I were a girl.
Now I have to go learn Norwegian so I can read it!
If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and obvs, you ARE), what pajamas would you wear, and what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie you’d bring?
I'll bring Scandinavian/European candy and it'll open your eyes, you will never be able to go back to 'artificially flavored' again! Jellybeans? I don't think so… I'm also bringing Apocalypse Now. Not only my favorite film when it comes to the writing, casting, cinematography, music and sound, but more importantly: it even plays well in the background, on repeat, with the sound off. I know from experience that slumber parties don't mix well with watching films. People want to talk. But when sleep finally sets in, what better way to doze off than to images of Martin Sheen and the PBR crew making their way up the Mekong river on theirstrange odyssey? Just make sure you fall asleep before the tiger jumps out of the jungle or the cast arrives at Kurtz' compound, covered with skinned bodies hanging from the trees.
And now for the junior-high fortune telling game, MASH! You give us three choices for each category, and we add a fourth!
Number of Kids
8 (4 sets of twins)
Hotel carpet pattern designer
A few crumpled notes under the mattress
Account in a local bank that gets robbed annually out of tradition and only have a handful of clients left
Swiss bank account
Good luck cramming 8 kids into the cab of a garbage truck! It's just a good thing you're not getting paid in licorice.
But wait! There's more! The folks over at Little, Brown are giving away 3 copies of Johan's book. Just leave a comment here or on my review, or both (for two entries!) to win.