Two books in, we are starting to get the measure of Jonas Karlsson – and we like what we see. You’ll remember his first offering, a slim novel called The Room, in which a man discovered a room in his place of work that no-one else could apparently see. We said it was “Kaftastic” and we stand by that, even as we see – in his second novel, The Invoice – that Kafka is quite possibly only one of the writers who inspire him.
This time around, our narrator (who is not unlike the narrator of The Room in his temperament even as he is not quite doing as well as the narrator of The Room; the narrator of The Invoice works in a video store, doesn’t own anything too expensive, doesn’t have a girlfriend) receives a bill for an astronomical sum of money and presumes there has been an error somewhere. Only there hasn’t been an error, our narrator has simply been oblivious to a large marketing campaign explaining that everyone now has to pay for that which they thought had been freely given. It’s a happiness tax, of sorts, and our narrator, for some reason, scores very highly indeed.
What ensues (again over the course of quite a short book) is an attempt to (a) understand the world and (b) come to terms with the changes foisted upon him. In the midst of our hapless hero’s tussle with big business, there is a gentle romance of sorts with the lady he consults with over the phone, and ruminations (of course) on what it is to be happy (it could be as simple as listening to Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver for the hero of this novel).
In truth, it feels like a book that could happily sit on the shelf besides your Etgar Keret and your Haruki Murakami – particularly if you are a fan of the more whimsical Murakami, the Murakami who isn’t afraid to be sweet rather than the Murakami who likes to puzzle and, you know, leave things hanging. David Foster Wallace talked about the “pleasure bursts” that accompany a really enjoyable book; The Invoice was chockfull of such pleasure bursts.
Any Cop?: We found The Invoice a delight and we are now eagerly spying the horizon for whatever Karlsson does next.