Review: Paul Johan Karlsen – Stormwater Drains in Canberra

28478016Author: Paul Johan Karlsen
Reviewer: Vivian
Publisher: Krutt & Plutt Press
Genre: M/M Contemporary
ISBN: 9780996927208

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Consumed by pubescent desires, Kurt Larsen, a resourceful Norwegian boy, wants to speed up his sexual coming of age. Taking matters in his own hands, Kurt secretly opens a mailbox at the local post office and, posing as an adult, begins to take out personal ads in porn magazines. From there, little goes according to his master plan. ‘The Stormwater Drains in Canberra’ is a story of friendship and loneliness, of striking the right balance between privacy and secrecy, and above all, of learning how to love. In this international coming-of-age story, the narrator, a modern-day Peer Gynt, looks back on the events that unfolded from the time he was fourteen until he turned twenty-one.
Adventures of a young man.

Kurt wants to find another boy to have fun with in the tiny village of Bodø in northern Norway. The indecision, nervous and wild exuberance of youth. Always in such a hurry that we’re missing something. This leads to adventures in finding like-minded young men. It is gay coming of age fiction. It is not a romance even though it involves sex and emotions, it doesn’t follow that format.

Me, a satyr? Yah, Ragnar, I had to look up the word in the encyclopedia and think for a while. A roguish, seductive, yet timid creature of the untamed woodlands, instinctually able to defend itself against threats, prepared to help or hinder travelers at a whim, and ready for any physical pleasure? I wasn’t so sure…. But I was flattered.

Jonny Larsen answers his advertisement. And things go differently than expected. Jonny is a homme fatale. Admirers desperate for him pop up, like Lars the bus driver while Kurt tries to make it to the airport for his airline contest. Life is filled with disappointments and even the stubborn and determined have to admit defeat sometimes.

And this is how I related to Kurt, he has this sense of willing to let go and do something else, to find his path. Negative or positive, he keeps moving forward unfurling into himself. He’s engaging to read about.

Structurally, there are a few things that will be disconcerting to the unsuspecting reader. The first person point of view is intimate and truly settles one into Kurt’s mind, but he’s also a teenage boy who has the attention span of a squirrel at times. Second, there is a surfacing into scenes as Kurt tells them that leaves the reader to wonder for a bit as things unfold enough to see the layout before them. A bit like like be spun with a gauzy blindfold, you’re not blind, but you are disoriented. Now either you find this fun because why the hell not, spin me again, or this drives you batshit crazy because you want the path clear and laid out. I’m the drunken monkey on the lawn playing pin the tail on the donkey with this one. FUN.

It is written like a letter to a friend. The intimacy and confidential nature of Kurt’s confessions make the reader feel that most times they are the ones being written to. I thought it worked very well and provided a sympathy for Kurt even during some of his wildest moments. The humor in how Kurt reacts to the unpredictable is one of my favorite aspects to the story.

Eli and the kids were nowhere to be found, but she’d confiscated each and every bun from the breadbox—very well, she could keep our baked sperm samples.

Unsettling, inconclusive and ultimately ambiguous, it reflects life. This book is all about the journey of a young man determining himself. Not all decision are forever, in fact there is a great deal of acknowledging impermanency.

For God’s sake, why were so many so vested in the idea of making so many in this world stay put, why’s it so valuable that most people stay right where they are?




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