This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle is a book written in ‘staccato’ but with a mood that is distinctly ‘lamentoso’.
Short, detatched and seemingly unrelated sentences deliver the story of Dorte, a university student living alone and not going to classes. There’s a fair degree of commentary on apple trees, trains, insomnia, ex-boyfriends and her aunt (also named Dorte).
“After that the suitcase lived in my room. At one point it was a bedside table, the lamp threw a white cone of light on it all day long. I lay on the bed doing old crosswords with a biro. I didn’t have that many jobs to do, but I had to remember to turn my jeans inside out when I put them in the laundry bin.”
“They’d forgotten their picnic basket, it was sticking out from under the shrubs in the front garden. I discovered it on the Tuesday morning when I went over to catch the train. I’d tried some new eyeshadow, it was dusty green and supposed to go all the way up, only my eyelids weren’t the right shape. It was only a couple of minutes till the train was due…”
The short sentences disguise delivery of the major plot points –
“Per went with me to work and back again, he tickled me on the waterbed until I nearly fainted, he took his clothes off and put them back on again several times a day, went with me to the doctor’s when I got pregnant and on the bus to the hospital seven long days later…”
Dorte drained the life out of me with her aimless days, random meals, napping in chairs and general lethargy. This may be a sign of powerful writing but I can’t help feeling I missed something important. Was there a message or is this book simply a terrific example of pure stream-of-consciousness writing?
“I tidied up and got dressed. I was ready before six. I caught the five-past-nine.”
2/5 I think I’ll file this one with Fun Camp.
I received my copy of This Should be Written in the Present Tense from the publisher, Random House UK via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
It’s all about the raspberry slice.