THE THREE FATES OF HENRIK NORDMARK
By Christopher Meades
While the label of Chick Lit may seem condescending to some, and the genre itself, typically involving the adventures of emotionally immature shopaholic women, demeaning, things look even worse on the other side of the gender divide. This is the world of Loser Lit, novels featuring underemployed and largely unmotivated slacker males leading lonely and meaningless lives on the edge of respectability.
Henrik Nordmark, the creation of Vancouver-based author Christopher Meades, is a classic Loser Lit anti-hero: a 42-year-old, bald, pot-bellied career security guard. Henrik’s life is so empty and entirely unremarkable that, following a near-death experience, he makes it his mission to become, in some way, unique. This vague and variant quest – he tries pot, speed-dating, and clipping his toenails in public – is linked with several other storylines in a complex bit of narrative macrame. Chasing a runaway plum down the street, Henrik accidentally and unknowingly becomes the target of a gang of three elderly assassins (one blind, one deaf, and one mute). Another untermensch, this one a cubicle drone named Roland, mistakenly thinks he’s won the lottery, setting his life on a downward spiral. And a young couple named Bonnie and Clyde try to kill each other, with much lack of success.
The result is a slapstick comedy of errors that moves at a breakneck pace through a series of destructive and increasingly violent encounters. Not that we care about any of the bodies that pile up on stage at the end, since the characters are all cartoons programmed to behave just idiotically enough to keep the jokes rolling. Probability goes out the window early. Even Henrik is inconsistently rendered – at times employing a strangely formal and articulate vocabulary, and then not knowing the difference between an engima and an enema.
Given its origins as an entry in the 3-Day Novel Contest (though Meades subsequently expanded the manuscript considerably), it’s hard to expect a lot more. Quick and light as air, sometimes even funny, it makes for an entertaining and undemanding diversion.
Review first published in Quill & Quire, October 2010.