A winner of the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature, this novel follows a librarian as he ruminates about his failed writing career, troubled friendships, and relationship with his wife and daughter.
In his [Solstad's] world, every person is a machine for making a vast array of random facts cohere. The fragility of that state both terrifies and obsesses him ... In prose fittingly unbroken by the consoling narrative endpoints and fresh starts of chapter breaks, Solstad moves Singer through the decades that follow his arrival in Notodden ... There’s nothing to hold in T Singer, which is what makes it so dismaying—neither the madness of Knut Hamsun, nor the ludicrousness of Cesar Aira, nor the misanthropy of Thomas Bernhard, nor the tenderness of Philip Roth ... The only consistency in Singer’s life is his bewilderment at it, his conviction that his circumstances have nothing to do with him ... All of the whispers have been right: Solstad is a vital novelist ... riveting, restlessly searching out new shapes ... 'If you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how,' Nietzsche said. But what if, like Singer, you don’t? ... How rare and terrible it feels to encounter truly unsentimental art.
T Singer isn't a harsh judgement of its title character; indeed, there's little judgement at all. But Singer is revealed, starkly—an unusual portrayal of a character in fiction (which tends towards much bigger protagonists; Singer's life isn't average or simple, but there's little that's in any way extraordinary about it). And the novel is personal, too: Solstad emerges, occasionally, and so also near the end, as he tries to clarify and explain ... T Singer can't be reduced to a 'story proper;' the telling isn't straightforward enough, the authorial presence —even if not necessarily the direct voice—too obvious, especially in its shaping and the (shifting) presentation of the narrative, and choosing what to highlight and what to skim over. Yet that fairly simple story underneath, describing that man, Singer, and his life, from age thirty-four to around fifty, is a deeply impressive and moving one too.
The loop of anxiety induced by...memory feeds into another loop ... Singer is very similar to Solstad’s other narrators and protagonists who drift through the novels named after them, brooding on their lot by fixating on very little ... At one point Singer notices how a certain couple 'shared the same perception of reality.' Solstad’s construction of reality is uniquely his own ... I confess that this verbal world of his—mad, sad and funny—often teeters on the brink of being boring. But that feeling merges into another that is quite thrilling as the behavioral possibilities of the novel are subtly and fundamentally enlarged.