A quirky, linguistic tome that captures the flourishing, convoluted ouroboros of human imagination.
Humans long for connections beyond their constant, churning thoughts. Through a playful, all-knowing stream of conscious perspective, Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Blink: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life traces the mental, emotional and physical steps her cast takes towards who and what they seek, often using art as a conduit.
Literary student Sigrid searches for expository meaning behind sights, sounds and phenomena, as well as someone with whom she can share her mind’s conjurings. She hopes its author Kåre, who’s two decades her elder and believes Sigrid can help him get over his ex. Under the conceit of scouting movie locations, burgeoning director Linnea retraces the path that led her to the married professor with whom she had an affair. Performance artist Trine struggles to reconcile her creative edge with the subdued reality of new motherhood.
These threads loosely weave together by coincidence and through social links, not unlike how individuals center themselves in their daily accounts and appear in others’ lives. Occasionally, Øyehaug shoehorns this in. The narrators’ insistance on a side character Viggo learning kung fu to combat his anxiety feels like a forced association to Kåre and Wanda’s argument over the feminist interpretation of the Kill Bill martial arts franchise, which brought to light the insecurities that broke them up. Generally though, readers will be charmed by such ties. Viggo runs a cafe that’s hinted at being where Sigrid and Kåre have their first date. Wanda congratulates Trine on her show and discusses her new singularity. Trine and Linnea visit the same postfeminist art exhibit. Linnea stands on a balcony in only her lost love’s garment, as Sigrid contemplates the media cliche of signifying women’s vulnerability by outfitting them in their male partners’ shirts.
The recurring motif embodies how the male gaze idealizes women as young and perfect yet villanizes them when those qualities stop suiting the men’s fancies, as well as pits women against each other. Kåre sours on his “Ultimate Woman,” rock ‘n’ roll bassist Wanda, assuming she’s grown jealous when she actually fears the lopsided power structure within their relationship that ended his previous jaunts. After inviting Sigrid to his residence, he gives her his pajama top to compare his affections for her versus Wanda in similar garb. He’s later appalled by Sigrid’s innocent candor in suggesting how to move their coupling forward, despite the same emboldened shyness initially endearing him.
While the omniscient nature of the novel offers intriguing looks into the primary and supporting characters’ inner workings, it comes off extraneous in examining symbolism in jellyfish and ancient rocks and intrusive in postulating about real-life personages like critic Paul de Man, director Sofia Coppola and President George W. Bush post-9/11.
In a similar vein, Wait, Blink ’s principal storylines perhaps needed editing and balancing. Trine presents the most unique point of view, detailing the simultaneous sexuality and maternity of her hormonal body and observing her heartbreak over her daughter refusing to breastfeed, but isn’t given enough pages to fully shine. Conversely, though poignant on its own, Linnea’s B-side was actually replaced with a narrative original to the book’s film adaptation, as if in co-writing Women in Oversized Men’s Shirts , Øyehaug might’ve realized Linnea’s plot involving older men too closely mirrored Sigrid and Kåre’s romance, the clear focus of a crowded novel.
In dissecting the duo’s tenuous bond, the author uncovers the uncomfortable implications of their age disparity in how Kåre deifies Sigrid as a pure, youthful savior figure that’ll save him from his hangups and also how she has to pep talk herself in showcasing her bold independence. It’s an acute analysis of a problematic scenario and is in that regard worth being told, but it’s also wearisome since Kåre is self-flagellating yet unapologetic of his misogyny and, even when she tries to crack the cliche she’s mired in, Sigrid never gains agency over her naive Manic Pixie Dream Girl tendencies. The Final Comments section even robs her of a proper triumph by only stating she’s okay after her ordeal.
Wait, Blink is at least a quirky, linguistic tome that captures the flourishing, convoluted ouroboros of human imagination in one moment circling into itself, then flitting to the next idea on the thinnest of correlations. And even if Øyehaug could’ve exercised better restraint and doesn’t succeed in all her messaging, she fills her work with valuable observations into the dynamics running people’s interactions with each other and themselves.