by Daniel Wirtheim
When Jón Gnarr was campaigning for mayor of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, he ran on a platform of refusing a coalition government with anyone who had not watched the HBO series “The Wire” in its entirety. In 2010 Gnarr became mayor, making himself famous for dressing in drag and leading the Gay Pride Festival through Reykjavik. And in 2015 he released his part-fictional autobiography, The Indian.
It’s a memoir of an often reclusive and unsociable hyperactive child. Gnarr tells stories of unintentionally becoming the class clown and setting fire to his parent’s living room. Words stumble out of the young Gnarr’s mouth uncontrollably. He dresses and acts in homage to the Native Americans, which he only knows through storybooks.
Gnarr is untamed but his writing points to an underlying intelligence that breaks everything down to its most basic form. Thinkers like Noam Chomsky have praised Gnarr’s political party, aptly named the “Best Party” for challenging the legitimacy of government entities. Gnarr is a comedian, but The Indian proves that’s not the foremost aspect of who he is.
“The future scares me,” writes Gnarr. “Everyone’s headed somewhere together and I’m not invited. I’ll go alone, somewhere else. I don’t know where. I never know anything; I’m unable to do anything. No one cares about me at all. I’m all alone in the world. I’m an Indian.”
Gnarr is weird, gentle and preoccupied with being accepted. His autobiography speaks to the ADHD generation in a way that most books have failed to do. There is no real takeaway from The Indian, no a-ha moment — it’s about a misfit who often finds himself at the center of attention.
Anyone who is familiar with Gnarr’s antics might be slightly disappointed to know that The Indian is not as hilarious as one might expect. It is, however, nice to know that Gnarr is just as witty and entertaining as a dramatist.
Notes from a psychologist analyzing Gnarr are interspersed throughout the book. The notes might be the book’s best offering for an introspective look at the creation of the punk politician who is often out of touch with the rest of society.
Although, he means well, Gnarr never really confronts the injustices of the Native Americans; he only uses the fantasy of native warriors as armor against the boring life outside of his daydreams.
There is no book like The Indian. There are moments when one might wonder: What am I doing reading this? But like Gnarr, who gets by on his boyish wonder, sometimes the best plan of action is just enjoying life as it comes — earnestly and strangely.