As promised: the interview with author Andrew Oberg and the review of his superb book Randolph’s One Bedroom.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m originally from the state of Minnesota in the U.S., but have been living in Japan since 2001 (with a short break in 2003). I teach at two universities here and am basically waiting for my chance to get a full-time job at one of them (my application is being processed as we speak…). My wife is a photographer for a prefectural magazine, and we have no children yet but are planning to try very soon. I’m also a huge fan of the Grateful Dead. 🙂
2. Tell us about Randolph’s One Bedroom
“Randolph’s One Bedroom” is a bit like watching TV, I suppose; all the stories revolve around one central character and setting, but are not necessarily related to each other. The book has been described to me as, “Coffee shop stories short enough for one latte” and “Kind of a cross between ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Twin Peaks'”. I think both of those descriptions are great and wish I had come up with at least one of them.
3. Where did the idea and the characters come from? Did any of these stories actually occur?
No! (lol) Thankfully none of the stories actually happened. The setting is based on a real job I had years ago and the neighborhood I lived in at the time. Winter is a strong element in the book, as it is in Minnesota–and believe me, it really does get that cold–so in some ways I guess the reality of what very long and harsh winters do to people was a point of inspiration for me.
4. Who was your favourite character to write?
I’d say Dave was the most fun. He’s pure id, constantly reacting to the world around him with no forethought whatsoever. A bit like Homer Simpson, really. And who doesn’t love Homer?
5. Which story was the most fun to write and your favourite?
Probably “A Discovery”. The whole idea is just so ridiculous, and I love the interaction between the characters in that one, too.
6. I would class this as comedy fiction, how would you classify this book and is this the genre you favour when reading?
I’d say comedy fiction as well. Most of what I read is actually non-fiction, though. I tend to go for Eastern religion, Western philosophy, history and anthropology books. I am a massive nerd!
7. How did you get into writing?
I’m not sure. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, and my preferred way to do so is through writing, so I guess I’d say I just naturally fell into it.
8. Is there anything else in the pipeline?
I’ve just started a new novel on one man’s journey through metaphysics. It’s still very much in the early stages, but I envision it developing along the lines of Hesse’s “Siddhartha”, Huxley’s “Island”, and the “Bhagavad Gita”. Ideally, I’d like it to be a blend of the feel of those three great works while effectively communicating my own thoughts.
I also have a graphic novel about the medieval Norse settlements in Greenland for sale on my site, and am hoping to find an artist soon for an Old West themed graphic novel that I’ve got tucked away.
This is a book that consists of 20 short stories, all of which revolve around Randolph. They are random and quirky, but funny! The stories are not all linked in one linear story line, they are just glimpses or episodes in Randolph’s life. He works in a coffee shop, so a lot of what occurs take place in that setting, although some of the stories are set in his home. Randolph lives in a place where it is winter for the majority of the year. This means people are trapped indoors and weird things happen as people suffer from cabin fever.
I liked Randolph. He seemed like an ordinary bloke that just comes across strange things – such as the Neanderthal man buried by the rubbish bins outside work. He smokes, swears, drinks and dabbles in drugs – but these aren’t the main things about him. He is a funny guy – he has wit and he isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, even if it is inappropriate.
My favourite character wasn’t Randolph however. As the majority of the book is set in the coffee shop there are other regular characters. My favourite was Dave – the new assistant manager who got his position by sleeping with his superior. He is not all there, a bit odd, struggles under pressure and is nosey. He was so funny to read. His actions and words just made me laugh, and I can see why Oberg enjoyed writing him the most. The other character I loved was the Pastor. If he didn’t get his way or didn’t like something he damned everyone to hell. He just made me laugh!
I don’t think I have a favourite story, I liked them all. The crazy lady who lived upstairs was funny, as were most of the scenes in the coffee shop. Anything that involved Dave was great – especially when the shop was being robbed and even then he couldn’t do what was being asked of him!
This book is not long, and neither are the stories. They are funny and enjoyable. I didn’t like the swearing or the pot smoking but other than that this is a great book. I read it in one day – I just couldn’t put it down. This comedy fiction at its best and I recommend it to everyone.