24 October 2011 | Authors, Reviews

Jouni Tossavainen. Photo: Like

Poet and writer Jouni Tossavainen has directed his verbal curiosity towards blog writing in his eighth prose work, entitled Sivullisia (‘Outsiders’, Like, 2011); it consists of a collection of (fictional) blog posts, which seem to contain plenty of junk as well as treasures.

The book is a dizzying linguistic playground; it includes posts, around a page in length, from 157 ‘outsiders’. Escaping the familiar structures of language usage gives rise to snapshots of estrangement.

The narrator of the book claims to have assembled his material from a collection of blog posts received from the greater Helsinki region. Individual fragments of views and facts are like codes that have lost what they were meant to unlock. Mocking, satirical jibes emerge from the texts, accompanied by a sneaking suspicion of understanding and solace, as there ought to be in a true carnival.

Tossavainen’s humour adds a gentle, perhaps more rural shade to the urban cultural landscape. He writes these experienced and less-experienced contributors with rather capricious voices: the result is a discordant yet collective mixed choir. Sivullisia portrays people in terms of their professions, jobs or free time that get muddled up with work or unemployment. The fragmentary stream of consciousness gallops back and forth in an arena from which the voices of the outsiders are thrown into the chaos of the world, mirroring it.

This collection of flowing, torrenting yet brief texts shows that people can – and do – say anything they want at their computers. Tossavainen (born 1958) provides an acrobatic exemplar of this phenomenon. Each blog post starts with a word or job title that describes its writer’s current occupation, from A to Z. The uncensored nature of the Internet reveals something about what links people’s regular jobs to often pointless actions and activities in order to demonstrate the relationship of alienation and outsiderness to all of life.

The narrative, bordering on the absurd and the surreal, is linked to sharp cultural criticism and contemporary satire between the lines. Convoluted slapstick stories develop into tragicomedy, something more serious and even sentimental. These outsiders give us a unique reading of our blogging era.

Translated by Ruth Urbom


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