Finnish North American Literature Association
Kirby Olson earned his doctorate from the University of Washington at Seattle.
He spent a number of years teaching at the University of Tampere in Finland
where he met and married Riika Lahdensuo of Seinäjoki. He teaches philosophy
and literature at the State University of New York at Delphi, where he lives with
his wife and four children, Lola 7, Tristan 5, Julian 3, and Sofie Annika 1.
Olson, Kirby. Temping, Seattle, WA: Black Heron Press, 2006.
The Ugliness and Beauty of Life and Love:
A Review of Kirby Olson’s Temping
By Beth L. Virtanen, PhD
(This review is a condensed version of one to appear in the Journal of Finnish
Studies. Subscription information for JoFS is available from the editor and can
be found under Research Information on the Bibliography Homepage.)
Milhouse Moot, Kirby Olson’s narrator in Temping, tries to heal himself of
wounds that have caused him to spend half of his life estranged from people. To
manage such a feat, he has espoused a philosophy of appreciation of the ugly
and works a series of temporary jobs to protect his separation from others.
Like Ernest Hekkanen’s narrator in Life of Bartholomew G., Olson’s narrator in
Temping is a disaster that has happened over and over again; but unlike Mewgy
in Hekkanen’s work, Olson’s narrator Moot is able to take a stab at making
things right in his life. Of course, he makes mistakes along the way.
When Moot meets his former student in a bar and has a drink with her, she
takes him home and invites him to bed with her. In the morning when she leaves,
Moot is at his most vulnerable—thirty-eight, left alone, and afraid that his first
and virginal performance was insufficient.
Yet in less than a month, they are wed and he is offered a job in Finland at a
circus academy where he will serve as a humor scholar. From hopelessly unable
to commit to fully committed without a thorough understanding of what it means,
Moot struggles to make sense of, and in some ways to sabotage, his success in
actually encountering another human being in his relationship with Liisa. The
beauty of the novel resides in Moot’s process of reconciling the turns in his life
with his developing understanding of his philosophy of ugliness as the opposite
and necessary complement of beauty.
Temping is published by Black Heron Press and is available from Amazon.com.