If given only two words to describe Jón Gnarr’s recent memoir, Gnarr! How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World, relatable and inspiring would win without a doubt. Jón writes as if he is telling a close friend about his life and his entry into politics and he certainly is likeable. Gnarr! is an easy read and could be finished within a few sittings, however I wanted to savor each chapter.
Most will be familiar with Jón’s entry into politics by creating the ‘joke party’ Best Party in 2009. While not a career politician, but rather a comedian, Jón began to win over Reykjavík voters and was elected mayor after forming a coalition with the Social Democrats. Of course, in typical Jón fashion, he required the leader of the Social Democrats to be familiar with his favorite television show, The Wire, so they would have something to talk about other than politics.
Reading Gnarr! was a breath of fresh air from other political memoirs. Jón’s trademark humor was scattered throughout and I became more and more intrigued with the ideas and plans he and the Best Party proposed. From an outsider’s perspective, it really is a shock the Best Party won. After promising to open a Disneyland in Reykjavík as a solution to unemployment to creating “the ugliest website that a party had ever put on the Internet,” Jón was an unlikely candidate, but much more likeable than the average career politician.
But beneath all the humor and out-of-the-box ideas is a man who is deep and faces the stresses of everyday life just like everyone else. While Gnarr! depicts the fun side of Jón’s time in politics, an entire chapter is dedicated to stress and the difficulties and criticisms he faced. I applaud Jón for discussing this side of his life, for opening up and being honest about the challenges and this only helps to make him more relatable. The underlying theme of Gnarr! is that anyone can enter into politics. In a recent interview with NBC’s Meet the Press Jón said that he hoped that his book would inspire people.
Jón writes how he was considered a difficult child and many doubted he would ever amount to anything but goes on to detail that it’s not necessary to have any special skills to participate in political life. While this part of the book was inspiring, I’m not sure it is necessarily realistic for many other large cities in the world. Jón was already well-known previously for his comedy.
Gnarr! is a strong memoir by an intriguing and hilarious man. It made me appreciate Iceland even more than I had previously. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in politics and Iceland, and I can assure you, that you will not be disappointed.