I'm reading this as part of my Contemporary Literature class this semester and am really enjoying it, although many of the stories are deceptively comI'm reading this as part of my Contemporary Literature class this semester and am really enjoying it, although many of the stories are deceptively complex (on a language level, I mean). Quick thoughts (not reviews) on some of the stories as I read them:
Jón Atli Jónasson: „Pizza, Pizza"
Enjoyed this one quite a bit, although it took me several hours—and lots of dictionary-checking—to finish. It's a 'nothing happens, but everything happens' sort of story: the main character is a pizza delivery guy who drops a pizza on his way to deliver it, returns back to the restaurant for a replacement, and that's about it. A covert writer who makes detailed, if somewhat guilty, observations about his coworkers and people in his life in a secret notebook he keeps, the narrator spends a lot of time thinking about the people around him, and sort of bouncing between two sorts of cultural/artistic poles and references in his life—Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and a host of American war movies, like Apocalypse, Now.
Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir:„Hvenær á maður mann og hvenær á maður ekki mann?"
This is a short-short that didn't go over well with my classmates at all (they seemed to think it was boring), although I found it rather funny. The titular line is, apparently, an echo of a famous (and famously circular) line in Iceland's Bell by Halldór Laxness, which I thought was interesting although I think I missed the significance of this echo a bit. The story starts a bit like chick-lit: the main character decides she's done with men, and so decides instead that she will give herself to God instead. And then it goes a bit wonky. She locks herself in a dark room, pushes the key under the door, and prepares herself for the arrival of God. He doesn't show for quite some time, however, and so she gets extremely hungry and weak while waiting. He does, however, come eventually, has sex with her, and then tells her that he doesn't really want her. This again reads a bit like absurdist chick-lit, and she struggles to figure out how it is that now, of all men, that god is rejecting her. God then goes about trying to explain that she's not a gift (from her) that he's rejecting, but rather, that by locking herself up like this, she's a gift (from him) that she's rejecting.
And all this packed into three, concise pages. ...more
A reference volume I picked up while writing an article on huldufólk, or Hidden People. Lots of useful context and historical information. InterestingA reference volume I picked up while writing an article on huldufólk, or Hidden People. Lots of useful context and historical information. Interestingly, the back half of the book includes sections which don't dissect or examine mythological folklore, but rather speak to "The cultivation of supernatural gifts and second sight," a sort of how-to guide based on literary and historical sources. ...more
Not a bad collection, so far as I can tell—there's some overlap in stories with other noted collections, but still a nice variety that is not represenNot a bad collection, so far as I can tell—there's some overlap in stories with other noted collections, but still a nice variety that is not represented elsewhere. The translations are nice to read—they sound like oral stories, which I appreciate.
My main quibble is that the introduction is quite short and doesn't give a lot of context to the reader. Also: the table of contents is in the back of the book, which I didn't realize until after I was done using it. That would have made it a lot easier to reference and flip through. ...more
Another book I picked up while researching an article I was writing about Iceland's huldufólk, or Hidden People. Dr. Simpson's introduction was anotheAnother book I picked up while researching an article I was writing about Iceland's huldufólk, or Hidden People. Dr. Simpson's introduction was another invaluable resource for me, with great details about mythological beings and their reception by the people who would have been telling/hearing these tales, as well as further information on the collection of the tales in the first place.
I very much enjoy Dr. Simpson's translations—they retain an oral quality, for one. Additionally, each story is followed by fantastic notes and context, often placing a tale or a strain of tales into a larger thematic family.
A really great reference, and fun reading, too. ...more
This was one of the books I shipped with me to Iceland with the intention of boning up on Icelandic mythology and folklore. It wasn't until just lastThis was one of the books I shipped with me to Iceland with the intention of boning up on Icelandic mythology and folklore. It wasn't until just last week, however, that I finally cracked the volume, as part of research I was doing on Iceland's huldufólk (Hidden People) for an article that I was writing.
The introduction here by Terry Gunnell proved to be invaluable, with great context about the settings and environments that folktales would be told in, a characterization of huldufólk and 'huldufólk-lore' (my silly pun, not his), and information about Jón Árnason's collection of these tales in the mid-1800s.
The retellings by J.M. Bedell (those I've read thus far) are indeed engaging, as was his stated intention: "In an attempt to engage my readers, I kept most of the marvelous details translated in the cited texts...but retained the right to use all the techniques available to any storyteller of fiction—writing scenes, creating suspense and drama, and varying points of view."
My favorite huldufólk-tales in thus volume thus far have been "The Origin of the Hidden People," "The Father of Eighteen Elves," "The Elves' Dance on New Year's Eve," and, of course, the title story. ...more
My first Zweig, but certainly not my last. I obviously have nothing to compare to, but these two stories (or one short story and one novella) seem toMy first Zweig, but certainly not my last. I obviously have nothing to compare to, but these two stories (or one short story and one novella) seem to be a great introduction to the author's work, both thematically and in terms of the writing style.
The writing is lovely—descriptive without getting too bogged down in flowery descriptions, evocative without being showy. Zweig's descriptions of characters are also wonderful. These people—the blind woodcut collector who lives in the German countryside and Jacob (Buch)Mendel, the obsessively single-minded book pedlar—are definitely 'characters' in that you don't really imagine them as people that exist outside of a book, but they also feel very well-fleshed out, very true to their own stories. Likewise, both of these stories feel entirely complete—their outcomes totally inevitable. (Note: I don't mean predictable, so much as fated—part of a greater, historical storyline that simply couldn't turn out any other way.) The first story, "The Invisible Collection," especially so—almost reading like a fable that you've read many times before.
Set as they both are in the years following WWI, or per the "The Invisible Collection"'s subtitle, "during the inflation period in Germany," there is also certainly a political aspect to both of these stories, although it reads now as simply being on the right side of history. Zweig, I recently found out, having fled Austria after Hitler's rise to power, committed suicide with his wife in Brazil in the early 40s out of despair over the state of Europe and the rise of fascism. And there is certainly a mournful regret that hangs over these stories, even when not mentioned outright (as it is on occasion). But overall, there's a touching humanistic appreciation within this work which balances out what are ultimately pretty tragic tales. ...more
This was my first foray into the Rebus series, one which I had been eying for a long time—not least due to its Edinburgh setting. Funny then that theThis was my first foray into the Rebus series, one which I had been eying for a long time—not least due to its Edinburgh setting. Funny then that the one I picked to start with didn't actually take place in Edinburgh at all. No matter, though: A Question of Blood was a nice introduction to the character and his backstory, I think, even though it is a rather late entry as far as I can tell.
I finished the novel pretty snappily, without finding myself bored or distracted and wanting to jump over to other plots and books (a common problem for me). The interwoven plotting and snappy pacing are both work well, the characters and relationships clearly drawn, and the various intrigues all reasonably twisty. Good news all around. Personally, I thought the main subplot related to Rebus' suspicious injury (suspicious because his hands have been severely burned and a man he'd had altercations with died in an arson fire) was resolved a bit too easily, as was the internal inquiry into his possible role in a murder. Additionally, while it does draw out the suspense and the reader's uncertainty, the fact that he knows whether or not he's telling the truth about his involvement in the event but *we* don't know is kind of a cheat. It feels artificial, given that we are inside his thoughts for much of the rest of the book, but it's not written first person so I suppose Rankin can get away with it.
There were also times throughout the novel that I found Rebus' outsider status as your prototypical "loose canon" cop—complete with the wise-cracking, the disregarding authority, the inadvisable outbursts, etc.—a little forced. We get it already—he's a lone wolf (except he's not). No need to overdo it.
As a last side note, I loved the author intro on the book—the stories about the characters that Rankin wrote in after auctioning character rights and the anecdote about being pranked by a member of Belle and Sebastian. Good way to get a feel for Rankin's sense of humor and also nice to see how he incorporated a character that he didn't himself dream up from scratch, but rather had to work in as a sort of exercise. ...more