Monsters calling each other "porridge head" or flinging insults like "you have a nose like a moldy sausage" always makes for a good time. (Especially...moreMonsters calling each other "porridge head" or flinging insults like "you have a nose like a moldy sausage" always makes for a good time. (Especially when you know they will make up in the end.)(less)
With the Iceland Noir conference coming up in November, now seemed as good a time as any to read another Erlendur novel, the first I've picked up sinc...moreWith the Iceland Noir conference coming up in November, now seemed as good a time as any to read another Erlendur novel, the first I've picked up since Voices, maybe six years ago. I wasn't overwhelmed by Voices, I will admit, but I really liked Erlendur as a detective, so such a long pause in the series does feel a bit strange to me. And for reasons I really can't remember, if I had them in the first place, I skipped over the next title in the series, The Draining Lake and went for this one instead. So, starting it, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't remember enough of the detective's back story to follow that continuing plot line. As it turns out, I needn't have worried on the latter point, as the back story plot picks up in a new spot, but with plenty of reminders to help old readers remember, and new readers catch up.
There are an enjoyable number of intertwining circumstances and stories in this installment: Erlendur's ordeal losing his brother in a snowstorm when he was a child dovetails with the murder of a Thai child whose older brother then feels responsible for not protecting him better. Additionally, there is an ongoing missing persons case and a possible child abuse case which loom on the sidelines, effecting Erlendur's general mood and response to the case as it unfolds. Not to mention other painful life-filler, such as Sigurður Olí's ambivalence about adopting a child now that it has been determined that he and his partner can't have their own child, and Marion Briem's death.
This is also the first crime novel set in Iceland that I have read after moving here, and it is certainly interesting to read about Reykjavík and know the streets which are being mentioned, the shops, and the statues. It adds one more layer of verisimilitude.
The racial tension in the novel is presented with nuance and accuracy, I think, although I did find myself bristling at the regular use of the word "colored" to refer to Icelanders of non-white ethnicities, specifically Thai people. I have been asking around, but still am not totally sure if this is just a direct translation of a regularly used Icelandic term, or a bit of an anachronism in the English. I'm interested enough that I just might try and pick up the Icelandic version for comparison.
This is officially the longest and most advanced book I have read all the way through in Icelandic. I think this means I'm reading at about a 7th grad...moreThis is officially the longest and most advanced book I have read all the way through in Icelandic. I think this means I'm reading at about a 7th grade level...although certainly not without effort, and not fully fluently. But I have to write a good old fashioned book report (in Icelandic) on the book this week, and am confident that I understood the plot well enough to do so without too much trouble.
A nice twist--little monster is the trouble-maker here, fibbing about a gigantic Monster Mountain that he climbed, when really, he's afraid to climb e...moreA nice twist--little monster is the trouble-maker here, fibbing about a gigantic Monster Mountain that he climbed, when really, he's afraid to climb even a tree. But it all works out in the end. (less)
I love this series! In this installment, the big monster gets the Monster Pox and is entertained and taken care of by his good friend little monster....moreI love this series! In this installment, the big monster gets the Monster Pox and is entertained and taken care of by his good friend little monster. Of course, he complains about pretty much everything, but is clearly enjoying all the attention. And when he gets better and little monster gets sick, it is his turn to return the favor. (less)
A lot of the office politics within the gallery setting were enjoyable, as were the passages where characters outline the ways in which they have dete...moreA lot of the office politics within the gallery setting were enjoyable, as were the passages where characters outline the ways in which they have determined that a work of art might be a forgery (my favorite fun fact: no birch trees with straight trunks existed in Iceland in the middle of the last century). But while there is a lot that actually happens in this novel, it never really felt like it got off the ground. There is a lot of back story, and either it or any one of the many sub-plots, character relationships, etc. could really have used some more development.
It is definitely a novel in which the setting comes through, however. I very much enjoyed reading the descriptions of Reykjavík and the surrounding areas, and getting even a cursory feel for the art scene here. (less)
The little monster is sitting at home, reading and enjoying the peace and quiet when all of the sudden, there is a loud knock at the door. The big mon...moreThe little monster is sitting at home, reading and enjoying the peace and quiet when all of the sudden, there is a loud knock at the door. The big monster has come over, but little monster doesn't want to play with him. Every time they play, the big monster takes little monster's ideas, doesn't ever let him hide when they play hide and seek, crumples his beautiful pictures and ruins his markers, lies and says that the little monster has farted (when he hasn't!), and steals from his mother's purse. But the little monster doesn't have the courage to say anything to stop big monster's rampage...until he does.
This is an adorable story with a good message for kids, and the illustrations are fantastic. (less)
An English translation of an Icelandic book of comical images (is this a particular graphic/comic form, I wonder?) Generalizations About Nations is fi...moreAn English translation of an Icelandic book of comical images (is this a particular graphic/comic form, I wonder?) Generalizations About Nations is filled with just that. The nations included are "categorized by a complicated system of whims and random and sudden epiphanies" (much like the real world, honestly) and these subdivisions are actually rather interesting in and of themselves. The Americas are organized together, for instance, which makes geographic sense, but then, for instance, Lebanon was included in the Asia section, which surprised me.
There are some generalizations included that seem be reflective of common stereotypes ("Icelanders are at least 15 decibels louder than other people"). Others which seem a little more politically or historically pointed ("Germans are so preoccupied with the past that they keep forgetting something," -- picture of an unattended child in a shopping cart.) As an American who has encountered a fair number of really unpleasant American stereotypes (the most unpleasant of which were, in great part, based on reality), I was pleased that the generalizations about my nation were not your typical Stupid/Rich/Cowboy American fare. Instead, "Every third American is either a vampire, zombie, or super hero" and "Nothing makes Hawaiian children happier than finding a beached corpse," (picture of children having a tea party under a palm tree with aforementioned dead body.)
The vast majority of these Generalizations, however, appear to be completely random and absurd (again, much like in the real world), which is precisely why they are funny. "In Macedonia, dropping an ice cream and/or popsicle is punishable by law." "Elderly women in Georgia suffer from an inexplicable urge to destroy things." Or maybe my favorite one: "Things are not always what they seem in Ghana," which is accompanied by a picture, somehow ominous, of a laundromat washing machine.
The artwork, I should mention, of course, is filled with a lot of sight gags and the drawing style itself is very detailed but still very clean (all b&w line drawing, but with a fair amount of shading). The people in each frame all tend a bit towards the grotesque, which seems like another bit of equal opportunity joshing. Race is represented without being exploited or exoticized.
Generalizations About Nations, could potentially be quite a problematic project, but I think it is a rather successful one. It is funny and pointed and sometimes the dark humor is a bit cracked (see the above line about Hawaiian kids), and gets across a larger theme about the absurdity inherent in xenophobia/stereotyping an entire country without having to belabor the point. (less)