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
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
Taking its inspiration from idiosyncratic headlines around the globe, News Muse by Vala Hafstað combines two very Icelandic int(Review published here)
Taking its inspiration from idiosyncratic headlines around the globe, News Muse by Vala Hafstað combines two very Icelandic interests—the daily news and poetry—and uses these to paint a sometimes amusing, often ridiculous portrait of contemporary life.
With a few notable exceptions, the thirty-three poems contained in News Muse—all of which, cleverly, include hyperlinks to the original news stories in the e-book version—are composed of uncluttered, whimsically rhyming couplets. Stylistically, these are reminiscent of nursery rhymes, with the overall effect being that the (factually-based) content seems even more absurd than it already is.
Take, for instance, the poem ‘A Life of Luxury,’ which skewers the growing market for luxury pet products, such as epicurean dog chow or myrtle and fennel-scented “Fart and Away” pet candles:
I’m neutered, but to my amazement I’m blessed with equipment replacement: Prosthetic and custom-made nuts That boost both my ego and guts.
Vala’s current event inspirations are varied, with subject matter ranging from dog weddings in Sri Lanka (‘The Dogs’ Wedding Vows’) and that time that Icelandair flight attendants physically restrained a drunken, violent “air hooligan” with duct tape (‘Tied Up’), to Church-in-a-Pub meetings in Texas (‘Diwine’) and the death of a 37-year-old man who was attacked and drowned by a flock of angry swans (‘Swan Song’). Nevertheless, it’s clear that she particularly leans towards a few specific flavours of news story.
For one, with eleven of the collection’s poems about animals, it’s obvious that she enjoys quirky creature bulletins, and gets a lot of joy writing from an animal’s perspective. (One of the book’s more laugh-out-loud lines can be found in her poem “The Cheetah’s Response,” which relates the struggles of mating in captivity: “Attraction is sudden, complex. / Survival depends on wild sex.”) Vala also seems to enjoy more improbable factoids, news stories which reveal surprising bits of trivia like those one might read on a Snapple “Real Facts” bottle cap. For instance, that upon consuming a great deal of starch, people with "auto-brewery syndrome" will basically brew beer right in their own bellies as related in her poem ‘Auto-Brewery.’
But although it never veers into outright criticism or political commentary, where News Muse is at its best is when it pokes fun at the extremely decadent, the downright bougie, and the crassly materialistic. Thirty-dollar cups of Kopi Luwak coffee made from beans that have been extracted from the excrement of small mammals called civets (‘Hospitality’). Having one’s cremated remains turned into diamonds for her loved ones to wear (‘Diamonds to Die For’). The Chinese couple who “sold” their newborn to buy an iPhone 5 (‘Eye-Phone’); the German bishop (nicknamed “the bishop of bling”) who took a first-class flight to visit the poor in India and spent millions renovating his home (‘A Prayer’).
Despite the playful tone, it’s in these moments that Vala’s project is at its sharpest and most incisive. It’s a bit depressing, but it’s funny—because it’s true. ...more
I forgot I had read this one already and brought it home from the library, both for my own enjoyment and to share with my partner, now also learning II forgot I had read this one already and brought it home from the library, both for my own enjoyment and to share with my partner, now also learning Icelandic. It was just as delightful a read the second time around.
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 when you know they will make up in the end.)...more
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 sincWith 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 gradThis 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 eA 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. ...more