Megan's Reviews > Icelander

Icelander by Dustin Long
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Aug 13, 08

bookshelves: cold-places, detective-fiction, hipster, murder-mystery, pretentious-literature, mythology
Read in June, 2008

This book had so many elements that I love - metanalysis, examination of genre - specifically the mystery genre, farce, mythology, Iceland.... that it's been tough to figure out why it was such an utter disappointment.

Then I realized this was put out by the McSweeney's crew, who I am consistently disappointed with. They're never as funny or as clever as they think they are or they appear to be, judging from the adulation of fans.

There was a sort of meta- thing trying to happen - some kind of nascent attempt at a self-critical mystery about the mystery genre - that just was not coming off right. There were a lot of footnotes; a somewhat annoying if not inherently pretentious tactic that's sadly becoming quite popular lately and one which I've seen used before to better effect. None of the characters were interesting, realistic, likeable, or even that smart. Nor were they funny, despite what I can only assume to be attempts to make them so (especially in the case of the "metaphysical detectives" who struck me as poor knock-offs of simultaneously Croup and Vandemar from Neverwhere and the existential detectives in I Heart Huckabee's.) I think part of this might be that the characters were less supposed to be people and more supposed to fill typical mystery 'roles' or some kind of Archtypes, but that falls pretty flat. I'm kind of ashamed, actually, that this book is even associated with Iceland. Lots of liberties were taken with the mythology as well as the ... feel of Iceland as a place, and its people.
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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Spot on, Megan.


message 2: by Victoria (new) - added it

Victoria Megan, I've been keeping my thoughts about the McSweeney's crew to myself - I am in San Francisco and I live side by side with them so you can see the problem. But I feel EXACTLY the same. I want to love them but to me, they're just too interested in design and different and I'm left with books that feel heartless and a little bit mean. Glad I'm not the only one.


Megan Occasionally someone will like this review, and when I'm reminded of this book, more and more I want to find several other books set in Iceland that are better, even if completely different in subject matter or genre, at portraying what Iceland and its people are like, and somehow recommend those instead to anyone thinking about reading this. I think The Swan
by Guðbergur Bergsson would be a good start. Also Independent People by Halldór Laxness is a classic, if a little dated. Svava Jakobsdóttir is a good author to read and she has many books, but the ones I would recommend I don't see on Goodreads (like Gunnlöth's Tale). Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason was quite popular and has been recommended to me by several friends but to be honest I haven't read that one yet.


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