A while back I was listening to an Air-Raid podcast with the lead singer of You Me & Apollo, Brent Cowles. He gave a fairly typical answer to a fairly typical interview question, but it smacked me upside the head with something verging on epiphany. Continue reading
My latest dive into Icelandic literature is The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snær Magnason, translated by Julian Meldon D’Arcy. At first every Icelandic novel I read was infuriatingly opaque. But with this book, I feel like I’m starting to get the Icelandic novel. Now the dreamlike atmosphere that so confused me in The Children of Reindeer Woods has started to feel familiar; sometimes I can tell when something is supposed to be funny; sometimes I can even decode the symbols. Of course, Blue Planet is a kids’ book.
You’re supposed to read the book first. The movie is never as good and it will limit your imagination when you do read the book. I know this. But I watched Baltasar Kormákur’s movie, 101 Reykjavík, before I knew it was based on Hallgrímur Helgason’s novel. I really liked the movie. It felt a lot like an Icelandic Slackers; that’s the primary difference between the book and the movie. Continue reading
Within hours of my arrival in Sweden, I found myself surrounded by tall, thin boys shaking seawater out of their blonde hair, naked except for their soaked-to-translucent tighty-whiteys. It seemed that stereotypes about Sweden’s liberal behavior were confirmed. That night was a first for me, but not the kind you’re thinking. Continue reading
Heaven and Hell is a ghost story. No, that’s not true. Heaven and Hell, by Icelandic novelist Jón Kalman Stefánsson, is merely narrated by ghosts, a tragic chorus of post-mortal souls belonging to an isolated fishing village, who bear witness to one boy’s tragic loss of his only friend.
Heaven and Hell is a quiet, internal novel about a few crucial days in the life of a lonely boy who loses his only friend. No, that’s not true. In Heaven and Hell, translated by Philip Roughton, the boy’s friend, Bárður, makes a fatal mistake while preoccupied with the words in a borrowed book, and the boy risks his own life to return the copy of Paradise Lost. These are only the events in the book.
Heaven and Hell, like the book that killed Bárður, is an epic poem revolving around the very central questions of existence: Why bother living, when it is so hard? Why should we who live be allowed to do so when so many others are dead? Is it even possible to be truly alive when we are truly alone?
When there is a choice between life and death, most choose life.
This much is certain. But almost nothing else is. Continue reading
Before there were blogs, I spent a quarter studying sustainable development in southern India. I maintained an email distribution list of friends who wanted updates on my travels. Many nights involved entertainments of the herbal or alcoholic kind; there were roof-top full-moon parties and midnight swims in the ocean (the garbage floating there was harder to see in the moonlight); some evenings were spent on planting plans and composting toilet design. But occasionally, I sat down at a computer and wrote about my adventures. This is one of those stories:
Everyone says it is much easier to meet people in India. I don’t know whether it is India, or just the openness that one adopts when traveling, but I have certainly been meeting people lately. Continue reading
I apologize. Once again, I ask you to work for a reblog. But I think this one is worth it. It’s a short piece, but manages to cover a lot of ground without feeling dense. If you like any of the things I usually write about here, you’ll probably find something to like in this post on the Bookslut Blog.
In it, Jessa Crispin, aka the Bookslut, writes about ballet and travel – two things I love. She touches on male dancers, trust, and applause, and includes a gorgeous image that evokes all of these things while drawing on deep myth and (my) childhood memories of C.S. Lewis. I profoundly disagree with her preference for other dance forms over ballet while heartily agreeing with her observations about the nature of ballet. But mostly I share this piece because of the wisdom in her opening sentences.
Did you find anything interesting? Which part?