Sharon's Hair Affair
Sharon's perm went mythically astray.
Catch Sharon's tonsorial splendor every Friday. Used by permission.
"Hair-Bringer" of Spring
Bill, Rich, Batty (topless), 1970
My feeble attempt at kenning in the post-title refers to my yearly ritual cleansing- the shaving of my head. I'm about two weeks behind; a clean pate doesn't appreciate a crown of snow. I have social obligations in June, so I better do it soon so as to have a little "fuzz" by then. I can still grow it in the back, but when it gets too long I get that "crazed drifter" look- not the best way to impress one's in-laws.
My youthful "look" was more in the style of Charles Manson (see picture above) so I guess I haven't really changed that much. My only fear is that when I am bald I start to channel Henry Miller, and after having read his letters to Anaïs Nin, I don't think anyone would want to read this blog if I started to write in his style!
A History of Icelandic Literature
By Stefán Einarsson
The Johns Hopkins Press, New York, 1957
I've finally gone of the deep end on this Icelandic Literature thing. It's one thing to read a few Icelandic mysteries, see a few Icelandic films, and build a web site devoted to Halldór Laxness. But when I reach the point of reviewing a 53 year old reference book, perhaps I should step back and examine my priorities.
It's already too late.
Actually, this is a most interesting book. To have almost a thousand years of Icelandic literature presented in a lucid and chronological order really helps to understand how The Sagas and The Eddas influenced generations of writers, poets and songwriters is a pretty neat deal, even if the narrative ends in 1956, the year after Laxness won his Nobel prize. Stefán does a thorough job in covering the sagas, and also explaining the various meters and styles of poetry. He covers in detail the early 20th century authors, both in Iceland and in North America, capturing the stylistic and intellectual foment of the times.
Those of you who have visited the Wikipedia page on Laxness will note that this book is referenced several times. The Wikipedia article itself was somewhat disjointed (although it is improving), and the Einarsson quotes, while colorful, are a snapshot from the mid-point of Laxness' career. Daisy Neijmann's book (of the same title) along with Halldór Guðmundsson's biography might give the reader a broader perspective. Einarsson was personally acquainted with many of the prominent 20th century Icelandic writers and his objectivity may be questionable at times.
Still, the book is loaded with little "nuggets" of information. When writing about Icelandic publications in North America he describes many of the publications which sprang up, primarily in Manitoba. My favorite line:
Some periodicals were designed to delight rather than educate; these cannot be mentioned here.
MSPIFF Revisited- Mamma Gógó
Mamma Gógó, 2010, A film written and directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
Friðrik Þór Friðriksson has directed several notable movies, among them Niceland, Angels of the Universe, Devil's Island, Cold Fever, and Children of Nature. One trait in all of these is the great empathy he has for his characters. This film, loosely biographical, is about an Icelandic film-maker (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) whose latest film Children of Nature (as I said, "loosely" biographical) is doing poorly at the box office while at the same time his mother, Gógó, (Kristbjörg Kjeld) is rapidly developing an advanced case of Alzheimer's disease. This is, despite the plot, not a somber film. It isn't a comedy, but rather a realistic family drama with a vivid backdrop of modern Iceland. As the director's life crumbles, so does the relationship between Gógó and her children. The only person Gógó can communicate with is the ghost of her deceased husband, played by Gunnar Eyjólfsson. Gógó's fantasies develop, with memories of the early days of her courtship- played out in vintage black and white footage. The film's ending has an almost unbearable poignancy; be sure to bring some tissues, Friðrik Þór Friðriksson deserves a film festival of his own (or perhaps a box DVD set with Rokk í Reykjavík as an extra!)
The "film within the film":
79 af stöðinni, 1962, A film directed by Erik Balling
Starring: Kristbjörg Kjeld and Gunnar Eyjólfsson
NOTE: for MSP area readers: It will be screened again Friday, April 29, at 3:30 pm
The Easter Sharon
And on the third day she laid an egg and painted it.
Sharon's Sunday Special, used by permission.
Sharon was given to spells on Easter Friday.
Sharon is good, Friday. Used by permission.
Maundy Thursday Edition
Last Supper, The Brick Testament
Maundy Thursday has never properly registered as a religious concept in my theological musings. I had been raised ELCA Lutheran (don't ask me what that means) and I don't recall ever "celebrating" the day. Maybe I was sick that week during confirmation. I had always thought it was something that the Roman Catholic Church invented in the middle ages. You can look it up yourself, in Wikipedia, but that may not help much toward a definitive answer either. The definition "Day of the Last Supper" will have to do for now.
In light of all this, I did think it serendipitous to find this card while I was out on my evening constitutional:
At least I've got that going for me.
Do you suppose JC helped with the dishes after supper?
Among My Souvenirs
Spring cleaning extends to my junk drawers as well. This souvenir of Iceland has been sliding around in my desk for several years now. A cloisonné rune on a leather strap (probably made in Hong Kong) I bought in Reykjavík because I liked the shop-keeper's no-nonsense spiel about some pretty flaky spiritual beliefs.
The rune on the charm is Kaupaloki- trade-clincher- a rune of practicality and private entrepreneuring. "Kaupaloki can unfold a series of appropriate coincidences that will bring you wealth and make your work more fun than you ever dreamed possible..."
The shop-keeper should have kept this rune. In the 2008 collapse and the subsequent protests, she lost her shop and ultimately ended up moving to Denmark. I doubt if she remembers me, but I still follow her blog, which is a lot easier now that Google translate works in Icelandic (sort of.) She still has plenty to say, but is more down to earth - with thoughtful and sometimes angry pieces on politics, gender, and many other problems that vex the human spirit. I don't get it all, but I get enough to make it worthwhile.
Nornabúðin is long gone, but I've still got the rune, I've still got my health and my family- which is all the wealth anyone needs.
"Cracks" in the MSPIFF
Cracks, IFC Films
It's mid-April, which means that the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival is underway. Now in its 30th year, the MSPIFF brings a sense of world culture to the windswept prairies and a welcome break from a spring which has yet to be "sprung"- I drove home from the screening through a mini- snowstorm. This year's offerings seem a little lackluster- too much competition from other festivals perhaps? Many of the films offered were several years old and had been bouncing around the circuit (and cable TV) for a while. I did manage to find a few entries of interest, one of which played Friday night.
Cracks, directed by Jordan Scott, was a girls' boarding school drama set on an unnamed island in England in the mid-nineteen thirties. The island setting is appropriate- the "team" of girls and their faculty "leader" are living a sheltered existence, in a world of artificial order suppressing desire and spontaneity. Cracks form in this alternate universe when a worldly girl with a past arrives from Spain, upsetting the status quo and shattering the group, with devastating consequences.
That description may come across as a mix between Lindsay Anderson's If.... and William Golding's Lord of the Flies, but the film it should be compared with is the 1931 film Mädchen in Uniform. The strong theme of self-destructive homosexuality in Cracks made it seem as if it had been written in the thirties, and as the film progresses the "cracks" it develops are in its character motivations.
The acting is all first-rate, with director Jordan getting the most out of "girls", especially Juno Temple as Di, the team captain. Eva Green, as Miss G, the team's adult leader, carries the heaviest dramatic load in a part which is a little underwritten. The film is at its best when it shows the girls being girls; the awkward theme of sexual perversity disappears during a beautiful midnight skinny dip sequence.
Sharon's a Natural Beauty
Like her woodland friends.
Beautify your Fridays with Sharon Spotbottom. Used by permission.
Chains of Love
It might be a good idea to not Google the name of an old girlfriend. Another day, another obit. You hadn't seen her in 40 years, and now you know you'll never see her again. She'll always be 20 in your mind. A natural beauty. And it was you who left her, left her behind in a cloud of dust as you sped away on that hot August afternoon. Left her with that puzzled look she got. That look she always got just before she started to cry.
Are you gonna leave me, are you gonna make me cry?
Are you gonna love me, are you gonna make me cry?
These chains are blue, gonna haunt me 'til the day I die.
Lyric by A.Nugetre
Mark, Tom, and Bill, in the Lewis Basement, Minneapolis, 1968
Went to a memorial celebration honoring one of the old "neighborhood kids" yesterday. Of the twenty or so boys that used to hang out together, Bill was the first to go, unless you counted his brother, who had died just the month before (and wasn't really involved with the rest of us that much.) It was a group whose members all came from an extremely small geographic area- literally a stone's throw separated us. I was the outlier, a little older and living across the street, but I spent untold hours with these guys, playing games & cards, making 8mm movies and radio dramas, doing darkroom experiments and just killing time.
But those days and nights weren't wasted. We were each learning how to become ourselves, and we did all right. Bill was the contrarian, but he had a sense of humor, and had no sense of malice. We were living in the present, without irony or pretense. The vices of adulthood, excepting a few "incidents", were years away. The idea of an actual "fight" between any of us never entered our minds. We had our own words (in a dictionary!) our own cinema (where we would fight), and, ultimately, our own little world.
I left home first, the siren call of romance can be like an on/off switch when leaving childhood. The world I left behind kept going, indeed, it never stopped- they still field a softball team which has played together for nearly 40 years. Bill was the team's videographer and play by play announcer, each year he would compile a highlight show, which was the highlight of the team banquet.
Looking back at that time, I can honestly say that I don't regret a minute of it. Bill was a big part of that scene- he was the guy in the middle, he was a guy who took his own path, he was a guy who took the youngest kid (who had lost his father) under his wing, and he was a guy who gave me a copy of the Walt Disney comic with the "Flip Decision" story.
That was the story about "Flipism" which introduced me to "Professor Batty."
Just What the World Needs...
... another blog! Devoted to Halldór Laxness!
My recent project has come to fruition, or is a least in the blossoming stage. Thanks to the generous contributions of a number of Laxness fans, there is now a single source for (almost) all things Laxness. I had noticed a recent uptick FITK has had in the number of visitors in visitors searching out Halldór Laxness references. Hopefully, these visits are a harbinger of a renewed interest in Iceland's only Noble Laureate. In the few days the new site has been up there has been a steady trickle of visitors from around the world, I hope this trend will continue. An additional impetus for this site was "link-rot", where older links have disappeared over time. Hopefully, this site will keep them available for many years to come.
Laxness in Translation has reviews and appreciations of all of Halldór's work that is available in an English translation. Anyone who has experienced the joy of reading Laxness is welcome to contribute their thoughts to the site.
In addition to personal reviews, thoughts on themes covered in Laxness' writing, personal anecdotes or news about new or newly discovered Laxness publications will all be welcome in this site.
While many of the things in Laxness in Translation have appeared here or in Rose's blog, there are some new things as well, including Silja Aðalsteinsdóttir's heartfelt appreciation of Salka Valka and Richard Bratby's in-depth essay on Iceland's Bell. There are also links to further reviews, along with related illustrations and photos, both new and vintage.
Those of you who are familiar with Halldór Laxness will no doubt find many things of interest, while those of you are not may find that Laxness in Translation is the portal to a wonderful new world.
The Jester of the deck. But always an Ace.
It's fate. Sharon Spotbottom. Fridays, FITK.
Too much mental activity in the evening makes for wild dreams at night. It's as if my brain is trying to violently unwind after being on overload. Last night's escapades included a melancholy fortune teller, punk-rock bands playing to an audience of sleeping bags, and dozens of people vomiting in perfect unison- and that was in just the last few minutes before I awoke!
I can hardly wait for bed tonight.
I'll have a post about what I've been so frantically working on next week...
The Perfect Day
Saint Ives, 1995
The family vacation in England was supposed to be bit of a respite from the oppressive Midwestern summer heat. Instead, record heat greeted us but when we finally made it to the Cornwall coast the ocean was a perfect remedy. We walked through the town, past postage stamp-sized gardens (each with its own St.Ives cat), along the seaman's graveyard, then down to the beach where the boys took to the icy water with belly boards. They finally began to really enjoy the trip (it had been a little touch and go for a while.) That evening found us in a little Italian restaurant that was heavenly- even our youngest realized that the food was exceptional. The seagulls' screams echoing in the narrow streets outside didn't bother us, it was a perfect day.
The New Arrival
The county "Art Crawl" is becoming a Rite of Spring. Held the first week-end in April, the weather for it is usually awful, but this year it was glorious- especially after the miserable winter we've just escaped. "Crawl" is a misnomer, the artists were spread over an area of about one hundred square miles; a reliable vehicle with good tires was required to reach all the studios. I'm usually fairly discerning, but this year I fell in love with this goofy garden sprite- not exactly Prairie School, but a suitable centerpiece for the raised hosta bed in the back yard.
We haven't named her yet, but I'm leaning towards "April" (as in April Fool?)