Friday, July 25, 2008

The Melancholy Quotient

Bill Holm

                        The Windows Of Brimnes

                              An American In Iceland



This book of essays by the Minnesota writer Bill Holm is poetic, angry and sad.

Poetic in its stories, poetic in its language, and poetic in its vision. It is firstly and foremost an effort to tie together the meaning of the Icelandic diaspora with Bill's own family and his personal history. These essays touch upon his youth, illuminate Iceland and its history, and bring to vivid life the people and places he has come to know while living in his small summer-house in Hofsós on the northern coast. Covering some of the same themes as his earlier book Eccentric Islands, this book is more personal.

It is a book that is angry with the America of venality, political immorality, and wasted opportunity; and also angry with Iceland and its rush to industrialize - "The stink of money" is the way Bill's father put it. There is enough vitriol here for another, different kind of book, but that book would not be nearly as rewarding as this one.

And it is a sad book, as is any book with tales of fading memories, descriptions of photos of departed ancestors, and a perspective of one's own life that is looking backwards, not forward. There is joy to be found here as well- joy in music, in friendship, in nature- an overall joy of life. But there is, on balance, more sadness; it is the same sadness that creeps in like a fog to envelop each of us as we get older and approach our own final chapters.


For another view of this book, check out Rose´s Windows of Brimnes blog post.

By Professor Batty



9 Comments:

Blogger Rose said...

I love what you did with the picture, Batty. Come to think of it, you and Holm have a lot in common with your interest in old photos.--Once again, you've said it better and in fewer words. If I were reviewing my reviews, I'd have to say: self-indulgent.


Blogger Professor Batty said...

... thank you. Could this be our next project?


Blogger Rose said...

Yay! Definitely. Thanks for the heads up!


Anonymous Jon said...

You and Rose are redeveloping my waning intellect. Of course, at this age everything is waning. Batty, are you coming up to the BWCA this year?


Blogger Professor Batty said...

Jon- glad we could help, check out our Laxness Top Ten posts for more on our inspiration. As far as the BWCAW goes, probably not, although I like going in the fall- NO BUGS!


Blogger Móðir, kona, meyja said...

Actually, I took that photo for a painting....which probably is the desired effect....


Blogger Rose said...

So that's news to me...no bugs in MN in fall and winter, I take it? How late in the fall do you have to wait? This may help us schedule our trip to our nephew...


Blogger Professor Batty said...

Anytime after mid-September is good for a bug-free visit. Are you really coming? We'll have to get together (a side trip to the feral cat colony?)

;-)


Blogger Rose said...

Well, I'm sure we'll be coming, but no idea when. Unfortunately the non-bug times of the year are when I'm at school :-(

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