The Melancholy Quotient
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.