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What's in the name

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February 08, 2008



Hey David,

As a erstwhile bookstore employee, it is my solemn duty to inform you that there's a very highly regarded collection called SAGA OF ICELANDERS that collects various icelandic sagas (ancient chronicles of warlords and mythical beasts and such) that has an introduction by Jane Smiley.

Also, I believe that Iceland is now very well known for its music scene. I think Sigur Ros are bullshit, but there are a lot of people who LOVE them. and there's plenty of other artists where that came from.

Alison Croggon

I went to Iceland for two weeks, visiting under the guise of a poet. This is how I discovered something charming about Icelanders: they may appear absolutely modern and 21st century, but ancient superstitions are still alive and well just under the skin. As I was walking through immigration, I was pulled out of the line and questioned by officials. I was somewhat flustered, and when they asked me why I was visiting, I blurted out that I was a poet and I was visiting to read poetry, something I would never normally confess to any immigration official. They immediately looked alarmed, apologised profusely and sent me off. I was quite surprised by their reaction. My friend who picked me up, an Icelandic poet himself, said that was because people still believe that poets have the power of cursing. I'm sure somebody will show you the modern roads that curve around the elf hills...

I'd love to go back. It's an amazing place. It has more artists per square inch than any country on earth, and its very rich literature includes a Nobel prize winner, Haldor Laxness. It's also geologically fascinating. The National Theatre in Reykjavik is an amazing piece of Fascist architecture. I was told that despite the fact that the entire population is about 250,000 people, the theatre gets an audience of 500,000 a year.

Oh, and avoid the dried fish, especially the shark.

David Cote

Isaac, Alison: Thanks for the suggestions. I've been hearing a lot about elves, medievalism and tectonic plates. Also, HEY GIRL! was amazing. The preshows went well. I may blog about it later. For now, though, swamped.

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