SURVIVOR: black swan green (david mitchell)*
CHALLENGER: arctic chill (arnaldur indriðason)

most of what i know of iceland makes me want to leap joyously from fjord to fjord, to make complicated music videos with michel gondry and to steep myself like an arctic monkey in geothermal pools in svartsengi; a few things do not, including the recent financial collapse, anthony bourdain's sophomoric no reservations iceland episode, and arnaldur indriðason's arctic chill. the first two are self-explanatory, but the third...hmm.

indriðason's reykjavik crime novels are a lot of fun; they aren't especially cerebral, but sometimes a girl needs to pretend she's tromping around iceland at christmastime solving murders. this reykjavik crime novel is weirdly flat; its english incarnation was translated by two people, one of whom seems to have died before the project's conclusion (arctic chill is dedicated to him). i would never be so tasteless as to make a joke about the concurrence of this translation and a death, but it is what it is; while some of the descriptive passages are satisfying, the dialogue is abysmal. i myself have only chatted with icelanders via e-mail,** so i'm probably in no position to comment on the relative choppiness of their speech, but in the name of THUNDERTOME, damn, the conversations in arctic chill were choppy. fold in the fact that many of them were about tensions between native icelanders and recent immigrants (a fascinating subject, presented movie-of-the-week or very-special-episode-of-law-&-order style here), and the fact that they were interspersed with inspector erlendur's conversations with his dying mentor, the abrasive and never-gendered marion briem ("the most sexually ambiguous character in crime fiction"), and...it's a weird book. can we speak instead of icelandic candy, which is amazing?

VICTOR: stone cold david mitchell, icier than the wind from mýrdalsjökull.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 you're an icelandic author of crime novels. what's the next one called?

02 how do you feel about anthony bourdain?

03 have you ever had icelandic candy? would you like some? note that it's heavy on black licorice.

*previous battle here.

**(we're not going to count my spirited conversations with the disembodied lady on the icelandic language CDs a friend gave me a few years ago)


jamie said...

i am so sorry, what a dissapointment for you. i wish it were a good review, because indeed tromping around iceland at christmastime solving murders sounds just great.

i used to work for a man from iceland (valdi) and he did not speak choppy, as i remember.

01 next
02 i have no opinion. but i get the impression that the other lauren finds him... lusty?
03 no! yes! good!

jacob said...

01 hakarl
02 he's a walking advertisement for what i dislike (or am supposed to dislike) about baby-boomers: smug and trapped in some mythical past (his paean to the old times square was both lurid and boring). it was also clear from one episode of 'no reservations' that most of his lines are written for him. i can't decide if that makes me like him more or less. however, i will say he is enjoyable as a judge on 'top chef.'
03 what jamie said!

kidchamp said...

okay, i'll dig around for the candy i've still got. i hit kiosk's iceland exhibition pretty hard awhile back. (best: these. OH MY GOD, bingo licorice caramel.)

jacob, i like the way you think.  hakarl would work pretty well as an anna wintour memoir, too. 

04 does it surprise you to learn there's some dude in williamsburg named hakarl

megan said...

2) My feelings are similar to Jacob's, but i'll express them more concisely- he seems like a douche. So much of a douche that I was moved to comment.
3) I am a little gunshy of non-US black licorice after mistakenly purchasing the salty kind, such as seen here http://www.german-lebkuchen.com/acatalog/Katjes.html It was highly aversive, albeit in an interesting way.

rachel (heart of light) said...

Sometimes I feel like I am the only one NOT crazy in love with Iceland. Not that I hate it or would never want to go, I just don't have the same mystical connection to it. Hmmm...

Although the mention of black licorice candy is sort of swaying me in their favor, to be honest. I can take or leave chocolate in almost every situation, but high quality black licorice is a thing of beauty.

Amanda said...

01 Farewell, My Fairies.
02 I'm with Megan, but would gladly change "seems like" to "guy's a"
03 I have not. I would.

Celia said...

01 don't do crime... i'm prone to nightmares

02 i feel compelled to give a LONG answer here.  (sorry)  
i think it's fairly obvious to everyone that anthony bourdain is equal to shit on a stick.  the guy is a douche and a half.  however, i will honestly say that that is the one thing i truly appreciate about him.  here's the thing: he is the absolute best representation of the professional culinary world i've seen on tv.  it's not an industry made up of people who LOVE food, and LOVE to cook, and just want to make the world a happier place one perfectly cooked pork belly at a time.  that's just what "they" would like you to believe.  the truth is, the restaurant industry is REALLY a community of people (mostly men) who barely/did not finish high school, and short of being efficient worker bees, great at time management, and masters of the macedoine cut, pretty much suck at life.  it's the ONE thing they know how to do; it's *their* thing.  and when you suck at life, and people shit themselves over that ONE thing, it's kind of hard to not let that go to your head.  take somebody like mr. bourdain, who has accrued tons of notoriety over this ONE thing, and the whole head-swelling thing gets out of control.  add to that the stress, physical and emotional demands, and hours of this type of work, and you've got a shit-ton of drug addicts and alcoholics on your hands.  much more than you would ever think imaginable.  it turns out to be a clusterfuck of all the bad stuff rolled into one.  it turns out to be... anthony bourdain.
sometimes, i romanticize working in kitchens and i MISS it.  but more often than not, i think back to those times that my assistant cleaned 50 pieces of chicken instead of 150, and i'm not sure if he did it because he came to work stoned out of his fucking mind, or because he's a total moron.  and, i think about people showing up to work 2 hours late, or not even bothering to show up at all, leaving me completely fucked.  THAT right there is your average kitchen environment, and when i really think about it, i don't miss it at all.

03 i still have not decided if i hate or love black licorice.  i'll get back to you on this one. 

kidchamp said...

i hope you come down in favor of black licorice, for man, you just earned it! i love celia chef stories!