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Dinesen, Isak

The Sailor-Boy’s Tale

Twice now I’ve sat down to read something from Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales
, and twice when pawing through for a good story, I’ve ended up spending hours re-reading the stories in here, to the point of distracted negligence, but to the point of great self-satisfaction nevertheless.

One day I’ll just relent and read them all to you, but that’d be a big project, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already running on the fumes of big projects. And if you’re smarter than me, you’ll have discovered a long time ago that when you have too many big projects, the best way to make absolutely certain that you don’t forget to do another one is to tell the Internet about it then whet its palette with anticipation. And you can do so with such a painful and potentially-affected self-consciousness as to ensure that you’ll be forgiven if it takes you a decade to follow through on that promise. And if you’re as tight-fisted as me, you’ll know that this way of going about things is way cheaper than seeing a shrink.

But in any event, if you don’t know the Winter’s Tales, you should read them yourselves. For now, I’ve settled on that which I find most fabulist and late-springish in its step.

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Söderberg, Hjalmar

The Burning City

Boy, I sure am all kinds of flushed with the Scandinavs these days. Maybe it’s my compassion for others plying their way through long cold winters, or maybe it’s my assertion that gravlaks is a flawless food, or maybe it’s just what they’re willing to pay for a beer is a most resonant sacrifice. Or maybe they’re just loaded with great writers. But if you had to lay a fresh twenty on what countries would sit atop Miette’s Trove of Literary Masters (and god knows you should let me in on such a bet were you to place one) you’d win big by betting all on Nordic.

On a not-unrelated-note, I’ve got these things called “tags” in place on this web site, which would have been a Real Big Deal about seven years ago, and which I’m just now getting around to. It’s not complete, but it allows you to do things like see all the Scandinavian stories I’ve read, and slap your forehead in disgust at how many more I need to read. I suppose this could be useful if you ever find yourself in a mood. Expect things to get interesting around here. Har det bra!

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Jansson, Tove

Of Angleworms and Others

So it’s summer right now, if you’re with me hemispherically. Although if you were to zoom in a little closer you’d see that in some places, we’re tying up that chapter, it’s cooling down, and that means it’s time to read you some Tove Jansson.

Now, I was going to read you something from the Moomins, but it’s not quite as charming when removed from the illustrations of big Moomin innocently bent-over butts. Or rather, it’s just as charming, but I’m hopelessly unable to convey Moomin-butt-drawing charm by voice alone.

And besides, the Summer Book is pretty archetypal for changing-tree times. As much as bonfires and maybe as much as the Shrimp Song that Townes van Zandt sang. Any other absolutely perfect end-of-summer stories? I’m in a wood-fire mood.

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Strindberg, August

An Attempt at Reform

We all have those odd things that happen to us more often than we might owe to nature or coincidence. Some people find themselves on their fourth marriage to a fourth guy named Mario*; it happens. For me, that thing is the ceilings. In my apartments. That seem to have a difficult time staying above my head. I’ve gone through three in less than two years– three times the sky has fallen (and this is not in the same place! We’re talking about different ceilings in different buildings!. So, I turn to you for advice: what’s it mean? Is someone trying to tell me something? What? How do I get in touch with that entity, ask to be a little subtler with the message? Should I just invest in a good helmet?

You know what we need to ponder questions such as these? That’s right– a little Strindberg.

* I have never been married to a guy named Mario, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Which is just a disclaimered way of saying I have nothing “against” the name Mario; it was just an example. Marios are great. Honestly.

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Lagerkvist, Per

Saviour John

Nothing says Eve of The Second Coming of Christ like a longish existential short story by a forgotten Swedish Nobel winner (repeat: not nepotism) about a delusional old urchin who lives and preaches as the saviour of man.

I don’t know where you can find this in print– Jesus knows, I’ll bet. I have it in a tattered dimestore paperback anthology called The Existential Mind, Documents and Fictions, which has no ISBN so far as I can see, though the fact of its existence as a dimestore paperback fills makes me long to have lived yesterday. No matter, I’m sure you can find it somewhere if you want. Or just listen, allthewhile Praising the Lord for PodCASTs.

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