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review 2016-08-26 13:24
My review of Icelandic phenom Sjón's masterpiece is live

My new #review is live today. MOONSTONE: The Boy Who Never Was is truly jaw-dropping. From the review, "Sjón operates equally lyrically when describing the antiquated views of the doctor and the simple survival techniques of Máni."


Farrar, Straus and Giroux gets 5 full stars because they chose Victoria Cribb to translate this book. Clearly she is fearless! This is a must-read for anyone interested in #LGBTQ lit.

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review 2015-02-16 01:54
The Blue Fox by Sjon - Review
The Blue Fox - Victoria Cribb,Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (Sjón)

A hunter/pastor, a sensitive herbalist, a young woman with Down's Syndrome, and a blue fox. The interesting, lyrically written and action packed narrative of a hunter (known first as simply "the man") and the fox who could literally and figuratively run circles around him gives way to a round-about and sweet tale of an empathetic young man who takes in (well, purchases) an innocent who is a victim of those who should have cared for her. These two intersected and entwined storylines reach an unsettlingly satisfactory ending, all wrapped up in the blue fox's transformative pelt.


This is, as described, a story that lives in the realms of fable, fairy tale and mystery. Having first read Sjon's The Whispering Muse, I would suggest The Blue Fox as the better work to start with.


My suspicion is that this was a difficult book to translate, so as always, I read this with an appreciation not just for the writer's craft but for the translator's skill as well.

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review 2014-10-19 18:30
The Whispering Muse by Sjón, Victoria Cribb (Translation)
The Whispering Muse - Sjón,Victoria Cribb


Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb

Opening: I, Valdimar Haraldsson, was in my twenty seventh year when I embarked on the publication of a small journal devoted to my chief preoccupation, the link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race.

Thoughts on the opening: so, we have a elitist, narcissistic, dodgy narrator - I hope we get to witness the downfall of this Valdemort Valdimar.

Page 25: THAT MORNING the MS Elizabet Jung-Olsen had cruised into Fedafjord, one of those endless Norwegian fjords, and now lay moored in a small bay at the foot of a lofty mountain.

Page 32:
'So the day the ship was deemed ready to launch, bright-eyed Athena descended to earth among the shipwrights and fitted in her prow a beam from the whispering oak of her father Zeus.'

As perceived by that opening declaration, Valimar cannot see beyond the mundane in the world, or higher than his own opinions, and misses something entirely wondrous. Like pearls before swine one of the greatest stories known to man unfolds before him, firsthand, via a shard of timber.

Oh, and those wanting a quick fix of Jason and the Argonauts, the full film is here.

Rating: five in the bullseye of fafnir

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review 2014-07-30 06:07
The Whispering Muse by Sjon
The Whispering Muse: A Novel - Sjón

Having just finished The Whispering Muse, I am unsure of how to describe the experience of it.  It starts off quite dry and I nearly put the book down permanently. The narrator, Valdimar Harraldson, is a 70+ year old Icelander with a strong conviction that the consumption of fish is vital to his notion of the superiority of the Scandinavian peoples.  He comes across as being very proper, possibly fastidious in nature, which does lend a more early 20th century feel to his narration.  But the story does not center on him, rather he provides (however reluctantly) the framework and platform for others to tell their stories.  Most notably, for it is where the writing shines, in the retelling of some of the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts by the former argonaut and now first mate Caeneus.


Sjon is not an author I had any awareness of, until I spotted the rather iconic bookcovers while browsing on bookoutlet.com.  This peaked my curiosity enough to read the descriptions, but not to order any of the three titles.  I did, however, give in to the pull of the book jacket when I spotted a pile of this particular title on clearance at a local bookstore.  And while I wouldn't say that this is a great book, or that I felt a sense of enjoyment throughout the reading of it, I will say that the end left me with a smile and I have since ordered Sjon's The Blue Fox and The Mouth of the Whale.


Please note, for those who are sensitive, that this book does include some details that are not for the faint of heart as well as prejudicial views and language that were more accepted in 1949.  It also includes the story of a rape.  The ancient gods were not necessarily nice people.

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review 2014-07-22 03:38
The Blue Fox
The Blue Fox - Victoria Cribb,Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (Sjón)
In Our Time - Ernest Hemingway
Lark & Termite - Jayne Anne Phillips

THE BLUE FOX reads like Hemingway crossed with a more recent Jayne Anne Phillips novel. Cut into three sections, the first is a series of precise beats following a hunter who tries to take down a fox. The middle section bursts forth with life and connectivity, loss, death, and reveals just who is the hunter we were first introduced to. The final section provides an excellent resolution, if one takes joy in reading about the suffering of a cruel and heartless man. I’d say more but don’t wish to spoil things. 

Read this if you love crisp sentences and want to see how a story can be told slightly out of order to great effect. [same review posted on Goodreads]

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