Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Most Creative Place On Earth - Iceland

a post from last year...They have more professional musicians per capita than any other country in the world. More authors, more poets, more screenwriters, more directors, more playwrights per capita than anywhere else. One in every ten Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime - in Reykjavik the percentage is even higher. The Scandinavian crime writing boom has been a feature of the mystery scene for half a decade but what is even more remarkable is the fact that Iceland with a population of 300,000 (an over estimation because many Icelanders live abroad) holds its own with Sweden, Norway and Denmark who have thirty times, twleve times and fifteen times as many people respectively. Halldor Laxness won the Nobel Prize for Literature and Arnaldur Indridason won the Golden Dagger Award for mystery writing. One of my favourite bands in the 80's was the Sugarcubes, in the 90's Bjork came along, in the 2000's I only stopped listening to Sigur Ros when I discovered that Gwyneth Paltrow had given birth to their album Takk which ruined that record forever. One of my favourite current bands is Reykjavik's own Of Monsters and Men who were, of course, hugely influenced by Bjork (right in a BBC doc)
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I think I've proved that Iceland punches well above its weight in the arts, the question is how it does this. I don't know the answer but I have some theories based more on Wikipedia than my own brief visit to Iceland at the end of the 90's. According to Wikipedia Iceland has more bookstores and libraries per capita than anywhere else in the world and the average Icelander reads more books. Long dark winters certainly would encourage book reading or practicing a musical instrument or writing a book (or drinking heavily). I also think it helps that Iceland does not have a strong culture of sport. Iceland has no professional football league (of any code) and this is a good thing. Spectator sport is a massive time suck, time that arguably could be spent better doing something creative for yourself. People who have a job only have a finite amount of leisure hours a week so it stands to reason that the crazier a place is about sport the less creative the population. Other theories? 1) Sagas. Iceland's literary tradition of Sagas goes back 1000 years and I've been told that many Icelanders of the older generation can still narrate and perform tales from the Sagas from memory. 2) TV. I don't know what the TV situation is in Iceland but I'll bet Icelanders watch less television than Americans or Europeans. 3) Weather. The poor weather in Iceland encourages indoor activities like reading, practicing with your garage band, writing poetry etc. (I'll bet you good money that more poetry books are bought in Reykjavik than in Miami or Rio despite the vast population differential.) 
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Is there a lesson here for other countries? I don't know. Iceland's success seems to be due to its unique geography and literary history, but maybe if we could encourage kids to seek out their local bookstore or library it would help. Having children learn a musical instrument is also good idea and when schools in the UK, Australia and America stopped having kids memorize poetry by heart it was, in my opinion, an enormous mistake. Finally it's nice that young people play sport but watching sport on TV is, let's face it, not a terribly productive use of their time. 
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If you ask me it all comes back to the bookshops and the libraries. Books fire imaginations. Cicero said that a room without books is like a body without a soul and one of my favourite quotes on creativity is from Werner Herzog - when someone asked Herzog how he could become a film-maker like him some day Herzog replied instantly: "Read. Read. Read." Quite. 

84 comments:

Peter Rozovsky said...

The Icelandic language makes a conscious effort to preserve old words when it has to invent new terms for new social or technological phenomena. So the word for "telephone" means, I think, "amber wire." This sort of thing has to keep Icelanders in touch with their old literary culture in a way that English does not.

I know or have at least chatted with thee Icelandic crime writers. On a per-capita basis, that would be the equivalent of 3,000 American crime writers.
====================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

Alan said...

Adrian,Quite a post.Certainly their geographic and climactic insularity breeds more reading and perhaps more writing.In my opinion the most pernicious element facing the anglophone is the myth that all citizens are equally educable and that for groups to succeed equally remediation,cultural relevancy and fun are far more important than disciplined study . Perhaps a nation not pampered by over indulgent parents who allow their children to watch or play more sport than study will point to a more creative future.Best Alan

Peter Rozovsky said...

. Perhaps a nation not pampered by over indulgent parents who allow their children to watch or play more sport than study will point to a more creative future.

On the other hand, and to quote an utterance I learned from following sport, it could be that the future is now.

Brian McNally said...

You've hit on something here. I see many more kids and adults playing baseball and many times that number watching it than I ever see on our 20 miles of pristine beaches. And let's not begin to talk about the hordes of unemployed zombies wandering the streets in their hoodies. I don't know if my town, beautiful but poor, represents the rest of America. What I do know is this: it reminds me of the gloomy 'after' of an apocalypse horror movie.
I'll weigh in on the causes: bad schooling, no jobs, too much emphasis on sports, vapid movies, worse television, cynical politicians and yeah, nobody reads anymore.
But I do read, and it's nice to be part of a community of readers, but we are are tiny minority decreasing with every passing moment.
And I really hate to this but; after us the deluge.
Later.

Dana King said...

I've never been to Iceland. I've had "hello" acquaintances with two, and was introduced to Yrsa Sigardurdottir at Bouchercon. (She was charming, and The beloved Spouse was taken by her Yrsa's presentation at peter's panel.) I have read two books by Arnaldur Indriðason That exhausts my exposure to Icelandic culture.

That being said, what you have described here are all potential root causes of what is the primary reason for Iceland's cultural prowess: they value reading, writing, music, and, presumably, education as a culture. Speaking only for the United States, we do not. having taught public school for a couple of years, and provided private musical instruction for far longer in different geographical areas, I can say with some certainty the placing of value on any endeavor will increase the populations ability. We (Americans) lag behind in these things because we don't care much about them as a culture, no matter what we say. Iceland does, and they are better off for it. (I say that as a devoted baseball and hockey fan who appreciates the side effects of too much attention to wholly vicarious pursuits.

John McFetridge said...

How big a factor is religion in Iceland?

Cary Watson said...

Here in Canada we have equally diabolical weather, and Toronto has the world's third biggest library system (100 branches, 4 bookmobiles including the one I'm in right this second), but I wouldn't describe us as a nation of readers and writers. I'm sure Iceland has just as many online distractions as anywhere else, so I'm thinking the credit goes to the country's educational system. Schools and libraries here in Canada do a terrible job of encouraging reading. In high school the emphasis is always on books that are "relevant" or that discuss issues of "concern" to teens. This is literature seen as a kind of intellectual multivitamin: good for you, but not pleasant. Librarians and educators just don't seem comfortable with the idea of kids reading solely for pleasure. You'd create more lifelong readers by having teens read, say, Terry Pratchett than Conrad or Steinbeck.

seana graham said...

I expect many things out of this blog, but one thing I never expected was that you and I would ever agree on anything concerning sports.

But to argue against you (and myself), you are a big reader and also a pretty big sports guy, so I'd guess they aren't as incompatible as all that.

I'd think Iceland would be just as susceptible to the online world that shrinks the amount of time spent reading actual books as anywhere else, and maybe more so. Maybe the effects just aren't in yet.

One very pleasant effect of this huge house repair that happened here recently was that I got a lot of new shelving so that my books finally got to go up on the wall. And I have to say that just seeing them there makes me very happy. It's a funny thing, because when a lot of them were sitting around in stacks and bags, they tended to be overwhelming, but now I am just pleased by them, even if it will take me eons to get through all of them.

Peter Rozovsky said...

One very pleasant effect of this huge house repair that happened here recently was that I got a lot of new shelving so that my books finally got to go up on the wall. ... when a lot of them were sitting around in stacks and bags, they tended to be overwhelming ...

Send the workers up here!

John McFetridge said...

Yeah, Seana, maybe I could use some shelves, too, because I have the same feelings about the boxes...

Also, I don't think it would make much of a difference, but when Adrian says, "per capita," I'm guessing everyone in Iceland speak and read the same language.

Peter Rozovsky said...

John, Iceland's ethnic homogeneity figures strongly in one of Arnaldur Indriðason's novels. He handles the issue a good deal more subtly than some issue-of-the-day crime novels so, and such concerns make sense in such a small, homogeneous country.

seana graham said...

The couch still full of bags of "other things" is not so comforting.

I'm sure my landlady thought the shelving would be used a little more diversely.

I think Iceland remains something of an unexplained anomaly.

lil Gluckstern said...

Yrsa's books are also very good, and I read a lot of what comes out of Iceland. I've not been there, but everyone who has and writes about it really is impressed. I think it's that combination of things. The landscape invites quiet thinking, to me. It is really possible to enjoy sports and read which I do. It's funny to me that once I did a talk with some teenagers about what to do to become a psychotherapist. My response was to read-everything. I used to say I learned as much about human beings from novels-good ones-as I did from my textbooks. That is why I enjoy books that focus on characterization. Reading and creativity need a fertile ground. I'm not sure that our American culture inspires that as much as it does consumerism.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I like that preservation of the past in the language. As conservative philospher Michael Oakeshott used to say "tradition is a living argument". Countries that don't value their traditions dont have this argument and they are I think the poorer for it.

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

I'm all for the playing of sport in kids but mindlessly watching hours and hours of it on TV doesnt do much I fear. I spend a ridiculous amount of time every week listening to baseball on the radio. I always think I'll do something else while I'm listening but I almost never do.

adrian mckinty said...

Brian

I agree... reading is almost a bizarre cult activity in the west. THe best selling book in Australian bookshops last year was, apparently, "Jamie's 30 Minute Meals" which sold 90,000 copies. That number and that title is absurd in a country as big as Australia.

Peter Rozovsky said...

This language question is fresh in mind. I had read about the conservative tendency in Icelandic, and I discussed it with Yrsa at Crimefest a few weeks ago. She had brought the matter up, actually.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Whatever Oakeshott wrote about living arguments, the conservative tendency in Icelandic connects Icelanders to their past in a highly practical way. It means Icelanders can read the sagas in the original language. Not many English speakers could say the same about Beowulf.

adrian mckinty said...

Dana

I wonder if its too late now to turn the clock back. At least in the 30's music still thrived in poor communities (I think of roots and country music in Appalachia or blues in the delta or jazz in Harlem and Chicago)but now I dont think many poor kids learn an instrument like they used to. Rap and DJ'ing for example dont encourage the actual learning of any instrument.

adrian mckinty said...

John

Its a good point. I dont know the answer but I think Iceland is a fairly secular place with a strong folk tradition and weird superstitions.

adrian mckinty said...

Cary

I always get in a panic when I see kids encouraged to read stuff that is good for them or is supposed to teach some moral lesson. That is one guaranteed way to turn kids off for life.

And every kid is different. My older daughter got Hugo for her birthday four years ago - she couldnt be bribed to read that book but my younger daughter and I just finished it last night and she thought it was absolutely wonderful.

Kids need to experience a broad range of texts in the hope that one or two of them will hit their mark.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Well I do like rugby, baseball and football and I devote a silly amount of my time to catching up and watching them, but I think I understand that these activities are utterly irrelevant in human affairs...A sense of perspective is a good thing.

I think the physical experience of just being around books is bound to be helpful.

adrian mckinty said...

Lil

Its very important to get kids excited about reading. I wasnt a fan of the Harry Potter books but I loved the fact that kids were going to bookshops at midnight to get the latest installment. Bookshops were for a brief time anyway magical places...

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I dont think there's any culture on Earth that could easily read 1000 year old texts as if they were written yesterday. Its a real pity that Catholic priests are forced to be celibate otherwise the Vatican city could have had this living culture of young Latin speakers...

adrian mckinty said...

Oh and I forgot to say that one of the funniest books I've listened to (on audio) this year was The Hitman's Guide To Housecleaning which is a satire on Icelandic culture in general and Icelandic crime writing in particular.

seana graham said...

I've got to read that Hitman's Guide.

It's funny that Latin seems to be making this weird comeback, not because of the schools but because it has its part to play in certain online games about the Roman Empire. Or that's why my nephews are into it, anyway.

A good Icelandic game based on the sagas wouldn't be a bad idea, if it doesn't exist already.

Brian McNally said...

Bread and circuses.

Unknown said...

Unrelated, but belated for BloomDay -- Ulysses in 3 minutes.

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/ulysses-in-three-minutes-1.1429107

Grandad

seana graham said...

Thanks "Unknown". I am passing this along.

adrian mckinty said...

Brian

A lot to be said for free Egyptian bread and free animal shows esp if you're starving and bored.

adrian mckinty said...

John

Thanks for that.

Deb Klemperer said...

Hey, hey, hey - speaking up for feckless, bookless, hoody, pampered, 'multicultural'- and other youth.. They are the digital generation, have access to more information than we could ever have dreamed of - and know how to discard the dross, and make best use of what is left, often at remarkable speed. They read, maybe not books, but they do read. They will also know when they are watching mindless TV - and no doubt do that to veg out, just as I do.. Their critical faculties haven't been excised!

adrian mckinty said...

Deb

No doubt your evidence is anecdotal because the empirical evidence is not that encouraging. I'm not convinced that kids do know how to discard the dross from the factual. One wikipedia entry looks very much like another. Any brisk and dispiriting read of youtube comments under, say, a history video about Nazis will quickly cure you of the notion that the internet generation is capable of sifting evidence and making informed decisions about the past or anything else. The ones who have read books and have had good teachers are, the ones who havent are completely lost.

seana graham said...

Deb, my own anecdotal evidence is encouraging as well. The kids are all right, etc.We should perhaps stick with them, because they are all very hopeful.

I do think the larger trend is not that encouraging. So I agree with Adrian to some extent. But I also don't really ascribe the no nothingism to youth. It's been all around us since I came to something like adulthood and perhaps it will always be with us. But I'm an optimist sometimes and I do think the yahoos are on the wrong side of the historical trend. It's not just ignorance, which I could feel some compassion for. It's willed ignorance when it comes to stupid opinions about the Nazis and the like.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana, Deb

Actually the anecdotal evidence in my own neck of the woods is quite encouraging too. But the broader trends fill me with anxiety. Its funny reading Cicero and later Seneca complaining about the younger generation and how everything was going to the dogs. It wasnt. Plato too was worried about the kids but the Academy struggled on for another 750 years without him.

John McFetridge said...

Well, ups and downs, right? What happened after the 750 years?

I wonder if we're on an upswing or a downswing.

I found this interesting (and not very surprising, actually):

http://junctrebellion.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/how-the-american-university-was-killed-in-five-easy-steps/

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

" ... and know how to discard the dross, and make best use of what is left, often at remarkable speed."

Examples, please, especially if they provide evidence that this remarkably speedy critical reading these youth are doing makes up for the books they are not reading and the information they are not getting because of the decline of traditional media.

I will say that I do not blame youth entirely. The spectacle of their gullible elders, especially in certain media industries, scrambling to embrace technological gimcrackery lest they be considered superannuated, is unedifying.

I think of this anytime I hear someone in a tie or a tailored skirt say “solutions” or “going forward.” If I were a slacker genius software or hardware designer, I’d make millions off these morons.

Deb Klemperer said...

I love a good argument! But I didn't realise I needed a bibliography, statistics, and so on to prove that 'the youth of today' are reading,and are not in massive educational decline,... Sadly, after a long day at work - it is tough playing with ancient gold, but someone has to do it (a video blog is on the cards tomorrow, will let y'all know the link - we discovered something ace today) - I am pooped, and this feels a bit like work (the QPI management-speak work), so I will find you some examples, and let you know.. a wimp out I know.

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

A bibliography and statistics are unnecessary, nor need your examples be peer-reviewed. An anecdote or two will be sufficient.

Deb Klemperer said...

Ha Ha

Deb Klemperer said...

thanks Headmaster

seana graham said...

Interesting article, John. I'm familiar with its themes, partly from friends who have been those roving, tenure seeking academicians, and partly because I've attended a discussion group for years and years and years, and one of the recurring themes was the decline of academia, as seen by two former professors as well as some current professors at UCSC. One of them, Page Smith actually wrote a book about all this, called Killing the Spirit.

I have mixed feelings about all of it from the student perspective. Since I've worked much of my life in the same town I went to college in, I have worked with UCSC grads through pretty much all this time, and they seem surprisingly not all that much different than the people I went to school with. The thing that is different, though, is that it costs a staggeringly larger amount to go to school here now than it did way back then, not even including housing which is also at a premium now. And the other thing that is very different is that they are starting off adult life with so much debt. A lot of young people I know here are working a couple of jobs, if not more just because of this factor in their life.

adrian mckinty said...

John

We are seriously thinking of moving to Scotland when our kids are getting close to university age.

Its still free tuition for home students and the universities are world standard. I dont know how we'd pay otherwise. And the idea of them beginning life with 100,000 in debt is alarming.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

The best selling author in Australia is Jamie Oliver who proudly says he's never finished a book all the way through. Another role model Ricky Gervais proudly declares that he never reads fiction because he can write better endings in his head. This kind of talk is all we need.

I know that when I'm in my local bookshop at night I'm the youngest person in there and I'm not young. The pub next door is packed. You couild say that it was always thus but I'm no so sure.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

I cant begin to imagine the debt someone must have after a 4 year liberal arts degree and then they get a job doing what?

If I was a kid I'd do engineering or mathematics. I'd least I'd have a job to fall into.

seana graham said...

Most of the liberal arts majors I know work in bookstores. But of course, the ones who have any aptitude for it at all wait tables.

The way out of the bookstore for a long time was to either get your teaching credential or become a librarian. I'm not sure either of those are particularly viable paths anymore.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Nah, the viable career path is to start a corporation and collect government job-creation subsidies.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Actually if I was a student these days I'd be so frightened by the prospect of debt I probably wouldnt go to university at all.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yes. Exactly. I'd read a lot of Malcolm Gladwell and business books and set myself up as an "expert" on re-engineering the corporation.

seana graham said...

Adrian, I was actually thinking the same thing. As it was, I dropped out, but at least I didn't have any debt.

Alan said...

Adrian,Having weathered Ulster,Scottish climatic conditions will be a cakewalk.Young students live in their own worlds and are usually oblivious to cold or rain.Indeed you/they would save a bunch of money.Still free higher education in Scotland ,et donc, they must be doing something right to retain enough young people.Best Alan

John McFetridge said...

It's just a hunch, but maybe fewer liberal arts degrees will mean more creativity - what's the rate of liberal arts graduates in Iceland?

We're seeing a lot more interest in trrade schools here and I like it - I think the's more of a chance that trade school graduates will organize and fight for their rights more than liberal arts grads.

Mark English said...

This is perhaps a topic for another day, but I think there is too much praise for and emphasis on creativity. In another post, Adrian, you placed performers who write their own material above those who don't, whereas I think the latter are doing us a favour by not adding to the stock of mediocre material.

These days just about everyone wants to be creative and there is just a chance (minimal) they could make a bit of money with their apps or their games or their animations or their stories, songs (unlikely!) or whatever.

The old social structures may have been unjust but they did kids a favour in not encouraging them to live their creative dreams. A more stratified society encourages one to dream one's dreams – but not to live them (because it was just not seen as realistic).

There were fewer writers then, of course – and, proportionately, many more readers.

I know technology and economics are the main drivers of change, but ideas count and that (ultimately Romantic) ideal of creativity has messed up a lot of lives.

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

I'm not entirely sure how higher education gets funded in Scotland. Its also free in the Gulf states so maybe its oil money?

adrian mckinty said...

John

A lot of people say that Germany is so prosperous because it still has a strong notion of apprenticeships, craft guilds and unions. I dont know there might be something in that.

adrian mckinty said...

Mark

Thats a bracing and refreshing viewpoint. Its sometimes the view point I have after watching too many TED talks which are always about encouraging individuality and creativity and seem utterly disconnected from our world.

I dont know if you've watched much Jonathan Meades but he has a good point about cooking. Good cooking he says is following a recipe, a tradition, that has been passed down for generations; good cooking is the opposite of being creative, its being faithful to the tradition built in the past. I have a lot of sympathy for this viewpoint and the tradition of conservatism inherent in the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott and the Scotsman Alasdair MacIntyre...I think individuals can have fulfilled lives by learning a craft or a skill and placing themselves in this tradition.

I think Iceland is a good example of this too. In Iceland people learn instruments and poetry not necessarily to write their own stuff (at least not at first) but more to carry on the traditional songs and poems.

I think you point to a genuine danger: what happens when you have a generation of kids who reject all the old forms, who only want the new? For Picasso and Mozart to become great innovators they had to first demonstrate their mastery over their entire artistic tradition. But if you reject that tradition as old fashioned, compromised and worthless I think you're in big trouble. As Herzog says you have to first read, read, read and then when you've absorbed the best civilization has to offer then you can attempt creativity.

Jorge Luis Borges said that no one should rush into print. I think that unless you're John Keats that is very good advice.


Deb Klemperer said...

Peter - mmm - this article supports your view http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22971225

Moving on, I had read somewhere, probably in a newspaper, that the neural pathways of digital youth (DY) were developing differently, if true, this affects brain function. An example of this change was given: DY turn on light switches with their thumbs. Now that I have written that, it sounds very unlikely.

I will keep looking..

adrian mckinty said...

Deb

Thanks for that. Its the true scientist who produces evidence against her case.

adrian mckinty said...

Mark

What weight do you give those annual job satisfaction surveys that point to the creative arts as the most fulfilling? The job that apparently is the most satisfying is theatre or film director.

I have to say that I'm a little skeptical. Maybe I'm the exception that proves the rule...I'm a professional novelist and I'm bloody miserable.

seana graham said...

My art history professor from days gone by used to really downplay the idea of creativity. She said that creating was reserved to the Creator, and that human beings don't create anything, we just put things together. Although she has put a bit of a damper on my ability to speak about creativity, etc., I think it's refreshing to think that basically, human beings just tend to like to make things. She thought that thinking of oneself as a craftsperson or artisan was probably a more honest and grounding approach--though she wouldn't have used the term 'grounding'--than thinking of oneself as an artist in the present age with all its baggage.

John McFetridge said...

Following traditions seems a good way to develop creativity. How many blues songs did the Rolling Stones cover before they started writing their own?

And I recently heard the new Daft Punk album and I never would have thought of late 70s disco as 'tradition,' but it seems to work.

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Brendan O'Leary said...

Hello there, 2013.

John, the Stones demonstrated no intent to write their own songs until the Beatles rustled up "I Wanna Be Your Man" in front of them and gave it to them. Lightbulb moment: "We could do that too". Creativity begets creativity.

Lack of other distractions must also be a factor. Shetland has more good musicians per head of population than anywhere I know. They are not the arty middle-class graduate types you find busking in mainland cities but farmers, fishers, trawlermen, welders etc. Like this guy, RIP: http://news.stv.tv/north/269329-shetland-coastguard-respond-to-call-from-vessel-in-west-burrafirth/

I'd take exception to your statement about Icelanders not being into spectator sport: most of the ones I know are fanatical followers of EPL and will organise trips to England to watch their teams once or twice a year.

Chandler Scott McMillin said...

I can see two possible contributors that have not yet been mentioned. First, extreme lack of trees. Perhaps that affects the oxygen-carbon exchange cycle and amps up Icelandic brains. Second, geysers. Did you know if you put dish liquid in a geyser you can cause it to erupt to great height? This may inspire some who otherwise would just go watch TV.

Also, Icelandic TV is awful, thus less interesting crap to watch spurs creativity?

Science can explain anything.

adrian mckinty said...

Brendan

Never been to Shetland but it sounds like my kind of place. I know they have a lot of poets too, writing in Scots, English, Gallic and even Norn!

adrian mckinty said...

Chandler

It used to have trees though. When the Vikings came they chopped them all down and grazed sheep and cows on the scraps of land that were available. So not very eco friendly of them...

I have seen Icelandic TV and its very strange. I saw a programme once that seemed to combine traditional spinning techniques with music videos.

I wonder if all those open air hot springs help get people talking and bouncing ideas off one another...

Peter Rozovsky said...

Unrelated to the matter at hand, but in re the mention above of Ulysses in three minutes, I have just finis/hed reading Flann O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive, which incorporates a nice assessment of Joyce in addition to having him as a character.

Anonymous said...

Is there a high degree of government Arts funding, I wonder? Most countries in that geographic area seem to have very high tax rates, after all.
In the Australian situation of high levels of support for the arts this produces a raft of bland, PC pap, unreadable and unlistenable except to those black-clad elites addicted to Latte...
Perhaps only the cream of the crop gets noticed outside Iceland while the domestic market is awash with very ordinary stuff?

Brendan O'Leary said...

Get it right pal - we black-clad elites prefer a café macchiato.

seana graham said...

Finally got around to watching Sightseers last night. It is indeed really good, but I am definitely afraid to watch Kill List now if this was his tamer stuff.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I love the Dalkey Archive. One of the great FOB books.

adrian mckinty said...

Anon

Yeah I get what you're saying. I have to be perfectly honest and admit that I'm not too impressed with the govt sponsored arts work here... :(

Probably churlish to add that I've never gotten a penny of govt money.

adrian mckinty said...

Brendan,

Mine's a simple cup of English Breakfast.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Dont watch Kill List. Sightseeers is a gentle romp in the country compared to KL. Down Terrace though is in similar satirical low rent terrain although not as good.

seana graham said...

Thanks. I'll add Down Terrace to the Netflix list.

I started to watch the new Mad Men series tonight, and then suddenly realized--I don't like the show, never have liked it, and don't have to see how it turns out. Watched the Mentalist instead even though it's not the greatest show, because I love Simon Baker, which is more than I can say for any of the characters in Mad Men. Although this is nothing against the actors. Still, it was quite a relief.

Anne said...

Firstly, I totally agree with Seana about MadMen (must be a woman thing).
But back to the topic, some interesting results published today from the OECD PISA league tables charting educational standards across the developed world. Sadly for the UK, we come 23rd for reading, behind Ireland in 7th place, Canada in 9th, and Australia in 14th. However, we just beat USA by one point and - most surprisingly, Iceland at no. 37 . So how does this fit in with the creativity arguments ?
Even more worrying, all the Western countries are outclassed in reading, maths and science by China, Japan and even Vietnam, for gods sake!

Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I'd suggest The Dalkey Archive to anyone who wants a neat summation of Joyce's position in Western culture. Also to anyone who likes a good joke.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and I'm about to begin sipping a cup of Earl Grey. And before anyone objects, it goes just fine with milk.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, if you watched The Mentalist, you may have caught a glimpse of a novel by a guy who who was on one of my Bouchercon panels last year.

seana graham said...

Sorry, Peter, but that link took me to a Facebook page that I didn't have access to. I don't remember a book offhand.

Anne, women friends tell me that they do find Don Draper very attractive. They delayed his arrival in the season opener for that extra effect, I think, but for me, as I have said here before, it is a bit like centering a show around the charismatic effect of John Boehner, Speaker of the House. Powerful, yes. Appealing, no.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana, Anne

I just watched it. I thought it was ok, but creatively and artistically Mad Men has been running on empty for four years now I think.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the picture was, purportedly, a screen grab of Simon Baker's character reading a book that, on close examination, turns out to be a novel by J. Robert Janes.