mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli
mordicai

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Malice-striker! (16)

The Ice-Shirt by William T. Vollmann.

The Bear-Kings die out,
The wicked Blue-Shirt rises.
I bear my BLACK HANDS!

I read this under the sturdy recommendation of kingtycoon, saying that if I cared about The Worm Oroboros then The Ice-Shirt demanded reading; later, ravenface enthused about it as well. You can add me to that pile, though slightly more reservedly-- I suspect having the book talked up so much might have something to do with that, though. The Ice-Shirt is a mythohistorical look at the Norse exploration of America. The myths are religious & historical, & both Norse & Inuit. I'll say Inuit-- normally that "only real people" thing gets me-- but I'll say it here & I'll say Skraeling too-- though the Inuit never call the Greenlanders "dog-faced"! Call them dog-faced, they so are!

Vollmann succeeds best when the myth is running strong in his veins, when the warlock songs are on him, & the witch is climbing the ice glaciar that is a god at the same time, or when the epic Bear-Kings are clashing in dreams, rising from the dead to menace bad-hearted princes, princes stolen away by Lapps (who are all wizards, as anyone will tell you), Freydis Eriksdottir searches desperately for the World Ash in America. Besides that, there are passages that, well, can really be best compared to the Biblical "Begats." Which even then aren't so bad-- he'll turn a kenning, or harken back to another Norseman's dream in a clever way, & make a paragraph shine. He'll beat out a word or two with EMPHASIS & he'll MEAN that, it is very honest. The nadir of the book are the personal interjections-- oh, you gonzo journalisted with those terrible people, did you, I'm so impressed. Those aren't ever dwelled on, & sometimes, yes, sometimes those work too. In the "Notes" he talks about using untruth to foster a greater sense of truth. It isn't just talk. He dreams up the Ice. I've got the notes to prove it-- did you know the Norse word for "black" & "blue" is the same? Well how about that. Influenced? I'd say certainly: expect Bear-Kings to clash with Wolf-Shamans while the Seal-People look on; also, I think The Aeneid is probably The Bjorning in Oubliette.
Tags: books, haiku, oubliette
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