Published December 5, 2005
It is late November as I write this, and the season of “What do you want?” has just begun-it will last in Iceland until about 3 am on December 24th. The majority of us will be running around trying to find some material possession that might possibly mean something. In Iceland in particular the idea of trying to find material possessions falls apart completely-as much as they boast locally about spending too much money and being into gadgets, the truth is that many locals resort to hitting the bars on Þórláksmessa (Dec 23rd) and drinking in order to get through the tortuous experience of buying things. There are, on occasion, humorous results-a friend had her presents wrapped during Þórláksmessa, only to wake the next day and have no idea what she’d bought nor whom she had been planning to give them to.
In this Christmas issue of the the Reykjavík Grapevine, we try to answer the key questions that people visiting Iceland, or living here, have. I’m guessing that, seeing the big shiny present on the cover, many people will pick up our paper thinking that we might be able to answer their most pressing question: “What do I want?” Sveinn Birkir Björnsson and Paul Nikolov, writing about Laugavegur and Smáralind respectively, may be able to answer those questions, somewhat. They set out to cover shops and storefronts in Iceland as though they were works of art, as though the shop owners had invested their imagination and energy into their work and should be respected for the effort. And they did a commendable job. If you read the centre of this issue, you will know everything you ever wanted to know about the shops in Laugavegur and Smáralind. It’s also possible you will find some piece of helpful information in the Kringlan article.
There’s an adage about magazine journalism that comes to mind for Christmas issues: the writers are there to help your eyes rest between ads. Not that we turned down too many ads for this issue, but, while we covered shopping, we are still an independent magazine. We decided to cover shopping as best we could, as a service, and move on. For this reason, it is likely that the store descriptions will read differently in our paper than they will elsewhere. It is even possible that we will help you make a shopping decision. But we aren’t going to make any money on it. And this consistently flummoxes readers, investors and potential advertisers.
Since we began increasing our readership in May this year, we’ve been getting the pre-Christmas question: “What do you want?” over and over. What amount of currency or corporate crossover would be attractive to the Grapevine to start changing its ways? Why present a free magazine if you aren’t growing to get somewhere corporate?
I’m afraid I have to admit that the reason we say we don’t want anything isn’t due to integrity—it’s due to a lack of interest. Imagine yourself passing by gleaming storefronts. Imagine there is no pressure to actually have to enter one of those stores. Imagine your kid sister hasn’t put in the request for the top-of-the-line moon boots. Right now, we are like that one oblivious pedestrian: we can stop and look in if we want, but we have no obligations. If we lose our independence, sure we may be able to deliver our magazines in shiny new Renault Clios or to broadcast on TV stations or some other nonsense, but at present this is as nauseating to us as forking over a few thousand krónur on stylish moon boots for your little sister is to you.
In all likelihood we’ll be in the same place next year, and while you worry about how you’re going to spend your money, the Grapevine will still be content with getting by.