From Iceland — Sour Grape

Sour Grape

Published July 14, 2006

Sour Grape

Hi Grapevine
Just wanted to send you few lines to tell you how much me and my husband love your magazine! We moved to Iceland almost two years ago from Cambridge, UK. We live in Keflavik but my husband works in Garðabær at Marel. I am currently working at home as an artist and freelance art administrator, with our lovely two years old boy and expecting another one in August. We would both like to support you in your immigrant campaign as we are unhappy with the immigrant situation in Iceland as well as the refugee issues here in Keflavik.
Keep up the good work.
Gunnhildur, Douglas and Isak Þór Place
Thank you, but the new political party based on immigrant issues is not a Grapevine party. The Grapevine is not associated with any party, and the various employees here have a wide range of political beliefs. In addition, because our journalist, Paul Nikolov, is a chairperson of the New Icelander Party, he will no longer be allowed to write opinion pieces for our paper, as we have a hard and fast policy against self-promotion. We will still cover immigrant issues, but Mr. Nikolov’s party will be treated as all political parties are treated.
Dear Editor,
In his book The Ally Who came in from the Cold, Research Profess or at the University of Iceland, Dr. Þór Whitehead, uses the first name of Icelandic characters, since this is customary in Iceland. In Iceland we use first names for Icelandic characters even when speaking a foreign language. This is a fact. Thus, Mr. Dagur B. Eggertsson should be referred to as Mr. Dagur but not as Mr. Eggertsson, since the latter is only his paternal name.
Kind Regards, Kjartan Emil S.
This is a point we debate frequently in the office. First off, for all readers and newcomers to Iceland, there are not many last names in Iceland, most use patronymics. In conversation, it is never appropriate to refer to someone as Mr. Eggertsson, for example. However, the Grapevine has to make some sacrifices in printing in English. On names, we prefer consistency to local custom, a policy established under the previous, Icelandic, editor of the paper. We refer to every subject by his or her last name or patronymic.
If this is insulting, it is not intentional. A similar rule is followed in the local papers towards foreigners – I myself have read various authors refer to me as Bart, an extremely casual gesture in the customs of my native country, and most other countries in the western hemisphere. However, as all local papers are essentially consistent in only using first names, we can at least be consistent with our policies.
Finally, we are forced to use last names because we regularly resell our articles to foreign publications who also require consistency. Mr. Whitehead, an excellent historian and writer, was writing for a book, not a newspaper, so his writing only had to obey the rules of his book.
Hopefully, this answers your question. We are not trying to be insulting, and we are fully aware of local custom, and we grimace at calling Dagur Mr. Eggertsson a good deal more than our readers do reading it.

Dear Editor,
Although it’s a bit unusual, I feel I have to respond to the review of our play How Do You Like Iceland, in your last issue. It’s not the diminutive writer’s opinion that bothers me; he’s perfectly entitled to it. But if he’s striving to be a legitimate critic, he’d better learn a thing or two about theatre craft and performance etiquette.
For example, he referred to the actress’s performance as “wooden.” Anyone familiar with acting styles could tell you her work was nothing close to wooden. It was, instead, leaden, a subtle quality she, with the help of several leading metallurgists, two silversmiths, and a club-footed alchemist, worked quite hard to achieve. To call it wooden is to miss the point entirely and short-change her talent. (This isn’t to say, however, that she’s incapable of “wooden” work. Theatre-goers may remember fondly her noteworthy portrayals several years ago in O, Yosemite! and “From Tiny Acorns Grow.” The New York Times called her Douglas fir “breathtaking!” and her aspen grove “heartrending”)
The petite wordsmith also claimed that we choked on scenes where we were called upon to display our own emotions. How can he make such an assumption? I’ve worked my ass off over the years, in acting classes and on psychologists’ couches, to get rid of any emotion. I am emotionless. In fact, thoughtless as well; a cypher. So for this homunculus to wipe out years of hard work by ascribing emotion to me is frankly offensive.
On an up-note, however, I was rather impressed to witness the birth of a ground-breaking new style in theatre criticism: the critic as heckler. Several times during the show, the vertically-challenged penman inserted himself into the proceedings, talking or waving an outstretched hand. We finally brought him onto the stage, in an attempt to make a sort of peace, but he used that opportunity to try and upstage us as well. The final insult occurred when forty minutes into an hour show he walked across the playing area on his way to the bathroom. And then returned the same way! (I shouldn’t be too harsh with the slight essayist, though, since I well remember the effects of my first beer).
It’s a shame the tiny reporter couldn’t have looked past his own bid for attention and simply seen the show for what it is: a light, funny little entertainment for foreigners. But after reading this review, perhaps they’ll just skip the show. Then they can wander into a local bar, plop down on a stool next to Mr. Eldon, and get a first-hand view of the stereotypical Icelander he refers to.
With emotionless, thoughtless, kindest regards,
Darren Foreman
By funny, do you mean like this letter funny, or ha ha funny? Because that may be the difficulty here. Still, when our reviewers go out on assignment in the future, we’ll ask them to 1) not be small, and 2) not body-check key performers.
Dear Editor,
It was interesting to read Sindri Eldon’s article on the Adrenalin Park in 09 issue 2006.
I don’t know why Sindri showed up at Nesjavellir, but he was welcome to participate. He seems to have totally missed the fact that we don’t run programs for individuals, — we only operate group programs. The whole thing is focused on the combined effort of the group as a whole, and all our marketing is aimed on groups with 6 people as minimum for this particular program.
An article written by someone who is so out of touch with the environment that he shows up in indoor clothing on a windy and rainy day, does not finish the program (because he is to cold and miserable), all his dimensions of structures are utterly wrong and he claims the price to be 6,900 ISK instead of 4,900.
I don’t consider this responsible journalism. It’s similar to get someone to write book reviews by reading half a book in an uncomfortable, leaking  house, without proper heating. In that case it would hardly be a surprise that the unfortunate journalist was not even capable of merely counting the pages. An educated opinion is even further out….
This article is completely out of tune with the feedback we have gained from groups participating in our programs. I suggest that you offer your staff a tour to Adrenalin Park — free of charge. Participating as a group is the only way to get a comprehensive understanding of what it is. You simply give me a call or send an e-mail and we arrange time for you.
I noticed that Alafoss, Vikurprjon, IceWear, Cintamani and 66°North all advertise their outdoor clothing in you paper. Maybe it’s a good thing Sindri is not influenced by advertisers. Still a shame he misses the joy of the Icelandic outdoors.
Karl Ingólfsson
567 8978 / 894 9595
Having reviewed books for a living, I can say that few reviewers don’t live in cold drafty houses – and by houses I mean studio apartments in “almost gentrified” neighbourhoods with cockroaches and suspicious neighbours. In the age of Dan Brown, James Frey and J K Rowling, the only way to preserve sanity is to read no more than five paragraphs of any book popular enough to justify a review. But you are not writing about literature. You’re writing about adventures. Correct cost, 4,900 ISK. Correct number of attendees, groups. The thing is, our reporter came along because it looked fun. In his opinion, it wasn’t. I picked up a Dan Brown book once because it was shiny. After reading a paragraph, I threw up and killed four puppies. We can assess some things as not the experience we hoped for without fully traumatising ourselves. Given the look of horror on our reporter’s face when I said we could all go again, free, I think he genuinely didn’t enjoy the experience. As for clothing, we ask the staff to attend them as a tourist would, in the clothing they would arrive in, or bring to Iceland in a carry-on. 66° North and Cintamani make great clothes, but they’re local. Many tourists have to experience the weather before they realise how essential a properly made pullover can be. Hint to advertisers, as you may have read earlier, the reporter in question is a size Small, and he could probably use some decent outdoor wear. We don’t pay particularly well.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!


Show Me More!