Sunday, October 17, 2010

Strange rambling; Wishing we were haunted; Book review: Sjon's "The Blue Fox"

B is reading the obituaries to see if someone I care about but who I am too scared to call and find out about has died. If you don't know me, or maybe you think you do but I'm pretty sure you don't, this says much about me.


We drove two hours yesterday to have lunch at an Applebee's. The conversation, surprisingly, did not sink to the level of, "They don't have this at my Applebees's! Do they have this at yours?" It was fun and slightly odd, in the way things can sometimes be when you're having lunch with a parent you don't see but once or twice every year or every other year, and now you're grown up and both parties are struggling with this new reality and lunch at Applebee's is maybe not the place to be doing it. But I was riding the roller coaster and had a beer and realized my dad drinks beer at the same slow rate I do, and that B is a very wonderful partner and I'm grateful for mostly everything.

And then my dad, after having been in a car for a solid week with his girlfriend, pawned her off on us for a couple of hours because he needed a nap. Most surprisingly of all, it was fine. We went to a local antique market that was in what used to be a very small town's surprisingly enormous opera hall. There were balconies. At this point, I stopped being surprised by things.

Wapokeneta. I think they had their sights set on becoming a regional showplace, a highlight of Ohio. Now I'm pretty sure that meth labs are the order of the day, and it had that typical midwest small-town derelict feel. Like everybody got all excited in 1952 and then in 1975 started leaving in droves. I like those places. I'm starting to feel at home on those sorts of Main Streets. Maybe if their ghosts inhabit my bones, I'll understand.

I bought two things, one a book about rural peoples of the Ozarks, written and photographed in the early 70s. The man narrating lost his eye (I didn't go back a page to find out how) and walked half a mile with it in his hand, turning up on his wife's doorstep and settin' down with it. Seemed rather composed about it. I am closing one eye at a time right now. I don't think it would make much difference, but the pain part of it might be something I'd be making a fuss about. The book cost a dollar.

Old postcards, if they've got writing on them, and old pictures are my favorite things. I didn't find any old postcards that I particularly wanted. I like love letters these days. Most postcards read like this: "Weather fine. Been sunny and warm. Having a good time. Miss you!" Many of the old ones are addressed to Dear Brother or Dear Sister or Dear Mom and Dad.

And then I found this picture:

I have tried, but I can't get a better scan. It is labeled on the back "Edna Joan Ethel." I am guessing that Edna is the oldest. This picture does not do justice to her pure evilness. I am looking at her now, and she looks like she will be strangling baby Joan as soon as this shot is taken. Or maybe with her hidden hand, she is pulling up Ethel's underwear. I do not know. All I know is I woke up last night, convinced that I had brought Edna's ghost home with us, and she was hanging on a wall downstairs, formulating evilness in a gray, damp cloud. I don't know what I was dreaming before I woke up; I just woke straight up and knew that Edna was haunting us now.

In the light of day, it appears we are still unhaunted. Bright sunlight, coffee and bagels will generally do that.


I just finished Sjon's "The Blue Fox," which is partly a mystery, partly an Icelandic mystical fable. It is divided into parts; pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each part.

The prose is stark, the atmosphere strange, and the effectiveness of this slight novel in putting you under the blanket of an Icelandic winter is astounding. The way we come to know about characters in so few words is a marvel. It felt like a magical book, in a way that few books or stories are able to accomplish. I admire Sjon's ability to craft a story -- in the end, I felt as if I was holding in my hands the literary equivalent of Abba's package, now unwrapped and sitting before me. When I re-read this, as I'll surely do, I'll have a cup of Fridrik's favored Darjeeling.

I had no idea what this story was about when I started reading. Another gift from Joanne, I merely trusted in her opinion and began reading. I'm rather glad I did. But if you'd like more info on the story, or you just want to read her review, it is here. She's got a lot of book reviews, and her taste is nothing less than exemplary.


  1. Edna looks like pure evil, all right! I'd send the post card to someone I didn't like, and let THEM deal with her. I'm not altogether certain that she ISN'T lurking about!

  2. I had a next door neighbor like Edna once. I moved.

    You have an intriguing blog. I wish you success in your publication dreams. Roland

  3. You had me giggling at ”Seemed rather composed about it.” Sour milk came out of my nostrils at ”…the pain part…” Lucky you weren´t here to see it =) Crazy girl; you spend too much time in front of your computer, one eye´s fine in front of a screen, but try covering one and then reach for objects – it´s the depth perception you lose when you´ve got just one eye.

    I love Edna. I wonder what became of her, so many possibilities! I wouldn´t keep the photo, though. Oh, god, what if it´s one of those things where someone has to voluntarily take it from you and you can´t just give it away because then the evil increases and gets more power over you?!

    Nah, probably not ;)

  4. Ooo creepy... the picture alone is eerie and you can see the evil so I can't imagine how much more evil she is!!!

    I found your blog from over at Killer Chicks... do you have a follow button? I'd love to follow you!

  5. I was hoping that picture was going to be a Victorian post-mortem portrait, but all the children seem to be alive.

  6. Thank you very much, Roland.

    Mimi: Asuqi proposes that this photo can't be sent onwards, but must be chosen by the next person voluntarily. Which sounds creepy. So... are you saying you wouldn't choose her? ;)

    Asuqi: People seem to be of the opinion that I should get rid of her. I'll let you know if anything weird starts happening in my house. I love your theory, one of those things where someone has to voluntarily take it from you and you can´t just give it away because then the evil increases and gets more power over you

    Hi Jen! I just added it to the right side. Scroll down. I love my blog gadgets, LOL! And nice to meet you, btw!

    Jo: I actually looked for those, but couldn't find anything. Sadly. I did have a vision, though. Edna was the daughter of recent immigrants from England, the Sheppards. !!!

  7. you say seem to be alive joanna but I'm not all that sure they are.... *gulps*

  8. Super creepy, B. Keep us informed about how that haunting goes... you know I love that stuff!

    Sorry to hear about the person you think might have passed on--I hope it isn't the case.