(Sjón appears tonight at the Hugo House at 7 pm with a musical performance from Redwood Plan and a Q&A led by Ryan Boudinot. It's free. You should go.)
It is an unfortunate fact of human nature that when we know very little about something foreign to us, we tend to reduce that foreign thing to a single joke. Take Iceland, for example. Here we have a beautifully alien plot of land that erupted from the ocean not so very long ago, populated with a people descended from a mixture of Celts and Vikings who are united by a culture—the world's oldest democracy!—that has evolved in a clean, unbroken line from the 12th century to today. And what do most people have to say about Iceland?
Ask any American who's traveled to Iceland, and they'll tell you they've been avalanched by Björk jokes from friends and family, with "So did you meet Björk?" as the most common question by far. Everybody knows the weird pixie-faced singer who once wore a swan dress to the Oscars is from Iceland, and so they stick Iceland in the Björk-hole in their head, ready to proudly unveil that reference if Iceland ever comes up in conversation.
So I suppose it's a blessing of sorts that Icelandic author Sjón has a Björk connection: He has written lyrics for Björk and was nominated for an Oscar for his lyrics in Dancer in the Dark. That way, when you're telling friends about this amazing author you've just discovered, you can incorporate the inevitable Björk reference into the conversation cleanly and without incident.
But Sjón deserves more than a Björk joke. Choose any of his three handsome books newly published in America by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and you'll see why.
Of the three, The Blue Fox ($10) is probably the most accessible...