Monday, June 18, 2018

Notes for a failed novel


Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

Start with the location, basaltic hills, green against the grey sweep of the North Atlantic. Its stark majesty will seem like a literary device but sometimes the reality of a place happens to lends itself to meaning. Still, despite the realtors’ adage, there are more important things.

Describe sheep.

There’s a ruined cathedral in Kirkjubøur, massy medieval stonework standing unroofed beside grass-roofed houses and a smaller wooden church with a whalebone gate. In the 1800s, researchers found a reliquary with a metatarsal of St. Magnus and a fragment of the true cross which they sealed up again. When opened a century later, there was only dust. This must be a metaphor for something.

I lived in a tar and timber house…

A possible beginning: a German, a Canadian, and two Americans walk into the bar at Hotel Hafnia.

Another: The Faroe Islands rose out of the icy sea in a tumult of volcanism fifty-five million years ago. It’s been downhill since. On second thought, avoid erosion jokes.

Warren says the last eruptions covered swamps with molten lava. The contact layer of metamorphic rock can be seen clearly in the cliffside at Gàsadalur harbor. Another metaphor? For what?

Graffiti truths in the bathroom at Sirkus Føroyar: “once bread becomes toast, it can never be bread again.”

In Old Irish: Argir means “the summer pasture.”

The puffin is sometimes called “sildberi,” “the herring-bearer.” Kennings are alive and well.

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