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Learning Swedish Slowly

How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons. Actually a 1st person literary blog containing random observations about living in a foreign country. Highlights:

The first thing I notice back in the old U.S. of A. is that everyone can understand what everyone else is saying. Which, of course, is true here in Sweden for just about everybody but me. Still, I can’t help thinking to myself as I sit in a restaurant serving Sri Lankan food in Minneapolis with the husband, my sister and her family: ”Do these people at the next table realize that I can understand every single word they are saying?!?” And, ”Aren’t they, shouldn’t they be deeply ashamed to be talking about their emergency gastro-intestinal surgery like that?” –

More: What a great gimmick for a web journal. The Swedish lessons provide a recurring theme to the narrative, and the anecdotes remain short and offbeat enough to sustain interest. Even though I’m a latecomer, catching up won’t be that hard to do.  The writer has found a good way to use a weblog to package the details of his life, and yet, when he is done (and that time will come), it will be relatively easy to package this series of incidents as some kind of book.The challenge is how do you return to a 1st person narrative on an almost daily basis without it becoming too tedious or introspective or portentous? The other problem is: how do you have enough incident and plot development to sustain a story over time? The answer…..you don’t! You don’t need to as long as you have some overarching structure or (in this case) some recurring themes to return to. (for this weblogger, the recurring theme is a different Swedish word for every post: my favorite so far is: morgonpigg, an adjective that describes those annoying people who are, for some reason, all perky and chipper in the morning).

Writing this kind of journal over time requires not only creativity, but also discipline and restraint. Each entry is a little haiku, following a miniature form (and the reader is always searching for the red Swedish word in each post). A minimalist approach helps, and so does avoiding mention of topical events, except as occasional punctuation and time-markers to his random thoughts. Luckily Francis Strand (the writer) has a distinctive enough voice to sustain interest over time.
(Let me point out the obvious: my weblog doesn’t take this approach at all, although to be fair, it has different aims).

Here’s the problem: what if everybody wrote in the same way, putting together their own series of quirky disconnected thoughts? Yes, some can do it better than others, but if everybody did it, the result would be absolutely maddening. Blogs are useful forms to work with, but also limiting (is anybody sick of the First Person yet?)

(does anybody have better ideas? I can think of dreamfactory , some of the fiction memepools (which Raspil Iverson used to do ). Also, the Machinima people are using gaming tools to throw together great loony stories, as are the Secondlife people ). Obviously, the poets are a lot more diurnal than fiction writers too, so frequent compositions as creative exercises is already a familiar activity).
I’ve only read a third of the pensees, but there’s a lot to savor and ponder. Read some random excerpts under the fold.


Trees without cities, however, are the happiest trees. It’s awful that city trees suffer so much. But, being the cold heartless bastard that I am, my pity is not great enough that I think trees should not make the sacrifice. The problem is that there just aren’t enough trees making the sacrifice.

When we ran into our friend I., the former back-up singer for David Byrne, I started crowing about my newfound love.

“I have the same one,” she said to me. “I got it from Vodafone. It takes too long after you hang up. But you can have pictures on it that you can take with a camera attachment. When my boyfriend rings, I have it set up so that a photo of his dick shows up on the screen. Do you want to borrow the camera attachment?”

Every day I pass various sets of kiosks with advertisements for a local mobile telephone company that sells pre-paid cards, advertisements featuring teenagers drinking piña coladas and speaking into a phone “yes, Dad, I’m having fruit every day” or a girl slipping under the covers with a boy, saying “yes, Mom, I’m going to bed early.” But the one that intrigues me most, naturally, is the one with the naked teenagers (you can see one of the guy’s pubic hair!) playing miniature golf, the boy on his phone saying “yes, Mom, I’m wearing a hat.”

Why wasn’t there nude miniature golf when I was a teenager? Not that I probably would’ve been able to play, on account of my teenage tendency toward, um, priapism. Hell, I guess I would’ve just settled for advertisements of naked teenagers when I was 16.

I suppose I could follow the advice of Irma Rombauer: “Not every householder has to worry about what to do with leftover champagne, but should this appalling dilemma be yours, there is no better way than this to solve it and make a light but rich sauce for fish or chicken.”

Imagine that Santa Claus were gay. (you’re going to have to read the rest of it!)

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