The Ice-Shirt

The Ice-Shirt

5.0 1
by William T. Vollmann
     
 

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The time is the tenth century A.D. The newcomers are a proud and bloody-minded people whose kings once changed themselves into wolves. The Norse have advanced as implacably as a glacier from Iceland to the wastes of Greenland 'and from there to the place they call 'Vinland the Good.? The natives are a bronze-skinned race who have not yet discovered iron and still

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Overview

The time is the tenth century A.D. The newcomers are a proud and bloody-minded people whose kings once changed themselves into wolves. The Norse have advanced as implacably as a glacier from Iceland to the wastes of Greenland 'and from there to the place they call 'Vinland the Good.? The natives are a bronze-skinned race who have not yet discovered iron and still see themselves as part of nature.

As William T. Vollmann tells the converging stories of these two peoples-and of the Norsewomen Freydis and Gudrid, whose venomous rivalry brings frost into paradise-he creates a tour-de-force of 'speculative history,' a vivid amalgam of Icelandic saga, Inuit creation myth, and contemporary travel writing that yields a new an utterly original vision of our continent and its past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Continuing with the theme of oppression addressed in You Bright and Risen Angels and The Rainbow Stories , this first of seven projected novels on the exploitation of North America focuses on the Scandinavians. Freely augmenting and interpreting the sagas, Vollmann creates a past of treachery and bellicosity extending from 200 C.E. to the transoceanic adventures of Eirik the Red and his family at the turn of the millennium. Motivated alternately by an outlaw spirit and greed, the family moves west to Iceland, Greenland and eventually to Vinland (America). Once there, they proceed to cheat the native Skraelings while Freydis Eiriksdottir seeks to clothe the dulcet country in a frosty ``Ice-Shirt''--for no other reason than that she, like the rest of her kind, has an icy heart. (In the voluminous notes and glossaries appended to the novel, Vollman notes that the Micmac term jenuaq refers to the Northmen, people who have never thawed out because they don't drink enough blubber.) Despite felicitous writing throughout--from Cuppy-esque historical humor to a Nordic magic realism--one gets Vollmann's point early on, making the insistent implications of evil Northmen/noble Native a bit pat. One could only wish that the subtlety of language was matched by the subtlety of plot. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This hefty illustrated novel, the first installment of a seven-volume ``symbolic history'' of North America, is an imaginative retelling of the Norse discovery of Vinland, with the accent on ``imaginative.'' The scholarship is impeccable--the book is packed with glossaries, chronologies, and bibliographies--but Vollmann takes liberties with his sources in order to ``further a deeper sense of truth.'' For insight into shape-changing he interviews a couple of San Francisco transvestites; other informants include Inuit teens, Scandinavian backpackers, and alcoholics Vollmann meets on the bus. The technique has more in common with New Journalism than with history or fiction. Utterly different in subject matter from Vollmann's previous books-- You Bright and Risen Angels ( LJ 5/15/87) and The Rainbow Stories ( LJ 6/15/89)-- The Ice-Shirt nevertheless resembles them in scope and degree of difficulty. Highly recommended.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140131963
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/1993
Series:
Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes Series, #1
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
492,287
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

William T. Vollmann is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Vollman's writing has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Paris Review, Esquire, Conjunctions, Granta, and many other magazines. He lives in California.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Sacramento, California
Date of Birth:
July 28, 1959
Place of Birth:
Santa Monica, California
Education:
Attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University

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The Ice-Shirt 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Melquiades More than 1 year ago
This is a difficult book to sum up quickly and easily. Vollmann changes styles and viewpoint in many places, tailoring each to particular sections of the book. We begin in the realm of magic gleaned from Norse mythology and the sagas. Men can transform themselves into animals, kings rise and fall amid bloody treachery, and Vollmann leads us from mythic past to historical fact, building to the founding of the medieval Norse kingdoms, and their expansion of empire into the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland and eventually Vinland. Filled with some of the most intricate, detailed and evocative prose I have ever encountered, this is a challenging, but amazing book. Rarely do my love of history, and of magical realism find a home together, particularly in a book of such epic reach and skill. Best savored in the depths of winter nights, with plenty of tea...