Eccentric Islands: Travels Real and Imaginary

Bill Holm, Author
Bill Holm, Author Milkweed Editions $22.95 (356p) ISBN 978-1-57131-245-7
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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""Island is both thing and metaphor. Without the weight of things, metaphors turn vapid, sour, empty, fly off into space and connect with nothing.... Islands are good to think on if a man would express himself neatly."" Poet and essayist Holm (Coming Home Crazy; The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth) offers an eloquent meditation on beauty, genius and isolation. From the metaphorical islands of pain (both physical and spiritual: ""You are not a human being. You are not you. You are pain. You have been islanded"") and the piano (""the piano, though a public instrument, is, for those who love it, a private world"") to rock-solid islands like Molokai in Hawaii, Holm's ability to link the specific and the broad is both beautiful and wise (""We have always needed lepers. Someone has to be unclean. LeprosyDor AIDSDbecomes thus, not a disease, but a profession, even a vocation in the religious sense""). The author, whose surname, appropriately, means ""island"" in Icelandic, also makes two journeys, one in 1979 and another in 1999, to the homeland of his forefathers, where he celebrates the Icelanders' resilience and language. Like a modern-day Thoreau, Holm convincingly ""downsiz[es] the universe in order to get a better look at it."" These essays are replete with pith and humor; for all his observations, Holm's willingness to poke fun at himself will reassure thoughtful readers that he is both as ordinary and extraordinary as they are. (Nov.)
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