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The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art (Semiotext(e) / Active Agents)

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1584350668
ISBN-10: 1584350660
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Editorial Reviews


Eloquent, touching, and often hilarious essays on art, poetry, politics, and 'Eileen' -- a comic character who deserves to be as well known as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

(Terry Castle Bookforum)

The Importance of Being Iceland brings Myles full circle: She is able to portray evolving LGBT culture and her place in it, while simultaneously enabling the larger world to view us with humor, irony and admiration.

(Rachel Pepper Curve Magazine)

Myles is a brilliant stylist; she writes in a way that we wish we could talk. Which is why it's so exciting to finally have a great big slab of essays, to observe her language when she's not constrained by the rules of poetry or fiction. We get to hear what she says when she's being herself.

(Paul Constant The Stranger)

Myles's unique writings on art and culture manage to stay right on target while simultaneously misbehaving.

(Alan Gilbert The Village Voice)

There's a perfect analogy for the experience of reading Eileen Myles's new book of essays, The Importance of Being Iceland: it's like being at a large and lively dinner party with several of your favorite friends. The food is good, the room is comfortable, and the conversation is witty, feisty, perceptive, even tender. There are moments of digression, moments when the conversation becomes a little choppy, and there's also the fact that all of your dinner companions are variants of Eileen Myles. The overall effect of this book is to leave the reader with a full belly and a refreshed sensibility.

(Elizabeth Robinson Rain Taxi Review of Books)

These writings confidently wander and always cohere, held together not just by the author's singular intelligence but by her ability to exude personality on the page.

(Michael Miller TimeOut New York)

About the Author

Eileen Myles, named by BUST magazine "the rock star of modern poetry," is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, including Chelsea Girls, Cool for You, Sorry, Tree, and Not Me (Semiotext(e), 1991), and is the coeditor of The New Fuck You (Semiotext(e), 1995). Myles was head of the writing program at University of California, San Diego, from 2002 to 2007, and she has written extensively on art and writing and the cultural scene. Most recently, she received a fellowship from the Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Foundation.

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Product Details

  • Series: Semiotext(e) / Active Agents
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Semiotext(e) (June 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584350660
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584350668
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brian C. Bauman on August 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a triumph. Don't let the seemingly scattered table of contents fool you. All of the subject matter relates in that it is alive, in the world, available to be considered, argued, enjoyed.

The Importance Of Being Iceland is a treatise, a line in the sand, a breaking-open, a heartbreak and a glittering heart. The essays build a matrix of critique and personal anecdote, creating a portrait of the artist yet also functioning as art, itself. The writing is full of profound observation that cuts through rote academic critique to truly examine and investigate art, artists, and nature of life itself (god that sounds so corny but its true!). I have owned this book only two weeks and I've read it cover to cover twice. It is a work that I will quote, share, re-read, and question for some time. Bravo, Eileen!
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Format: Paperback
The Importance of Being Iceland got me thinking about the differences between the ways in which we string words together to make “art”, whatever that is. In some sense, this book seems to be doing (and I’m being careful to paraphrase what this book is “doing” with many many grains of salt) a thing that challenges me to consider what it is about combinations of words into “text” that makes it artful. For me, this was (as usual in the case of my auditory brain) rooted in the way this book makes sound in comparison to the way in which it makes some kind of conceivable meaning. I think one of the aspects of more conventional, non-prose poems (if you can call these “art essays” “prose poems”) is that the use of line and some kind of formal structure (or lack thereof) creates a sort of abstraction in comparison with a sentence. However, I don’t think that prevents groups of legitimate sentences from being classified as poems. However, back to sound, there is a deep linguistic connection in the post-infancy brain that makes us able to convert sounds to understandable ideas, and with prose, those sound-ideas are, perhaps, often more organized in a manner of linear understanding than non-prose poems. However, what I feel like is sometimes necessarily sacrificed for the sake of linear content comprehension is a sort of abstraction to the art of the phrase making, and I think it’s from that abstraction that I often feel the music of poetry, or the “artiness” of it, or something. I struggled with this book because it was an enjoyable read, even though I was constantly questioning what it was that I was reading. I don’t know why I feel such a compulsion to classify, but there was definitely an element of questioning what makes “essays” like this “art” that interfered with the sheer enjoyment of the quirky and absorbing writing in the book.
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By Pier Nirandara on December 13, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like Eileen Myles’s says in “The Importance of Being Iceland,” “each book has a different feel.” (289) This particular book was an especially unique read, as it managed to straddle the dimensions between poetry and prose, blurring the lines in a way that made the words read with a rhythmic cadence, while being unconstrained by the structures of poetry. Throughout the book (Novel? Anthology?) I frequently found myself lulled by her words, and then moments later yanked out of that state due to a shift in strange tempo. It often felt as if I was hearing Myles herself speak.
One of the main strengths is Myles’s ability to strike a balance between dealing with universal issues on a cosmic scale, while simultaneously relating these subjects back to the smaller self. For example, in her chapter “The Universe In My Backyard: Russell Crotty,” Myles utilizes the stars, galaxies, and constellations as a macrocosm to represent the importance of time for the human spirit. By describing the precise orbits of planets, and the ability to witness certain phenomena if one understands their movements, Myles highlights the significance and delicate relationship between “movement time and location.” In fact, she describes the theme in her own eloquent words: “location on a massive scale and location on an intimate scale.” This phrase captures one of the fundamental facets of her writing, and the importance of associating items found in nature and the universe, as a way to understand what goes on inside a person.
When reading her prose/poetry, it is helpful to keep this theme in mind. The importance of being Iceland was not only a reference to the country Iceland, but also a metaphor for Myles herself. I feel like Myles’s close examination of Iceland as a nation allowed her to more fully understand some parts of herself, fitting with her idea of “finding yourself in it somewhere.” (291)
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