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Popular Music from Vittula by Mikael Niemi

Popular Music from Vittula (original 2000; edition 2003)

by Mikael Niemi

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1,099287,558 (3.76)16
Title:Popular Music from Vittula
Authors:Mikael Niemi
Info:Seven Stories Press, New York (2003), Spiral-bound
Collections:Your library
Tags:Sweden, Tornedalen, Finnish Swedes, small towns, rural life, arctic, pop music

Work details

Popular Music from Vittula by Mikael Niemi (2000)

Recently added byThadyMiller, Mode.Stas, pelo75, Golias, private library, clamob, Jaakkimo, 442joppe, nicoelston
Legacy LibrariesJuice Leskinen
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    Henrik_Madsen: To små fine bøger, der handler om drenge, musik, piger og det at vokse op i udkanten af den vestlige verden. Populærmusik fra Vittula er sjovest og bedst, hvis du vil nøjes med en af dem.
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English (20)  German (3)  Swedish (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (28)
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i really wanted to love this book since I like Scandinavien books, but I could not connect to the characters. The writing style kept me going half why but then I just was not interested anymore. I might look up other books by him, but this story was just not for me. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jun 26, 2013 |
On the link between madness and literature -
Excerpt from a lecture delivered in the sauna by Dad; he explicates the facts of life for 14 year old Mattie so his son will know how to be a man:
"Then [Dad] started going through a list of all the family idiots. I'd already met some of them: one was in the psychiatric hospital in Gallivare, and another in Pitea. In medical jargon it was called schizophrenia, and it seemed to run in the family. It would appear when you reached the age of eighteen or so, and was due to certain causes. Frustrated love was one, and Dad begged me to be very wary of getting involved with complicated women who were scared of sex. Dad urged me never to be too persistent with the fair sex if they declined to open their legs, but rather to follow his own example and find myself an unabashed peasant girl with a big ass.
"The other cause of lunacy was brooding. Dad strongly advised me never to start thinking too much, but to do as little as possible of it, since thinking was a menace that only got worse the more of it you did. He could recommend hard manual labor as an antidote: shoveling snow, chopping firewood, skiing cross-country, and that kind of thing, because thinking usually affected people when they were lolling about on the sofa or sitting back to rest in some other way. Getting up early was also recommended, especially on weekends and when you had a hangover, because all kinds of nasty thought could worm their way into your mind then.
"It was particularly important not to brood about religion. God and death and the meaning of life were all extremely dangerous topics for a young and vulnerable mind, a dense forest in which you could easily get lost and end up with acute attacks of madness. You could confidently leave that kind of stuff until your old age, because by then you would be hardened and tougher, and wouldn't have much else to do. Confirmation classes should be regarded as a purely theoretical exercise: a few texts and rituals to memorize, but certainly not anything to start worrying about.
"The most dangerous thing of all, and something he wanted to warn me about above all else, the one thing that had consigned whole regiments of unfortunate young people to the twilight world of insanity, was reading books. This objectionable practice had increased among the younger generation, and Dad was more pleased than he could say to note that I had not yet displayed any such tendencies. Lunatic asylums were overflowing with folk who'd been reading too much. Once upon a time they'd been just like you and me, physically strong, straightforward, cheerful, and well balanced. Then they'd started reading. Most often by chance. A bout of flu perhaps, with a few days in bed. An attractive book cover that had aroused some curiosity. And suddenly the bad habit had taken hold. The first book had led to another. Then another, and another, all links in a chain that led straight down into the eternal night of mental illness. It was impossible to stop. It was worse than drugs.
"It might just be possible, if you were very careful, to look at the occasional book that could teach you something, such as encyclopedias or repair manuals. The most dangerous kind of book was fiction - that's where all the brooding was sparked and encouraged. Damnit all! Addictive and risky products like that should only be available in state-regulated monopoly stores, rationed and sold only to those with a license, and mature in age."
Kindle location 2712-2741

In the oral tradition of hyperbolic tall-tales -
Chapter 10 tells the most frightening ghost story of all time.
Chapter 12 tells the darkest, most evil story of all time.
Chapter 13 tells the funniest mentor story of all time.
Each chapter is the self-contained narrative of an event during the journey from innocence to experience.
  maryoverton | Mar 13, 2013 |
A funny, odd, interesting novel made up of interlocking short stories about growing up in the far north. Often the stories segue into tall tales (e.g. two rough brothers in a laconic family begin to fight and, after being ordered outdoors, they exchange blows and gradually grow fur and fangs and turn into bears). The author makes gentle fun of the perceived backwardness of the residents of this remote part of Sweden while telling the story of two boys growing up and discovering alcohol, sex, and rock and roll. Funny and touching and more than a little weird.
  bfister | Dec 28, 2012 |
Shameless, touching, dirty. Reminded me of De Helaasheid Der Dingen, but this one was first. ( )
  khink | Aug 16, 2011 |
POPULAR MUSIC FROM VITTULA is, quite simply, a terrific book! As a coming of age story, Mikael Niemi's novel often brought to mind another book from Scandinavia titled simply, BEATLES, by Lars Saabye Christensen, which I also loved. Originally published in Swedish, I am quite confident that PMfV lost nothing in its excellent translation into English by Laurie Thompson. The book is full of humor and all the special poignancy that comes with tales of childhood and the tortured rituals of adolescence. There is even a chapter on the air rifle wars amongst the not-really-so-violent-or-evil teenage 'gangs' of Pajala, a town located inside the Arctic circle in the northernmost reaches of Sweden near the Finnish border. The BB gun story also brought to mind, naturally, Jean Shepherd's classic story (into classic film), "A Christmas Story." There are other wonderful, funny stories about relatives, weddings and funerals, and various local "characters." I got a good chuckle in reading about what things are 'manly,' as well as comments on "the most dangerous thing of all," according to the father of Matti (the book's narrator), which "was reading books ... Lunatic asylums were overflowing with folk who'd been reading too much."

Perhaps, however, it was the Beatles connection that made the book stand out for me. Because, like the Christensen book, the storyline also portrays four young boys who are electrified by their discovery of rock music and depicts, often in howlingly funny scenes, how mesmerized they are by their first exposure to the Beatles, in the form of the 45 rpm single, "Rock 'n' Roll Music." Matti, the book's narrator, soon forms a musical alliance with his friends Niila, Erkki and Holgeri that will catapult them into local notoriety and a new popularity with girls - a time they will always remember.

A more personal connection for me between the Niemi and Christensen books is found in the references to Radio Luxembourg, often the only link between remote areas of the world and popular music. As a young man in the US Army, I was stationed on a mountain top in northern Turkey in 1963-64, and one of the greatest pleasures for me and my comrades was to sneak a listen to the top tunes on Radio Luxembourg, when we should have been practicing our spycraft of electronic eavesdropping. In fact, I first heard the Beatles on Radio Luxembourg, not long before their first two Parlophone LPs made it to the local PX. Having grown up on Elvis (also mentioned in the Niemi book - Matti's sister had "Jailhouse Rock"), Ricky Nelson and other American pop, we didn't at first quite know what to make of the Beatles, but quickly decided we liked them. A year later, I was a hanger-on with a GI cover band in Germany, who played many of the Beatles tunes as part of their repertoire. In fact, when The Panics' lead singer was injured for a brief time, I got my own chance to be a "rock-n-roll star" for a few shining moments of my youth. (It's all in my own book, SOLDIER BOY.) So maybe that's why I was so caught up in Matti's story that had many of the same ingredients as mine - small towns, sex, drinking, rock & roll. The fact that the story was set in the most remote region of northern Sweden, inside the ARCTIC CIRCLE, for cripes sake, didn't seem to matter. This was just a great story! There, I'm back where I started. I'm so very glad I read Popular Music in Vittula, and plan to tell other folks about it at every opportunity. ( )
  TimBazzett | Nov 29, 2010 |
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It was a freezing cold night in the cramped wooden hut.
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"Mikael Niemi's Popular Music from Vittula welcomes us to the vodka belt of northern Sweden, a place far from anything imagined by Ingmar Bergman or the artist Carl Larsson. Here instead, through the killing cold and dark of the long winters and the harsh brightness of the brief summers, are a people set apart from the rest of Sweden, who speak a Finnish dialect, are silent, stalwart, wary, and very often drunk on "mash, " the gut-rotting, brain-deadening alcohol made from potatoes." "Running through Popular Music from Vittula is the urgent search for language, a voice through which to understand and be understood among the deserted forests and ice floes and frozen fields. Matti's story, in Niemi's inimitable telling, describes a world that seems to have abandoned him, where he is nobody and nothing, and yet where he can still come completely to life."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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