Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Växjö, Sweden; 9-11 September, 2009

Lecture at University of Växjö

There I was, ensconced in my Rättvik cottage, writing “All snork and no play makes Mike a dull toy” over and over and over, when I get an email from Astrid Surmatz, specialist in Pippi and of recent Amsterdam fame, inviting me to speak at her other institution, Växjö University (she also teaches at the University of Amsterdam, where we met her in August. A bit of a commute, eh?). I immediately dropped my hatchet and made my plans to spread nonsense like fungal tendrils to Växjö (pronounced, vex-shoe, sort of).

On 9 September, after a train ride with several changes, I arrived in Växjö to find that I was staying in Teleborgs Slott, a castle built by Count Gustav Fredrik Bonde as a late wedding gift and completed in 1900. It is an impressive, if a bit kooky, institution used for conferences, weddings, and to house guests of the university. The inside sports various stuffed creatures, steps made of stones with fossils in them, and some incredible antique furniture.

The oddest moment, however, came as I walked up the stairs, glancing out the windows. I could see the surrounding verdant countryside, the lake reflecting the afternoon sun, and the black swarm of satanic flies. I don’t think I’ve seen something like this since the Exorcist, or was it Amityville Horror? Here’s the proof of satanic influence within these walls:

I soon met up with Astrid and took a walk around the lake and into town, stopping off along the way for some blueberries and to dip a toe in the lake to check the temperature for swimming. We ended up at a café, sitting outside under the enthusiastic heat lamps. It was wonderful to see Astrid again, and over the next few days we had many a conversation about nonsense, especially as she got a better idea of my definition after hearing my talk.

The next day we had a quick lunch and then to the lecture, with an enthusiastic gathering, though we were missing a few folks to the swine flu, or the fear of it, of all things. I gave the longer version of my talk, going through the Anthology project and Swedish, Tuvan, and Indian examples, and we had some in-depth discussion about definition—always a contentious topic (even among the esteemed editors!). All went well, except I was not able to get all the way through the throat singing piece… probably the result of having recently gotten over a cold. After the lecture, I attended an informal gathering of faculty and met many professors. Some helped me source nonsense, including Megumi Tsuchida (Japanese) and Anders Åberg (film studies). Of course, there were also some suggestions for more Swedish nonsense.

Later that night, Astrid and I went out in town with a murder of historians (I believe that to be the correct term), where merry was made. The next day, I met Astrid one more time before climbing aboard the train(s) back to Rättvik. It was certainly worth the time and effort, and my axe was waiting for me when I returned…


  1. Are you trying to save your pet capyberra from a burning house?