Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Coffee and the Scandinavian soul

For all my wittering about the English, three of my four grandparents were Scandinavian. So I've got bragging rights to an instinctive feel for the Nordic mystery. Especially this from last Sunday's review of the last Larsson book from the NYT:

Larsson’s is a dark, nearly humorless world, where everyone works fervidly into the night and swills tons of coffee; hardly a page goes by without someone “switching on the coffee machine,” ordering “coffee and a sandwich” or responding affirmatively to the offer “Coffee?”

Pathological coffee drinking (is) a tic that recurs so relentlessly that I don’t think Larsson realized it was a tic. A thought on this subject: Many of the Larsson faithful subscribe to a belief that the author’s premature death was not of natural causes. He had been threatened in real life by skinheads and neo-Nazis; ergo, the theories go, he was made dead by the very sorts of heavies who crop up in his novels. But such talk has been emphatically dismissed by Larsson’s intimates. So let me advance my own theory: Coffee killed him. If we accept that Blom­k­vist is, in many respects, a romanticized version of Larsson, and that Blomkvist’s habits reflected the author’s own, Larsson overcaffeinated himself to death.....
Blogger Matt Yglesias follows up:
The Swedes are actually a bit less coffee-mad than the Finns, Norwegians, Danes, or Icelanders but as you can see here all the Nordic peoples drink a ton of coffee, in the Swedish case a bit less than twice as much per capita as Americans do. The Södermalm area of Stockholm where Mikael Blonkvist and Lisbeth Salander live and Millenium and Milton Security are headquartered is just littered with coffee houses like nothing I’ve ever seen in America (incidentally, this is where I stayed when I was in Stockholm on the recommendation of a blog reader—it’s a hugely fun neighborhood, definitely stay there if you visit). Personally, I drink way more coffee than the average American and find this aspect of Swedish life congenial. Even I, however, had to balk at the extreme quantity of coffee I was served in Finland where consumption is absolutely off the charts.

3 comments:

Generic said...

You're offering this, I assume, partly as an example of a-scienctiic, hunch-based foolishness?

Tulkinghorn said...

More like passing on an amusingly irresponsible paragraph from a book review noting something that I had noticed as well.... I don't think that the reviewer was even slightly serious.

Every time someone in Larsson has a sandwich and coffee (which is practically every page -- that is when they are not eating Billy's Pizza) I had a twitch of desire for exactly the same thing.

My Scandinavian soul.

Generic said...

Coffee's actually good for you. Your Harvard guys say so. Prevents gallstones, among other things.