I’ve spent most of the past month trying to plan the upcoming festival season for book promotion, and the results will be forthcoming soon. Just before embarking upon this planning, I had explored the idea of attending the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik in April. The big attraction there was author Barbara Kingsolver, and that it looked like an interesting place to go. Just when I had decided that I really needed to focus my travels on promoting my current books instead of working on my fourth novel and that it was too far and too expensive to go to Iceland, they announced a contest for a free delegate spot:
“Write a short story or essay, no more than 500 words, using this image of Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center as your inspiration.”
I did a little internet exploring and was inspired to write an entry that ties into some of the work I have been doing recently. Now that the winners have been announced and you can read them here, mine (“Icelandic Perspectives”) is freed to be shared with you. And I can return to my previous thought that Iceland is too far away and too expensive for me to visit, and at the moment, I really need to be promoting the books I have written instead of working on another one!
We drew houses on napkins in a restaurant on our first date. Soon after, on our honeymoon, we climbed on boxcars in an industrial park to see a geodesic dome warehouse in Louisiana designed by Buckminster Fuller. When I was out of country, she sent me pictures of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67 which she visited in Canada.
What will I tell her about Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center by the harbor? I will say that its shape is like slabs of ice thrust upward by tectonic forces. Close up, the multi-faceted glass façade is said to be reminiscent of crystallized basalt columns found in Iceland. At a distance, the surface appears cracked into cells of reflective crystals that remind one of fishing nets. Inside, the main concert hall, which seats 1800, is wrapped in dark wood like the skin of a cello.
What will I see looking out through its glass? Surely, the steeple of Hallgrimskirkja, the Lutheran church, which rises more than twenty stories high. If this were the future, might I also see the controversial new mosque? A news photo from the 2013 article “Reykjavik Soon to Host Iceland’s First Mosque” (photo below) shows Hallgrimskirkja in the background with a drawing of the new mosque in the foreground. The mosque seems to dwarf the church, which is placed between two minarets that appear much higher than the church steeple. However, another article, from 2013, “Mosque To Be Built In Sogamyri,” describes the mosque as less than grand in scale—an 800 square meter building (8,611 sq. ft.) with one minaret ten meters tall—less than Hallgrimskirkja’s pipe organ at fifteen meters!
Even the mosque being built by the government of Turkey in Lanham, Maryland, near where I live, at 1,940 square meters (20,875 sq. ft.) is larger. It is purported to be the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere. But it is hidden away in wooded flatland; it cannot be seen for miles around, like the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., which rests on a hill and is the largest Catholic church in the Americas (7,154 square meters or 77,000 sq. ft.). The Turkish mosque does dwarf the modest Maryland homes across the street from it, but the structures coexist, and one home did boldly erect an array of holiday lights on the lawn for Christmas. It’s a free country.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Pictures can lie—like the boy holding a small fish away from his body to make it look bigger in a photo. Writers, too, must be constantly aware of proper perspective and make accurate comparisons so not to exaggerate truth.