Travels along the Ring RoadDrawn by the natural beauty, rich literary tradition, and charming eccentricities of the island nation, two lifelong friends journey across Iceland
An island is a world out of time and place, separated by literal and figurative oceans, where the confines of reality are tenuous and magic may be possible. Iceland—with its relative isolation, enchanting mythologies, creative people, and the otherworldly wild beauty of its glaciers, geysers, volcanos, and fjords—encompases this special ...
Vividly illustrated by Julia Oldham, Iceland Summer recounts Caswell’s journey traversing the country by foot and bus accompanied by his lifelong friend Scott. The pair set out from Reykjavík and travel clockwise along the Ring Road, stopping along the way for backcountry walking trips. Caswell immerses himself in the natural beauty and charming eccentricities of the tiny island nation. With his drinking and hiking buddy by his side, and fueled by a steady diet of Brennivín (fermented grain mash) and pylsur (Icelandic hot dogs), he explores the Hornstrandir peninsula, walks to the famed Dettifoss waterfall, waits for a glimpse of the lake monster Lagarfljótsormurinn at Egilsstaðir, visits the world’s only penis museum, and pays homage to centuries of Icelandic literary tradition at the Árni Magnússon Institute.
Writing in the tradition of other pairs who have traveled in Iceland, like W. G. Collingwood and Jón Stefánsson, and W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice, Caswell meditates on the value of wild places in the modern world, travel as both pastime and occupation, the nature of friendship, and walking, food, and literature. Scott is the Sancho Panza to Caswell’s Don Quixote, offering a ribald humor that grounds Caswell’s flights into the romantic. The two travel well together and together arrive at the understanding that what anchors them both is their lifelong friendship.
"In this highly entertaining travel diary of sorts, Caswell provides both history and humor, accompanied by vivid illustrations from Julia Oldham... Readers will find it a rewarding journey." — Booklist
“Caswell seamlessly weaves the sublime with the ribald. Iceland Summer is fun and gorgeous and wise.” — Derek Sheffield, coeditor of Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry
“Fact melds artfully with the fantastical and humor warms cold history in this North Sea journey that is alternately slog, stroll, saunter, and fascinating human encounter through occasionally impossible to pronounce, faraway beautiful places that most of us will never see but can envision herein . . . Look and linger. Iceland moves way up on the bucket list after Iceland Summer.” — J. Drew Lanham, author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature
“Wayfarer, writer, philosopher, friend. In this magical travelogue, Kurt Caswell embodies all of these archetypes as he guides readers through two journeys at once. In the outward journey we roam Iceland: rock, waters, mythology, sunlight, vodka, complex secrets that only the most intrepid and sensitive of travelers can gather. The inward journey is not bound by geography: senses, wonder, mingling of heart and land and pen, love for one another and the wild earth.” —Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit
“By turns humorous and profound, Iceland Summer walks beyond the tourist gloss to bring us an island full of the magnificent and unexpected. Caswell’s encounters delight—and show us why we journey and what we learn when we do.” — Bathsheba Demuth, author of Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait
“What a pleasure being with these two knuckleheads on this glorious romp.” — Craig Childs, author of The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert
“I disavow everything Caswell reports about me—except for the parts that are absolutely true, which is everything. Caswell has so masterfully chronicled our travels along Iceland’s Ring Road that I hope my mother doesn’t read it due to my inglorious use of profanity.” — Scott Dewing, the other guy in this book