Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

On the Viking Trail: Travels in Scandinavian America

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

On the Viking Trail: Travels in Scandinavian America

Article excerpt

On the Viking Trail: Travels in Scandinavian America, by Don Lago. Iowa, May 2004. $27.95

Wallace Stegner, of Scandinavian heritage himself, wrote somewhere that the "cultural amputee is still trying to scratch the itch on the missing limb." Nice line; but as much as Lago, also a Scandinavian, admires Stegner, it is not clear that he's scratching a Scandinavian itch so much as he is examining the American limb. The author's father, dying of Alzheimer's disease, triggers Lago to "fight against forgetting." He senses that his father's death will be his last link to his Scandinavian roots and heritage. But his father's death also animates a broader range of concerns and values. The book is a personal memoir, a travel book that includes Copenhagen and Decorah, Iowa; a hagiography of Scandinavian American writers, politicians, and artists; a cultural lament; some perceptive analysis of the U.S. environmental movement; and a little gonzo journalism. Lago makes a persuasive case that Scandinavians are not just northern Europeans but a distinctive people with a Viking character shaped by the climate, landscape, sagas, and intellectual and social influences that are distinctive to them. …

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