Book: Norwegian Wood

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Norwegian WoodMany wildland firefighters live in areas where firewood is available, as long as you have a permit and know how to use a chain saw. The Guardian has an interesting review of a new book about a very old subject, collecting and processing your own firewood.

Below is an excerpt from a review of Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by by Lars Mytting.


“…Now, at last, wood is being rehabilitated. More than that: it is suddenly fashionable, and Norwegian Wood has become one of the most uplifting publishing stories of 2015. A simple, elegant book about how to fell trees – about how to move the timber and then split and stack the logs in the most efficient, aesthetic ways – it has already sold hundreds of thousands of copies. It is one of those books, full of lush, earthy photos, about which people seem to become almost evangelical.

The reason for its appeal is clear: in this depressing age of bombs and bullets, of financial instability and screen-mediated reality, there is something honest, solid and reassuringly ancient about wood. As Lars Mytting says about the woodpile: “Its share price doesn’t fall on the stock market. It won’t rust. It won’t sue for divorce. It just stands there and does one thing: it waits for winter. An investment account reminding you of all the hard work you’ve put into it.”

It helps that Mytting is able to put primitive yearnings into lyrical prose. He quotes beautiful poems, like one at the beginning of the book by Hans Børli: “The scent of fresh white wood / in the spring sap time: / as though life itself walked by you, / with dew in its hair.” And the fact that he is Norwegian gives him much authority and many anecdotes: in Norway, 25% of energy used to heat private homes comes from wood, and half of that wood is chopped by private individuals. It is a country obsessed by all aspects of firewood, and, as Mytting jokes, many weddings and funerals have seen heated arguments about the best make of axe, or whether wood should be stacked bark up or bark down…”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.