Another of my heroes and favorite writers (and perhaps also a cousin) has died and the world is poorer for his passing, but infinitely richer for his having passed through this world. Bill Holm was a giant of a Viking -- bearish in size, red-haired and -bearded -- who integrated his Icelandic heritage into this love of life, literature, music, and other people. If you don't know him, you should get to; if you have read him, I expect that you, too, will mourn his passing.
He stood for things I appreciate -- good leftist politics, catholicity of taste, classical forms of knowledge -- and for things that kind of hurt me -- e.g., he was a Lutheran, but not of the very-good sort, and he enjoyed finding the Achilles heel in Lutheranism. I only met him once, but we established a quick Icelandic bond -- stop by for coffee, he said in his breathy-smoker-high-on-the-palate voice; we'll find out who our common relatives are; stop by any time. And those who knew him well confirm that the invitation was sincere (and of course, with my well-Minneota-will-always-be-there approach to anything, I lost the chance -- to my disappointment and grief).
He was, of course, not what most people would consider a saint. He had something of a mouth, I'm told. He smoked and ate too much. He could be irrascible, I suppose -- as only children can tend to be. And he didn't seem to tolerate fools well. But what can I say? That sounds like the perfect friend.
His little book Music of Failure is, I think, my favorite. And I'll try to get it down tonight and find a little passage to post. For now, I'll link to Garrison Keillor's touching reflection on this good man.