IN THE SUMMER OF 2015, I received a letter from Sigrid Kõiv at Postimees asking if I would care to contribute a monthly column for the newspaper’s weekend Arter section. I of course said yes. Not only was it a great opportunity to reach a weekly audience in Estonia, but it offered me the possibility to write in a fresh context.
Most writing assignments are would-be columns. Going back to elementary school, we are asked for our opinion and to be brief about it. I studied column writing and reviewing when I was a university student, so I had my training, but with the Arter columns, I wanted to break free of the ‘Someone with an opinion says something and defends it with a few facts,” model. I wanted to deliver something more poetic to an audience drowning in politics and business news.
One of the pieces I wrote for Arter was called “Mirror World” in English. It discussed the phenomenon of outsiders adopting the perspectives and biases of their host countries to an extreme degree. I gave the example of Dean Reed, the American rock ‘n’ roll musician who defected to East Germany and became such a good communist that he once described the Berlin Wall as being a defensive measure against the West. This is the concept of Mirror Man. The idea of an outsider reflecting back the attitudes around him.
Mirror Man is not only a collection of Postimees Arter columns. It also contains much of the pieces I wrote while I was a health columnist for the magazine Tervis Pluss, plus some articles that appeared in Eesti Päevaleht, Estonian World, ERR News, and other outlets. A favorite, “The Death of Pensioner,” was published online by ERR News in 2011. To date, I still think it’s one of the best things I have written about life in this country.
There are other new pieces included in Mirror Man, such as “Üleminekud” (“Transitions”) and “Uus Algus” (“A New Beginning”), which I penned last summer. Some of these are really personal and crescendo into the more recent columns I have done, including “The Breaking Point,” “Rapla Witch,” and “The Last Bit of Mourning“. In these new pieces, I have tried to improve my approach to making a point through imagery. Rather than tell you what I think, I would like to recreate in words for you what I experience, and for you to arrive — maybe — at a similar experience, or a familiar feeling.
Mirror Man reads like a good book though. It reminds me a bit of The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. This was an album made for a 1967 film made up of singles and some studio cuts that didn’t fit in here or there. Yet if you listen to it all the way through, it’s a real pleasure. It was one of the first LPs I had. I would listen to it all the time. Since my record player was so primitive, I would have to flip it every time and then flip it again. It’s my hope this book will offer readers the same kind of good and satisfying experience.