Lauri Arvid Anderson
Finnish North American Literature Association
Lauri Arvid Anderson was born in 1942 in Monson, Maine. He is brother of poet
Wendy Anderson and author Stuart Anderson. His father was a Finnish immigrant,
and his mother Ruby Emma (Littlefield) Anderson of "Old New England." Lauri
Anderson is author of five prose works and a single book of poetry.
He served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria and has taught at a college there in
Nigeria, a high school in Vermont, a missionary school in Truk, at the American
Collegiate Institute in Izmir, Turkey, and Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan.
Throughout his career, he has served as director, coordinator, chair and dean of
multiple programs and departments. He has written and received many grants to
support his academic and creative work.
Anderson has two daughters and one son and is brother to Stuart and Wendy,
both of whom are included in the bibliography.
Snow White and Others (poems). Silver Hammer Press, 1971.
Small Winter Wars (short fiction). Burgess, 1983.
Hunting Hemingway's Trout (short fiction). Atheneum, 1990.
Heikki Heikkinen and Other Stories of Upper Peninsula Finns. North Star Press of
St. Cloud, 1985.
Children of the Kalevala (short fiction). North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1997.
Misery Bay (short fiction). North Star Press of St. Cloud, 2001.
Impressions of Arvo Laurila. North Star Press of St. Cloud, 2005.
Back to Misery Bay. North Star Press of St. Cloud, 2007.
Thoughts about Lauri Anderson’s Arvo Laurila
By Beth L. Virtanen, Ph. D.
Lauri Anderson’s latest work, Impressions of Arvo Laurila, builds on his previous
success with Misery Bay and earlier works. But Arvo is substantively different from
the others. In a previous review of his works, I pondered what it would be like if
Anderson would set his novels in northern Maine. I think he has surpassed that in
Arvo through the playful intermingling of past and present as well as through the
complicated narrative voice that weaves together wit, curmudgeonly humor, and
The structure of the work itself is a study in pastiche, where we experience Arvo
old and young, Arvo thwarted and Arvo in love, Arvo as father and Arvo as son,
Arvo as lover and Arvo as friend. The portraits of varying lengths are punctuated
with pithy comments, neither related nor unrelated to Arvo, but intimately
connected with his world and drawing us as audience into it. Anderson says in an
interlude, for example, “The Portage Gazette, June 6, 1885: Last Thursday, Janne
Kivivouri was sawing logs for Calumet and Hecla when he accidentally sawed off
two toes on his left foot and ruined a nearly new boot.” This occurs in juxtaposition
to a vignette in which Arvo silently observes and reflects on the devastation of a
man whose daughter has fallen into an open mineshaft and died.
The structure is further complicated by an extended flashback in which we view
Arvo in an earlier time, as a single father teaching in a school on a South Pacific
island and falling in love with an attractive widow (also a single mother) who would
like him to travel with her to an even more remote place, a paradise perhaps where
they might hide away from the world and live out their lives in sweet bliss. But they
don’t. The pair marries and through an undefined route Arvo ends up alone again
much later in Upper Michigan commiserating with his friend Timo about their hard
luck in love.
The identities of the characters who populate Arvo Laurila’s world are as complex
as their lives are rich. And Anderson skillfully manipulates and reveals in his own
time the identity of each. Arvo’s friend and colleague and the other crusty
character in the novel, Timo is sometimes given the pseudonym Sulo, and Arvo is
the pseudonym of the persona the author dons as a first-person character in the
work. These revelations of identity add a spark of intrigue to the work as the
audience, bit by bit, comes to understand the seemingly unrelated parts as
segments in the life of Arvo Laurila as he progresses from youth to retirement age,
only not in sequential order.
What remains in the reader's mind at the end of the book is an almost quizzical
question: how can a man love thus and be so richly rewarded by such lovely
children and friends while losing so senselessly and repeatedly in love? It is, I
think, the central question of the novel, one that is examined throughout the work
but one that remains unanswered at the end. Perhaps it is a question that can
have no single answer, for what human being can possibly say what moves a
person to fall in or out of love?