In Which Our Heroine Reveals Exhibit B

18 September 2005

My webhosting and the RSS feed for this journal got fritzy at roughly the same time, so some of you may have a few entries to catch up on. Just wanted to give you a heads-up.

Some of you may be suspecting, by now, that I am in favor of all things Scandinavian for the very fact of their being Scandinavian. To counter this theory, I would like to offer Exhibit B, Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter books. I read the first one last September, and it's only now that I've summoned the mental energy to tackle the second, Mistress of Husaby. Blerg. I suspect I'll get to the third in the series before 9/06 if only for reasons of momentum.

My current theory is that Scando lit since the sagas is kind of embarrassed by the sagas. All the bloodlust! All the pagan gods! All the legal disputes settled with axes! So they have to have this depressed and depressing view of the world and particularly of medieval Scandinavia itself, in order that no one should be tempted to start whacking people with axes again: no! It wasn't really like that! The ax-whacking bits weren't as much fun as they sound! Sadly (for somebody somewhere, I'm sure), it has the opposite effect on me: I read this stuff and want to flee back to the sagas, where somebody gets to enjoy something, even if it's getting really drunk and insulting all the gods at once.

(I think that someone who has any intentions of calling herself a Scando lit geek needs to read these books. Even perhaps a Scando geek in some more generalized form. But that may not be you, and if it's not, run far, run fast.)

As for Exhibit A? Exhibit A is lutefisk. Come on, people: they came up with that when we were all starving! It's time to let it drop now! The Finns had to eat bark and grass bread while they were repaying the war reparations to the Soviets, but it's not like they have grass bread feeds now. Nostalgia only gets us so far, and I think it doesn't get us past the "soaked in lye" step of the lutefisk recipe.

It certainly doesn't get me past that step.

I actually picked up Mistress of Husaby because I kept reading things as scary or depressing foreshadowing in other books that actually turned out not to be foreshadowing at all. I figured I was safe: there was no way I was going to read things as more depressing than Sigrid Undset meant them. (I've heard Undset cited as a great Christian author. If I believed that was the only possible worldview Christianity could present, I would run howling back to Red Thor, you bet. Not passing go etc.)

I'm also reading Hugh Sebag-Montefiore's Enigma, which is lovely. It focuses more on how they got the cribs than on Bletchley Park itself, so there's more traditional-spy stuff. Very good. And Sebag-Montefiore did interviews with all kinds of interesting people, and his style in presenting that information flows. I approve. I wish he hadn't called it Enigma, as I already have a sufficiency of books called that. But that doesn't actually make the book itself any worse.

I expect to have more London photos up soon. No, really. I mean it. It's only been over two months; don't know why you'd think I'd decided not to do it or anything. Just...different priorities right now.

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