Mar. 28th, 2011

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Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.
31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.
32. Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith.

33. The History of the Danes (Gesta Danorum) by Saxo Grammaticus, translation by Peter Fisher, edited by Peter Fisher and Hilda Ellis Davidson. I majored in Scandinavian Studies as an undergrad, but while Saxo was often referred to we never had to read him. That might have been because my concentration was on Norway and not Denmark, but the introductions here suggest another reason; it's implied in places and more or less said outright in others that Saxo was kind of a hack historian whose wrote convoluted prose and more or less made shit up. Perversely--because I have an affection for crackpots, I guess--this makes me like him a little more than I might have if I had just read the book without reading the intro first. The first nine books of the Gesta Danorum cover the pre-recorded history of the region, which is one reason that it kind of reads like hyper-patriotic pulp fiction--sort of like if some dude three hundred years from now was trying to reconstruct American World War II mythology based on a DVD of Patton and some ancient issues of Captain America. So you get giants, lots of garbled material from the sagas, and the repeated assertion that the Slavs and the Norwegians and the Saxons and basically everybody but the Danes is scum. (Also women--except for warrior women--and the low-born.) Gesta Danorum is also known as the likely source for the plot skeleton of Hamlet; the story of Amleth in Book III is obviously the same tale, though many of the details and ordering of events differ. (Fascinating to me is the fact that Amleth has many of the characteristics of Askeladden, a figure from Norwegian folklore that I've always found intriguing.) There are other tantalizing bits to the history, like the character of Starkad/Starkather, and various weird mythological echoes and connections, but there are also some really dull stretches. I wouldn't want to use this book for research, but as a sort of anthology of national heroic myths it's at least sort of fun.


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April 2011

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