So the idea here, if it wasn’t obvious already, is to chronicle the year’s reading via short reviews. It’s not an especially serious project and I will probably cancel it any minute now… but I’ve long suspected that writing notes on books afterward would help consolidate my memory of their contents. We’ll see.
THE PROSE EDDA is, according to its introduction, a funny sort of platypus-like beast, mythology and poetics manual grafted onto one another. That was how the blurb on the cover represented it, anyway. And that representation is no doubt accurate — but the volume I read wasn’t the entire PROSE EDDA; it was just the part with the mythology. Whereas I was really interested in the part about poetics, especially the part about kennings. Do I know jack shit about kennings? Of course not, but I am a fantasy fanboy and all things Old Norse and/or Icelandic make my jeans tight. (Or is that the carbs?) More to the point, I have Plans. They involve Spaceships, the Technological Singularity, and Intergalactic Rock ‘n Roll. The connection to Icelandic Poetics should be obvious. Right?
(Digression: In thinking about this story — currently envisioned as a long-running comic, like several dozen issues — the idea occurred to me, as it presumably must to any science fiction writer of any audacity at all, of PLANET GAY. This would be a basically hospitable planet exuding Gay Fumes or some other ridiculous plot device that made most people there gay. I capitalize PLANET GAY for comic effect, but you know as well as I do that you could do something interesting with this, although it might be hard to do anything on the topic that Samuel Delany hasn’t already done… anyway, I knew I could not have been the first to envision this, but it turns out there is already even a comic called PLANET GAY. It would appear to involve many gay superheroes and anthropomorphic gay animals. The site, linked below, is not safe for work, home, Starbucks, the library, the wireless bus, or anywhere else you wouldn’t consider wearing buttless chaps with no pants:
… and close parens.)
Well, this has gone off the rails. Anyway, this gutted version of THE PROSE EDDA is still reasonably cool, since it presents lots of Norse myths and cosmology in very condensed form, and it does actually go through a few of the kennings, especially the ones for gold. But I’m not that interested in gold (per se) and I read a lot of the D’Aulaires’ Norse myths when I was a kid, so where do I look up the stuff like “whale-road” and “wave-steed” and “feeder of war-gull”? Amazon reviews suggest the Anthony Faulkes translation under the Everyman imprint; Princeton doesn’t have it, but I guess that’s why God invented Amazon.
The other interesting thing about this particular PROSE EDDA is the introduction. The translator offers a quick unpacking of why Sturluson might have wanted to present all these myths, how he frames them as poetic training so as not to get in trouble with the church, etc.
One thing I’m realizing I could really use is a guide to the Icelandic sagas. Which ones are the most interesting? Which are the most mineable for themes and resonances? Which ones, in particular, are the ones that directly concern poets and poetry?
Read also: James George Frazer’s THE GOLDEN BOUGH (compilations of custom and superstition of dubious provenance but undeniable resonance); Stephen Knight’s ROBIN HOOD — A COMPLETE STUDY OF THE ENGLISH OUTLAW.
Next up: FINDER: SIN-EATER