Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ginger, George, & The Master of Hestviken

Don't you hate it when you're making a stir-fry dinner and you don't have the ginger? Everything is chop-chop-chopped: the scallions, the broccoli, the mushrooms, and then, lo and behold! You have the soy sauce, sesame oil...everything for the sauce...but no ginger.

"Where's the ginger?"

I know where the ginger is. My husband threw it out. He insists on cleaning the kitchen, but what is one woman's ingredient is his trash. No doubt he saw the brown roots in the plastic bag and thought it was garbage. I took everything out of our small refrigerator: there is an ancient shriveled garlic, but no ginger.

And so...

"You threw it out."

"No, you did."

Are we 12?

The dinner turned out all right, and he's in there cleaning the kitchen now (by choice). And now I am watching the Olympics, waiting for the skate dancing.

I have been reading in my pajamas most of the day. It's Valentine's Day: the day we
do what we like most. This means my husband is listening to opera, skiing, doing all that stuff he does. I was listening to R.E.M. and trying to read Silas Marner.

I've never wanted to read Silas Marner, because it was the short George Eliot my old friends carelessly read at the public high school (I went to the hippie school, where we had a choice of what to read and were reading, yes, Middlemarch). Well, I've read only a few pages of Silas and perhaps it's just not the book for me. It seems condensed: I like Eliot's leisurely development of place and character in her long books.

So I have switched to Nobel winner Sigrid Undset's The Snake Pit, the second in her tetralogy, The Master of Hestviken, recommended long ago by a friend who seemed to read little else. I mean it was always The Ax, The Snake Pit, In the Wilderness, and The Son Avenger--everywhere she went! I prefer Kristen Lavransdatter (Undset's masterpiece), but I did read The Master years ago.

In this medieval saga, Olav returns to his ancestral home with his depressed bride, Ingunn. In the first book, The Ax, the two had a difficult time: he was separated from her by years of war, and when he finally returned, she was ill and depressed, had had a brief affair, and had a child. Now she despairs that she was unfaithful. Olav murders the other man, though he then vows to take care of Ingunn's child. This IS the more dismal of the two sagas, as I remember. But medieval Norway is not where you want to live.

I have the 1929 Knopf edition, with a translation by Arthur G. Chater. The pages are yellow and crumbling, but I think I can get at least one more read out of it. Funny--my old Kristin Lavransdatter is also a '20s Knopf, but the paper is much better.

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