Monday, October 12, 2009

The medium is not the massage

I like to think I've helped lay to rest any suggestion that the Nordic peoples are stolid and humorless. (See here, too, for further evidence.) Now I'll take on that other base canard: that they like nothing better than to have the bejesus whaled out of them on a massage table ("Swedish massage" and all that):

The worst of it was over; the woman had stopped massaging and begun arranging hot stones in a row down her backbone ...

"Will it be much longer?" Thóra asked hopefully. "I think the energy's penetrated every single cell. I'm beginning to feel great."

"What?" The masseuse was incredulous. "Are you sure? It's supposed to take a lot longer."

Thóra suppressed a groan. "Positive. It's brilliant. I can tell I'm done."
The victim here is Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, the lawyer/investigator/protagonist of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's crime novels, and I sympathize with her. I once paid ten dollars for a neck massage in Central Park. I expected relaxation. Instead, I discovered aches and discomfort in parts of my body I'd never been aware of.
(Yrsa Sigurðardóttir will be a member of my crime fiction and translation panel Thursday morning at Bouchercon 2009 along with Steven T. Murray, Tiina Nunnally and Robert Pépin.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I had to laugh as the "hot stone" treatment is the latest spa fad. Apparently if it's not done correctly a person can be injured/burned. But a Swedish massage would be lovely...

October 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Among the things I learned while preparing this post is that "Swedish massage" is not called by that name in Sweden, that it may not have been invented by the Swede usually credited with doing so, and that its current technique has little to do with the original version.

I could ask Yrsa if poor Thóra's experience reflects her own.

In fact, the scene in question takes place at a health resort where all sorts of nutty things happen. The practice of massage may reflect New Age wierdness rather than Nordic tradition.

October 12, 2009  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Swedish massage neither Swedish nor invented by a Swede?! Next you'll be telling me that Shiatsu isn't Japanese?! I think the word "sauna" really does come from the Finnish, though?

And, yes, resorts and day spas are good places to encounter all kinds of questionable New Age practices, as a browse through the precious prose of almost any spa brochure can attest to. It would be fun to know if the author herself experienced some of these gimmicky treatments. The ones that leave me (sucker) asking myself: "I just paid $90 to have someone rub sugar all over me for a half hour?"

These sites are perfect places for an author's humorous jabs and even murders; I've seen at least 3 movies in which the hero was locked in a steam room and the villain cranked up the temperature. Does a crime take place at the resort in the novel in question?

October 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The killing has taken place near the resort and has some connection with it. What that connection is, I don't know yet.

I just checked an online dictionary that gives the following history for sauna:


1881, from Finnish

Resorts are good targets for humor. T.C. Boyle wrote a novel called The Road to Wellville, I think about the original Kellogg. I haven't read the book, but I remember a clip featured in an ad for the movie of a tipsy John Cusack saying: "With friends like (him/that/you), who needs enemas?"

The resort in My Soul to Take is run by a rich Icelandic businessman who apparently needs something to do with his money, and Yrsa has some good bits about the contrast between his rugged, fisherman's appearance, and his weird New Age practices. Yrsa, a civil engineer who designs power plants when she's not writing novels, seems quite skeptical about such matters.

October 12, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Nice Marshall McLuhan ref. This never gets old.

October 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have invoked that scene countless times: "Well, I happen to have ____ ________ right here."

"You know nothing of my work ... "

October 12, 2009  

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