Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Girl with the...

Short Attention Span

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson
2008 (English translation) Alfred A. Knopf
(originally Män som hatar kvinnor – "Men Who Hate Women", 2005)
Norstedts, Stockholm

You'd have to be dead or comatose for the last several years to not know about this "Millennium"series published posthumously after Larsson's death in 2004. I've read Girl was the first million copy e-book. The widely promoted Daniel Craig vehicle/American/English movie (see photo) that follows close on the heels of the Swedish language version just opened. Personally I spent my Christmas Day movie capital on Sherlock Holmes but that is another matter.

I  finally read it after several years and found it interesting in some ways but  a bit slow-going. Many online commentators describe it as a mystery for those who don't read mysteries or who have grander ambitions for their reading time than some whodunit. Some believe that Larsson was murdered by mysterious forces due to his muckraking journalism rather than died of natural causes. His death adds a certain frisson to the reading. As many people have written, you need something to keep you slogging through the first 100 pages before journalist Mikael Blomquist finally starts seriously investigating the mystery disappearance of heiress Harriet Vanger at the behest of her still grieving uncle Henrik.

So much has been said about this best-seller that I will not reiterate but make the following observations:
1) I am not a huge fan of the claustrophobic Scandinavian SAD novels with their gruesome crimes and endless glasses of aquavit and herring sandwiches
2)  This novel really makes a case against the Swedish welfare state in which an employed young adult is kept in perpetual trusteeship by being uncooperative. This book does not make you want to visit Sweden!
3) Mikael Blomquist, also a journalist and muckraker and possibly a stand in for Larsson himself, can get any woman, even the most unattainable, merely by wandering by. Perhaps if he really looked like Daniel Craig. He seems a very uninteresting character, self-involved, and not very well-drawn or understandable.
4) Lisbeth Salander is an interesting character - her original solution to her victimization is quite enjoyable - but I think one gets tired of her.
5) The setting is fine but the characters are boring and obvious, the dialogue kind of stupid, and the financial crime sub-plot is just not that shocking. The main plot has a nice surprise then there are another 100 pages to get through.
6) A genre novel can rise above its conventions  and cliches into something  that takes one beyond oneself into another realm of self-knowledge and Weltanschauung. I've read some crime/mystery novels that do this Despite its reputation, Girl does not do this.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I probably wouldn't have continued reading if it hadn't been chosen by my book club. The beginning was very confusing.