Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Now that I have finished the first book of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy I want to note some personal impressions before seeing what others have had to say on Amazon.

- I cannot begin to imagine how a motion picture adaptation can have coped with the intricacy of the plot. It is a weighty book, which gave me five enjoyable evening reading sessions (which makes it excellent value for money!). A two hour screen version can surely only disappoint any who found Larsson's narrative satisfying.

- Fortunately my own writing project was ending when I picked up the book. I do find that my current reading often tends to inform my current writing. And since there are attributes of his figure Silander split between two of the female protagonists in Seasonal Variance, I am relieved that I met Larsson's invention as late as I did.

- Will I hasten to continue with volumes three and four? Certainly. This is the kind of dense plotting I find a pleasure to read and the issues the writer favours are absolutely compatible with my somewhat left-of-centre worldview.

- One encouraging discovery: Larsson makes many references to things which are very Swedish, making no allowance for the possible ignorance of readers with regard to his country, its history and its issues. And yet this has not mitigated the success of his work in territories far beyond Scandinavia. Encouraging... for I also am inclined to refer in my writing to things which are very German, or very French, in spite of targeting a readership which would probably be very British! A slight cavil in this context... the English translation is at times very obviously a translation, a fact which causes occasional annoyance while reading.

At this point I want to see what other readers have said. Here's H. Lacroix
"What I don't like about the novel, and it is a problem that concerns many a thriller, is the constant use of tabloid style material 'the rapist, the serial killer, the torturer, the religious fanatic...'It is voyeuristic and degrading. What has happened to good crime writing that it seems to be unable to deal with murderers who simply dispatch their victims (for whatever reason) without displaying incredible cruelty in so doing? Why can't we have books whose interest lies in the clever unraveling of a subtle plot?

In this regard I certainly concur. Often I find myself asking when I am reading a scene of extreme brutality if there is a copy-paste collection of torture descriptions that some writers have access to! Needless to say my own work scrupulously avoids the tabloid temptation!

This from Clive Young:
"Made me reflect how little most of us know about Sweden, though, beyond IKEA, Volvo, Abba and meatballs."

Then there was this:
"Oh, and Stieg, since we're at it: it's good to be so anti-comformist as to reject the bourgeois institution of marriage, but in that case, it is prudent to at least leave a will, so that the actual woman you actually loved could get the royalties of your books without having to sue your estranged parents. This sad and very unfair coda to Larsson's life seems to me to sum up his attitude to women pretty thoroughly: he loved them, but he just didn't stop to think straight about them."

No, I have not read all 662 customer reviews! Nor shall I. Many seem to see Larsson as a crassly macho enemy of feminism. But this is an accusation which can be made, sometimes with validity, when male writers create uncomfortable female characters. My own approach in this respect? I think it's a good idea to listen to your women before writing your women.  

662 customer reviews? I should have so many readers!


nzm said...

If you see the movies, see the Swedish ones. I can pretty much guarantee that they will, graphically, be more true to the book than the US ones due to be filmed. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood and the prude US system will deal with the rape and sodomy.

We've seen the movies in Spain - in Swedish with Spanish subtitles! They're pretty true to the books, but something that gets lost is how the corruption and cover-ups go so high up into the Swedish system which was a major factor in Larsson's books.

Macthomson said...

Interesting, the points you raise. I had no idea that Hollywood re-makes were planned. I fear we can look forward to a severely sanitized Silander!