I don’t really have to introduce this do I? I mean, I think we all know the book I’m talking about. Heck, you might have even seen the movie. Or even the second movie. All I’m saying is, this book is NOT a secret.
As per my contrary nature (I was a terrible child) I hadn’t yet read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or sequels). The bigger deal people make of a thing, the less I feel like joining the group (I was totally insufferable as a teenager). But the noise has died down slightly, so when Whitcoulls kindly furnished me with a copy to celebrate their new Top 100 it seemed like time to give in and find out what I’ve been missing.
Unfortunately what I seem to mostly have been missing is a really bad translation job. At least I hope it’s a bad translation, otherwise I have no clue how this book got published, as is. Most of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reads like a 10 year old’s creative writing attempt. I mean, hey, you’re not going to knock the little guy back but you wish he’d find a new way to start (and conjoin) sentences. (“And then I met Ritchie McCaw and then I got to see the World Cup and then a giant unicorn appeared and gave me the power to fly. And then I flew home.”) This makes the writing so incredibly tedious that I spent the first 50 pages in disbelief.
Then on page 55 I hit the jackpot:
He was relaxed, and the anxious knot in his stomach had eased. She had that effect on him. She always had had. And he know that he had the same effect on her.
The effect “She always had had.” had on me however, was probably not what the author intended.
And then it was a struggle not to spend the next 100 pages laughing hysterically.
Finally he opened his shoulder bag and put his iBook on the desk in the office. Then he stopped and looked about him with a sheepish expression. The benefits of living in the countryside, forsooth.
Forsooth, FORSOOTH I SAY COUNTRYSIDE BENEFITS! Forsooth, and possibly fie!
And then I got really really depressed because I’ve clearly wasted my life, and I’m poor and I didn’t write these books, and really, how hard can this be:
Mikael got out of bed and went to stand naked at the kitchen window, gazing at the church on the other side of the bridge. He lit a cigarette.
And then (damn you Larsson) Mr Writer Man got me with plot instead. Because despite the fact that I utterly hated the writing, by the middle I was hooked, and I remained hooked right up until the plot denouement (and then I ended on a really angry note because the actual end couldn’t be more predictable). You have no idea how angry it makes me that I had to waste hours wading through acclaimed dross TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED.
I didn’t find even a single thing to like about the characters either. Blomkvist is Uber Amazing Man, a friend and instant lover-man to all the ladies. Just forget he’s got a young teenage daughter who he remembers about once a year. Lisbeth Salander is Intelligent Revenge Outcast Girl, according to the other characters she either has super duper photographic memory and skills or she’s “mentally retarded” (not my words). She behaves and reasons like a 12 year old girl, and Blomkvist at one point mentions Aspergers, but hey, when she wants the sexy times, what’s a Blomkvist to do? She so crazy. The rest of the characters just really revolve around, only doing anything that furthers the plot.
And then I remember that this was the book that a majority of people said is the BEST BOOK EVER and perfectly nice people like Phillip Pullman said very nice things about it, and then I thought Well, what’s wrong with me? And frankly, that’s the worst thing. A book should not make you wonder what’s wrong with you. Sigh.
My final summation? All TGWTDT has is plot. And even then it gets more distracted than an ADD guinea pig on V.
Larsson was not a great writer. He came up with a good story, then he drowned it in HIS MESSAGE. Women are SO OPPRESSED. Men are SO ANGRY. Swedes are SO UP FOR SEXY TIMES. And here is an historical exposition paragraph that sounds like it was lifted word for word from Encyclopedia Britannica. Because I am SERIOUS AUTHOR.
Taking away a person’s control of her own life – meaning her bank account – is one of the greatest infringements a democracy can impose, especially when it applies to young people. It is an infringement even if the intent may be perceived as benign and socially valid. Questions of guardianship are therefore potentially sensitive political issues, and are protected by rigorous regulations and controlled by the Guardianship Agency. This agency comes under the county administrative board and is controlled, in turn, by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Thank god a relatively interesting point about Swedish society and politics got lost amongst the bits that made me fall asleep.
In the end, the truth is that because I ams who I ams I wouldn’t have hated this so much if other people didn’t like it so much. If I hadn’t been told how good it was, I would just accept it has a cracking plot and not really cared about the very obvious, very many flaws.
Which, it seems, is really what the writer was going for.
Berger thought that the book was the best thing Blomkvist had ever written. It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor…