Tuesday, July 20, 2010

JONJ Recommends... maybe?: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

So I heard all the hoopla surrounding "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", and its two sequels, "The Girl who Played with Fire", and "The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest". For those not familiar, the books were written by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson. He never wrote a novel before, and dropped dead before they were published. They immediately became a huge success, a #1 seller in Sweden and throughout Europe, and made their way across the pond. Movies are already out in Sweden, and are due to be remade in Hollywood soon. It's a blockbuster series from a previously unknown author. So I had to check it out.

And... well... how do I put it. Yakov and I always have plot-versus-style arguments. I usually take the plot side. Give me a good plot, and I will cut the author slack if his writing style is subpar. With these books...

Now, I realize what I'm reading is translation. But the translation tries to stay true to the author's style. And...

Well, Larsson is not exactly a novelist. He is a journalist, which comes out page after page. I don't care what color the characters' clothes are. I don't need to read a detailed account of what they had for breakfast. And on the next page, what they had for lunch. I don't need to have the characters' first name AND last names listed EVERY time they are mentioned. I don't need for the characters' occupations repeated ad nauseam. Yes, I know Malin Eriksson is the magazine's secretary! I get it!

Moreover, Larsson gives each character a detailed backstory. I understand why he does it, but it's so often unnecessary. For example, detective Jan Bublanski is (AHA!) Jewish. Why is he Jewish? It factors in no way, shape, or form, except for the one incident when he meets another character in a synagogue (which could have been a church, a supermarket, or a train station, as far as the plot is concerned). So why waste pages with his backstory?

But yes, I read all of the books. "Dragon Tattoo" is the best -- by far -- and I would actually recommend it, especially if you want to see what all the hoopla is about. The scenes when the protagonist is spending the winter on an island are actually very well written (you can almost feel the cold), and the mystery he is solving is very intriguing.

But it gets worse from there. "Played with Fire" bored me. "Hornet's Nest" is a bit better than "Fire" but nowhere close to "Tattoo".

Larsson was planning to write seven books before his untimely death. But... well, three is enough for me.

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