Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tab's Fiction Pick: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

What if your life's biggest achievement came after you died?
In November 2004 a sudden heart attack took the life of Swedish writer and journalist Stieg Larsson. Just prior to November he delivered the manuscripts for three crime novels to his publisher. The first of these was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, published in Sweden in 2005 and later released in English. The three manuscripts that make up the 'Millennium Trilogy' eventually sold more than 12 million copies world wide. (12 million and one if you count the copy I recently bought!) Larsson never witnessed the world wide phenomena his work became.

For Readers
The latest news spidering through the web is that the English translation of the original Swedish manuscripts leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. I don't know. How much better than 'mind blowing' can you get? I started reading this book on a recent flight to Darwin (as you do when you have no kids to look after-yeah!) and I wasn't actually all that grabbed by the first chapter. What kept me reading was one of the main characters, Lisbeth Salander.

The girl rocks. I love a chick with a tat and an attitude to match. She grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let go until I understood her motivations and plainly worn disgust of men. Lisbeth is a brilliant hacker with an astounding lack of displayed emotions or regard for social niceties, she's not conventionally beautiful nor is she a stereo-typical female. She boxes, rides a motor bike and lives alone. Beneath numbness there is always feeling. I just think it runs so deep its owner often has trouble reaching it. I simply had to know what Stieg Larsson thought was going on inside that girl's head. She, more than any other character, held my attention until the end of the book. Mikael Blomkvist I could take or leave. This character seems to think intimacy is about as personal and private as sharing a bowl of cornflakes. His only redeeming quality is his admiration of Lisbeth and the way he is able to see past the attitude she presents to the softness within. I love that in a man! Together they work to solve a crime committed decades before. If you can foresee where this plot is heading before the end of the book, my hat is off to ya! Larsson had me completely intrigued.

Larsson's writing also gives right- winged extremists and Nazi organizations a deserved slamming and lets his characters ripe apart sexual predators and violent men with a hammering I personally wish I could dish out.
Honestly, this book is a staggering read. Insightful and clever from word go. I wished that I could have excused myself from general life and read this book from cover to cover in one hit. But if I did that I'd probably never surface, except to write and hug and kiss family! You know, so many books...so little life! My 'To Read List' grows daily!

For Writers
Apparently Stieg Larsson loved writing the novels so much that he didn't even make contact with a publisher until he had written the first two books and had the third well underway. If only I had that kind of patience! I write something and immediately start looking around for where I could send it.
I have to say though, I do hope that Larsson had more reasons for writing than just, "pension insurance", which was apparently what Stieg referred to his manuscripts as. I don't know, there seems to be something vitally important about the written word. Maybe it's just me, but I think writers are a privileged bunch who should wrap the reasons behind their work in humility and respect for the privilege. How many people go unseen and unheard in this world?

You can check out more about his trilogy on the website www.stieglarsson.com

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