Friday, December 23, 2011
100 Books 79 - Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
I didn't know what to expect in diving into this much-hyped little blockbuster of a novel, but I did not expect superhero fiction.
I would very much argue, though, that this is what I got: superhero fiction disguised as Scandinavian noir, a decent quality prose comic book (I imagine the panel design in my head as very jagged and irregular).
The titular Girl, Lisbeth Salander, comes off as a good take on what a real life Millerian Batman might actually be like, how one might come to be. She has none of Bruce Wayne's advantages (all of which struck me as just a little far fetched, even for a superhero comic, sorry) but all of the Dark Knight's near-sociopathy and demented power -- all packed into a tiny, helpless-looking frame. I certainly wouldn't want to mess with her.
Here this real life, badass Batgirl -- hacker, dogged researcher, tightly wound coilspring of menace and violence -- is turned loose in a satisfyingly intricate mystery story, paired with an ace financial reporter recovering from being badly outmaneuvered by his nemesis and set to tracking down what starts as a baffling disappeared girl case but turns out a kitchen sink of villainy. It's almost over the top, or would be if the mystery and the revelations were in any way the point. But they aren't. The point is the Girl, duh. And it's all a unique chance for her to shine. And whale at a bad guy with a golf club. And set up a hell of a round of techno-financial dominoes to dump every tile on the other bad guy's head. Like I said, I wouldn't want to mess with her.
But I feel like she sure as hell messed with me. Reading her first chronicle is a disorienting experience, starting off as an agonizingly slow burn as the reporter is set on the task of tracking down the missing girl and weirdly intercutting shocking scenes from Lisbeth's uncomfortable life, sometimes transitioning in mid-paragraph without warning. I can see why many readers admire this trick -- it conveys the simultaneity very well, and takes a good stab at blending thematic elements in the reader's head rather than in the text itself, the way George Seurat's pointilism creates new shades of color in the viewer's eye via principles of optical mixing -- but I often found it jarring and annoying.
Maybe that's the point, though.
In closing, I must say that I'm definitely developing a taste for Scandinavian noir. I've long fancied the region (especially Iceland) and its cinema, and now find myself wanting to read, well, perhaps some of the very crime fiction with which the reporter beguiles his leisure hours.
But I've also been given a good list of other examples, particularly of Icelandic crime writers, by a Twitter friend.
The new year may prove dark, cold and crime-y. Which is fine.