Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why I Actually Like Tattoos, Fire, and Hornets.

Confession time: Though I pretend to be a high-brow literary theorist, I love Harry Potter. And I read all the Twilight books. More than once. (Too much, I know. But check out this and this because 99.9% of the fun of reading Twilight is mocking Twilight.) I re-read the His Dark Material series often, I love Neil Gaiman's children's books, and went through a phase where I obsessively read Mary Higgins Clark. I'll indulge in something about murder or fashion whenever it becomes kind of terrifyingly popular, because one) I just really love to read and two) I feel some sort of weird responsibility to keep up with literary phenomenon. It's like how I feel a responsibility to read classics that can sometimes be incredibly boring because they influenced other, more interesting works—everything effects everything else in the literary world, and I want to know as much as possible about all those ties.

When I was in London last year, I was a little creeped out by the fact every person who was reading a book on the tube was reading the same book: Steig Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It had reached the UK first and was apparently gaining momentum in the US as I was leaving (that was a roller coaster of a summer, sometimes literally, so I missed it.) It often takes me a long time to get to literary fads because I constantly have a huge stack books waiting to be read (The beauty of it? They will never, ever run out, because even if I read every book ever—a girl can dream—I would just get to start over again.) But this Christmas, excuse me, Winter break (political correctness is NOT my strong suit,) I finally got around to it and devoured all of them in about a week.

They're longer than they look here. I promise it's very impressive.
My conclusion about the Millennium Trilogy (a name I still don't understand)? They're good. They are not literary masterpieces, they are not classics, and they are not, by any means, life-changing. But they're like watching a not particularly meaningful, but incredibly entertaining movie—you're engrossed, even if the snob in you is rebelling a bit. They've got that murder-mystery-intrigue-espionage-Russian-government-hacker- thing going on, and all at once. They're set in Sweden, which means everyone's got names that are fun to say and there's funny and interesting cultural things (I still don't know what kronor to dollar is, though.) But, the real reason I'm recommending to put all affected airs aside and pick them up, is that these books aren't really about all of that, but about an evaluation of the shortcomings of a particular culture's mores and values.

I won't wreck them for you here because I would have punched a child if they has told me what “all the evil” was before I read it for myself. But I will tell you what I think these books are really about: violence against women. These books may be enjoyable, but Larsson went a step farther than Patterson or Evanovich and made them about a more pressing issue—Swedish culture's chauvinistic tendencies, even in this century. Larsson consistently brings his story to this issue, dealing with how morality's lines blur when one becomes helpless in any official sense. He's written a story of female agency in a world where that agency is mostly seen as a way to placate half the population—a world that is terrifyingly our own. Larsson brings out the feminist in each of his readers and brings to light the way women are still subjugated, in both minor and major ways. Underneath all the intrigue, Larsson has provided his reader with something much more intriguing, as disturbing as it may be.
Though in the American film version, it appears Lisbeth
Salander doesn't wear pants. So maybe it's just me.
People ask me all the time who my favorite author is, or what my favorite book is. I have a string of ready-made answers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franny and Zooey, Jane Austen, Atlas Shrugged, Edith Wharton, Love in the Time of Cholera, Herman Hesse, Anna Karenina, etc. etc. etc. There's just too many—I always leave a thousand out and always say something weird like “Hemingway and I are old war buddies” or “I don't think The Bell Jar is actually about suicide, so don't worry.” Because while all the things I mention are truly my favorite, my real favorite when you ask me is always going to be what I'm reading right then and there, even if I've only read the title page. It is immediate and thus wonderful, no matter what it is, because it's feeding my obsession. Unless it's Pamela.

So what I'm saying is (and no, this is not entirely what I started out saying, but I've ended up here, anyway): a true passion for literature is one that doesn't know how to discriminate. You can judge a book after it's done, you can hate or love something, and some things can even be painful to read BUT there's something inherently satisfying about reading words on a page, even when the way those words are put together SUCK. Just....suck horribly.

So turn down your nose and pick up some of Mr. Larsson's books. Because, God knows, I've read and will read, much worse.

You can see the rest of the shots from the W Magazine shoot for the new film here. Sarcasm aside, I'm pretty excited. I keep falling asleep during the Swedish ones. Not because they're bad, but because Swedish is a melodious language.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. And the fact that you now have a blog. Not just because you're my best friend, but because this is genius. I have started a cooking blog and you have inspired me to follow through with it :) i love you