Saturday, August 1, 2009
Second Take--The Girl with the Dragon Tatto
Saturday, August 1, 2009
There are no happy endings in Stieg Larsson's world, at least so far as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is concerned.
All the major characters are dysfunctional. They connect but don't relate.
The book is filled with horrible abuse. It involves family hatred, nasty infighting between large corporations, and broken personal relationships. Its story lines are cloaked in a way that makes it almost impossible to discuss the book without giving away its secrets.
And yet I found this a good book to read. The main character, Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo), is sad and compelling. She is also brilliant and dysfunctional. At one point, the author suggests she may have Asperger Syndrome.
As I understand it from the little I have read, Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism which sometimes results in brilliant, detail-oriented people who struggle to relate.
In any case, as I watched Lisbeth and her disgraced journalist friend Mikael Blomkvist work through the ins and outs of this horrible situation, I found myself rooting for Lisbeth, wanting more for her than she will ever find.
You've probably heard the criticisms of the book. After a prologue, it opens with a long chapter of backstory which would test any reader's patience. And it closes with a long description of how Mikael and Lisbeth attack a more-than-immoral corporation. Some critics have panned these parts. But the present situation in the world makes the last part, especially, relevant.
The last part portrays a corporation that buries its risks in other corporations which it owns. The company's subsidiaries insure the mother company. This means that if any part of the corporation falls, the whole corporation falls. The maze of companies masks all kinds of financially-questionable ways of doing business.
Just yesterday, I was reading in The New York Times about an American corporation which may be doing the same thing right now.
After what has happened in our recent recession-depression, this book's portrayal of large corporations seems prophetic.
Just to add another twist, the corporation portrayed in the book is also involved with organized crime.
It is not easy to write about corporate crimes and the technical solutions to them. In this book, Larsson might have done that about as effectively as any fiction author could.
But the corporate crime is the just a backdrop. The book's converging stories--Lisbeth's, Mikael's, and the story of the massively abusive Vanger family--can teach beginning writers something. The idea of three stories coming together in such a way as to make one long, compelling story. . . that is something I admired a lot. And even more than that, the technique didn't get in the way. For me, the book was what they often tritely call, "a good read."
So, I liked this book. I thought it verged on greatness. I will probably read the next book in the series.
The author died of a heart attack in 2004, so we may never know the full range of where his stories go.