Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book


I decided to acclimate myself to the violence of the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by reading the book first. It was a pretty fast read and not as gruesome as I feared, although there were a few bits that were pretty horrible and I quickly skimmed over descriptions of nastiness.

I expected to find the book in the bookstore's Mystery section, but it was instead in with Literature, which doesn't seem accurate, although it's true that the main mystery of the book turns out to be actually a subset of a larger story about the nasty world of high finance. I wonder how much of that will be edited out of the movie.

Some observations:

  • I don't remember where I read someone whinging about Daniel Craig being cast as Blomkvist, but they're wrong - he's perfectly cast. The character isn't an out of shape slob, as I was given the impression. There actually is very little description about him other than he has blond hair and is in his mid-40s. He smokes, but he also jogs and when he's being shot at his old military training kicks in.

  • It's also been said that Blomkvist is very different from James Bond, and of course Craig played Bond. But actually, as far as the ladies are concerned, Blomkvist is very much like James Bond. The book takes place over the course of a year and Blomkvist has an ongoing sexual relationship with three women during that time - with his long-standing friend-with-benefits publisher of his magazine Erika Berger - she's married but it's an open marriage; one of the members of the family he's been hired to write about, Cecelia Vanger - who seduces him; and Lisbeth Salander who just walks into his room and proposes they have sex - which he agrees to after first suggesting that maybe they should just be friends. This is only believable if the 40-something man in question is as attractive as Daniel Craig.

  • A favorite Swedish expression, apparently, is "the back of beyond" - a phrase that keeps popping up as a description of remote places of which there are several in the book.

  • The Swedes buy IKEA furniture at least as much as Americans do.

  • And they really like those damn lingonberries. Blomkvist makes a dish with lingonberries at one point. They're always shovelling that stuff at you if you eat at the IKEA cafeteria. They appear to like it best with meatballs.

  • Larsson is a big fan of Pippi Longstocking (as am I) and said she was an inspiration for Lizbeth Salander. Although Lizbeth has a very different personality from Pippi. One thing they do have in common is the fact that Lizbeth is actually a red-head, like Pippi - it's mentioned in passing in the book - but Lizbeth dyes her hair black.

  • Steig Larsson's description of computers and hacking is pretty impressively technical, although out of date since the books were released in the mid-2000s.

  • Awesomely, Larsson was a total feminist. The Swedish title of the Dragon Tattoo book was "Men Who Hate Women" and at the beginning of each section if the book there is a fact about violence against women in Sweden. For instance:
    PART 4
    Hostile Takeover
    July 11 to December 30
    Ninety-two percent of women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the most recent violence to the police

  • I couldn't help feeling bad when reading this section of the book, where Blomkvist is explaining that it isn't necessarily his fault his employer had a heart attack:
    Henrik had severe blockages in his arteries. He could have had a heart attack just by having a pee.
    Or climbing up seven flights of stairs.

    Larsson died at the age of fifty, when he had a heart attack after climbing seven flights of stairs when his office building's elevator was broken. If only he'd paid attention when he was writing those words and had his own arteries looked at.

Maybe he should have had more lingonberries.