Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Original Title: Man Som Hatar Kvinnor

Author: Stieg Larsson

Author memorial web site: http://www.stieglarsson.com/

Translator: Reg Keeland

Publisher: Vintage (English), Norstedts (Swedish)

Date: 2005 (Norstedts), 2008 (Vintage)

Length: 644 pages

ISBN: 0307949486

Quote: "Ninety-two percent of women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the most recent violent incident to the police."

Stieg Larsson was a journalist whose primary field of research, during his active career, was neo-Nazi organizations. Shortly before he died, however, he wrote three long blockbuster novels about an odd couple of detectives, the successful yuppie Blomkvist and the punker genius Salander, on the trail of a murderer whose Nazi father taught him to hate and kill women. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is volume one. The theme of these novels is violent woman-hating; section headings provide statistics on hatecrimes against women in Sweden.

What's to say about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? It's been a worldwide bestseller. Other translations available on Amazon have titles that literally translate Larsson's original title ("some men who hated women"). And its popularity says something very nasty about the state of our world....this is one ugly, hateful, gross-out-packed novel.

That Glamour described it as a "sexy, addictive thriller" disturbs me. All the characters do seem to have a lot of sex. Most of the consensual sex involves Blomkvist, who has the unexplained peculiarity of apparently inspiring women of many different ages and backgrounds with identical urges to tear off his shirt. Most of the sex is non-consensual, sadistic, and disgusting. The most detailed sex scene involves Salander, who has been misdiagnosed as autistic and assigned to the care of an evil-minded male guardian. Arguably she's justified in finding at least half a dozen different ways to rape this lousy creep, in one day, but did we really need for the narration of this scene to occupy ten pages?

Yes, of course she has the excuse of abuse (four more pages in this volume, and the guarantee, given the behavior that's caused her to be misdiagnosed as autistic, of revelations of more heinous abuse further back in her past). There again, it's possible for novelists to mention that a thing happened without lingering on every detail.

And yes, studies have shown that, although simply reading or watching pornography does not inevitably create an emotional addiction that eventually craves sadistic violence, reading or watching sadistic pornography does tend to feed an addiction that eventually craves more realistic, sometimes real-life, sadistic violence.

So in a way this trilogy is addictive...to people with very sick minds. And it seems to me that there has to have been a way of drawing attention to the problem without feeding it quite so, well, gluttonously. If Larsson was trying to appeal to people who enjoy detailed sex scenes, couldn't he at least have tried to think of different things for all those women to do with Blomkvist after taking off his shirt, instead of all those graphic rape-murder scenes?

If you want information about the incidence and characteristics of violent crimes, here are some sites that offer more updated information and less gore:

United States generally: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr

Virginia: http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Crime_in_Virginia.shtm

Sweden (for Larsson fans): http://www.scb.se/Pages/List____139369.aspx (Warning: it's awkward. What would you expect? English isn't even their language.)

England and Wales: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/hosb1011/

Scotland: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice

Ireland: http://www.crimecouncil.gov.ie/statistics_cri_crime.html

Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/85-002-x2007005-eng.pdf (Warning: I think PDF is short for "Page Displays Fail")

Australia: http://www.abs.gov.au/

Trinidad & Tobago: http://cso.gov.tt/home

India: http://indiafacts.in/statistics/crime-statistics-in-india/

During the time I had to finish this post I looked up a few smaller countries but didn't find an Official Government Statistics Page for a couple of them...

Anyway, one more comment on the book before this post goes live. I don't agree that this book is the way Ingmar Bergman would have done Silence of the Lambs. I think both Bergman and Silence of the Lambs were far more tasteful--though if we're considering strictly the fascination with violent gross-outs, the comparison is reasonable.

If you want to read the book everyone's talking about, you know the drill. Buy it from me online, get a free advertorial here. Buy it from a charity store in my neighborhood, get a bargain and support a good cause.