Wednesday, May 22, 2013

15-16: The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson

"Salander was the woman who hated men who hate women" 

The first time I heard about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was on NPR in a comparison between Lisbeth Salander and Bella Swan (really, the article is here). It intrigued me, especially because I was reading the Hunger Games when I heard it and I really wanted to think about the role that women (especially young women) were playing in popular contemporary books. I promptly thought "I should read that some day" and added it to my mental list of millions of books.

Then my parents went on a vacation. They like to fly to a place, rent a car, and drive around for a week or so looking at things, taking fotos, and listening to books on tape. They had gotten GWTDT from the library for some reason and were totally bored, but had nothing else left. Then, as my mom tells it, they hit that glorious moment in an audiobook where all of a sudden you don't care what you're doing as long as you're driving. Upon their return they devoured the sequels and told me I must read them immediately. I promptly thought "I should really read that some day" and added it to my mental list of millions of books minus the ones I head already read since the last time I looked at the list. 

In 2012 I finally allowed myself to read GWTDT over spring break. It was juicy, I didn't sleep, I was hooked, and I knew I could not allow myself to read anymore or risk dropping out of grad school and/or quitting my job, so I set aside and ignored the sequels until I finished my Master's. 

My major issue with GWTDT was the epic rape scene which was incredibly difficult for me to read and I couldn't see how SL could justify it. I posted on my Facebook page to ask for advice on whether or not to continue. At what point does detailing something horrible cross the line from important-to-the-plot/informational/eye-opening to exploiting-tragic-experiences/rapertainment? I almost never pull the Rape Victim Card, but if the whole book was going to be rapertainment I was ready to pull the card and spit on everyone who loved this series. Fortunately, Facebook told me to persevere, and ultimately as the novels wrapped up the epic rape scene was necessary enough to the plot that I will refrain from spitting on SL. 

Rape victim revenge, secret government conspiracy theories, crazy serial killers, organized crime, journalism, writers, secrets, revenge violence, poverty to luxury with pretensions, hot lesbian sex, hot straight sex, a tiny punked out pierced and tattooed girl, a buff muscular chick, a chubby dyke who loves leather - I mean seriously? What more could you want out of a book? (I was about to say hot gay sex but that's totally in there too!)

It is an incredibly satisfying page turner if you like suspenseful thrillers. Writing isn't brilliant, but I am always a fan of texts that have multiple POVS and incorporate a variety of genre within the story. The plot ended at just the right time as well - while I can see where there was space for the SL to continue the books into a longer series, and I would have read them all, I think it would have become a thing where I read them just because I can't let the characters go and not because I think I'll be getting more out of the books (I'm looking at you Orson Scott Card). 

What probably made my reading experience more terrible and real was the fact that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were rescued and I read some terrible articles on Geoffrey Portway a man who could be straight from a SL novel (made a secret basement with cutting table, cage, coffin, and fridge, was trying to get people to kidnap kids for him, had tons of child porn that also featured dead, tortured, and mutilated children). 

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