Friday, November 11, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I listened to the first installment of the Trilogy that Swept the Nation as an audio-book. As hyped, the late Stieg Larrson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was intriguing, well-written and in this case: well-read. 

However, not until l I borrowed a paper copy to complete this review did I realize I had heard an abridged version - that paragraphs and whole sections of text were missing!  At first I was outraged, and concerned that the questions I had planned to pose here would be irrelevant had I read the original version. But then I started to think about the editing process and wonder; If without those sections of text, I still enjoyed the story and reached a basic understanding of the plot and characters as intended and became inclined to seek out the second book in the series - than why NOT leave those words out? In fact, why include them in the original in the first place?
I'm sure publisher Vintage Books has more than a few renowned editors on staff - experienced and capable people who excel at translation and marketing, who know that the shorter the book, the faster it is more likely to be finished, and subsequently the sooner a new piece of literature will be purchased. Clearly those sentences were not critical to the plot or character development. Are there readers out there who can help explain this to me? Calling on those in the publishing world: What gives? 

And while you're at it, can you throw me a formula or two that a potential book title is run through? The Girl in the title is Lisbeth Salander - an interesting, important character in the book, but by no means the main character. Her backstory is touched on and she does ultimately star in the climactic scene, but I couldn't say the book is about her - or her dragon tattoo (one of many) the significance of which is never revealed. I suppose that like a cover, the title of a book also invites judgment. Maybe "The Shunned Investigative Journalist" - while accurate - just doesn't have the same sex appeal.

I recommend the book but there are things to know about before reading it:

1) If the only familiarity you have with the Swedish language comes from Ikea, it may take a bit to get a grasp of which words refer to characters and which to places, and unless you hail from Seattle, you might also wonder how they can possibly drink so much coffee

2) There are a few violent, sexually explicit scenes, so don't read it aloud to your elementary age children. However, compared to events in say, Almost Moon - don't bypass this book due to a squeamish stomach. Read these sections through, if for no other reason than to honor the author's intention, a fervent desire to call attention to the unacceptable practice of violence against women in modern society.

3) There will be questions that go unanswered (like, why did Cecilia Vanger suddenly turn so cold to Mikael? What did she know or suspect about his investigation? Why didn't she apologize or at least try to rekindle HIS affection when she found out the truth?) - perhaps because these questions are addressed in the second or third novel? - or perhaps because, according to a Vanity Fair piece by his lover, Larrson's writing style was apparently not entirely unlike Jennifer Egan's: short stories written over his lifetime then tied together later.

4) Larrson was skilled in the practice of building suspense - jumping back and forth between the action packed, gut-wrenching experience of one character with the more mundane, slower moving day of another- don't be surprised if you really can't put it down and end up sleep deprived until finished.

See also - the 2009 Swedish movie version, and stay tuned for the American version with Daniel Craig due out next month:

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