I hate the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. To many, that is the equivalent of saying “I kick puppies,” or “I choke babies,” or “American Idol is the best show in the history of television.” Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s crime trilogy about crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his hacker lover/pal Lisbeth, in my view, is poorly written, ridiculously plotted, and (yawn!) incredibly tedious. (This is coming from someone who spent seven years working at Fortune magazine and has more than a passing knowledge of the financial arcaneness that dominates the end of the first book.) Today, I realized I’m not alone. A few brave resistance fighters are speaking out, most notably Joan Acocella in this week’s New Yorker, who tries to understand “Why People Love Stieg Larsson novels.”
Her best passage is below:
“However much the book was revised, it should have been revised more. The opening may have been reworked, as Gedin says, but it still features an episode – somebody telling somebody else at length (twelve pages!) about a series of financial crimes peripheral to the main plot – that, by wide consensus, is staggeringly boring. (And, pace Gedin, it is preceded by a substantial description of a flower.) Elsewhere, there are blatant violations of logic and consistency. Loose ends dangle. There are vast dumps of unnecessary detail. When Lisbeth goes to IKEA, we get a list of every single thing she buys. (‘Two Karlanda sofas with sand-colored upholstery, five Poäng armchairs, two round side tables of clear-lacquered birch, a Svansbo coffee table, and several Lack occasional tables,’ and that’s just for the living room.) The jokes aren’t funny. The dialogue could not be worse. The phrasing and the vocabulary are consistently banal. (Here is Lisbeth, about to be raped: ‘Shit, she thought when he ripped off her T-shirt. She realized with terrifying clarity that she was out of her depth.’) I am basing these judgments on the English edition, but, if this text was the product of extensive editing, what must the unedited version have looked like? Maybe somebody will franchise this popular series – hire other writers to produce further volumes. This is not a bad idea. We’re not looking at Tolstoy here. The loss of Larsson’s style would not be a sacrifice.”
It’s a paragraph that is far more beautiful than anything Larsson wrote. (Indeed, his description of Lisbeth’s visit to IKEA is far more tortuous than actually going there.) What do you all think? Have you read the books? Do you think they are worth all that acclaim? Or should I just say that I kick puppies?