Tasteless might be one of the deadliest insulting words for us, the Mac generation. For book aficionados, that means reading works found in airport kiosks’ merry-go-round bookshelves. Therefore, I have avoided The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a long time. That dandelion-esque yellow cover was popping up everywhere. What’s the point of weeding one out?
Nevertheless I read it because I didn’t see a better choice for my personal project: Conquer my phobia of tasteless über-famous fiction book series. Candidates were as follows: Harry Potter, Twilight, Lord of The Rings, and The Millenium Series which starts with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Harry and his pal’s adventures were too damn long, Twilight turned out to be a great example of why the airport kiosk test works (Yes, I read it. Any problem?), and I had already spent 50+ hours in cable television for Lord of The Rings. Only one was left.
On average, I spend three weeks to read a book. It takes that long because I use my idle time: on the bus, in a café, in bed before sleeping. But I finished the 600-page TGWTDT (The Girl with…) in a week because I was using my valuable time, instead of dead times, to turn the pages. (The 5:00 AM alarm rang when I finished reading it.) Now I am in my third week with the third book.
I say it loud that the series meets the requirements of a great fiction according to David Mamet.
The Godfather, A Place in the Sun, Dodsworth, Galaxy Quest—these are perfect films. They start with a simple premise and proceed logically, and inevitably, toward a conclusion both surprising and inevitable.
The Millennium Series also meets my own criteria of a great fiction: show us who we really are. That’s a tall order if one of the main characters is a 24-year old bisexual woman who is a world-class hacker, dresses like a teenage punk rocker, is emotionally disconnected, and doesn’t hesitate a second to retaliate using psychological and physical weapons. But she, Lisbeth Salander, is as real a human as anyone we know. The author never settled into creating a cartoon-esque character for the sake of adding colors to an otherwise grim novel. When we have a chance to look through Lisbeth Salander’s surface, we find a soul instead of a plywood board. Here are some of my favorite quotes.
Salander's greatest fear, which was so huge and so black that it was of phobic proportions, was that people would laugh at her feelings. And all of a sudden all her carefully constructed self-confidence seemed to crumble.
What she realized was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst.
And we see where that paradoxical character comes from, when we understand what the author, Steig Larsson, went through as a young man. Lisbeth Salander is a reincarnation of Steig Larsson’s unresolved guilt, anger, and commitment.
Larsson, who died of a heart attack just before the trilogy was published, was disgusted by sexual violence, having witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15. According to a friend of his, the author never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth—just like the young heroine of the trilogy, who is also a rape survivor.
He passed away before the publication of this book, but in order to sublimate that traumatic experience into that book, he must have lived—really, really lived. Thank you.
P.S. If you want to know the plot, this extended trailer for the upcoming film version introduces the overall premise elegantly. Warning: you will be visualizing Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, and Christopher Plummer as the protagonists while reading the book (fortunately, I cannot think of a better casting).
Spoiler alert: If the movie sticks to the book’s storyline, Daniel Craig is going to sleep with more women than his alter ego, James Bond. Someone please kill that guy.