Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...

This was a very interesting read for me. One of the suggestions at an agent/editor panel I attended at RWA was that romance authors should take the time to read outside the genre. In particular blockbusters so that we could see what elements seemed to work with the masses.

Then of course they all went on to say that no one can ever predict what this “element” will be. However, this book obviously had the "it" factor.

I think it absolutely lies with the heroine. (Who is a Bombshell heroine by the way – just had to get that in there.)

When I heard all the buzz about Dragon I decided to give it a try. I was a little fascinated how the Swedish voice would translate to English. I also wanted to make sure that if I ran into Alexander Skarsgard I could say… absolutely I’ve read the Larson book. (It’s important to have something in common when meeting your boyfriend for the first time.)

Freakin’ fascinating book. The first 100 pages are filled with so much info dump I can’t believe I stuck through it. Paragraphs and paragraphs of background being told through dialogue that gets interrupted every so often with the lead character saying things like. “And then what happened?”

Fortunately the heroine Lisbeth Salander is seen intermittently through these chunks of data dump and she’s so cool you have to read more.

Without giving anything away I can tell you that story takes place with the hero (a magazine reporter) being convicted of libel and we know he has to spend time in jail. (The goal as they say in my boyfriend’s country.) In the book his sentence happens half way through the story and is so…odd. Nothing happens. We basically skip right over it. It serves no real purpose.

In the movie version they switch this and put his sentence at the end of the story. By doing so it serves a very IMPORTANT purpose as our hero needs a chunk of time to write a book.

(Seriously I was wondering if that might not be a bad idea. Go to yuppie jail and get 3 months of quality time to do nothing but write and work out!)

And that’s when I saw how powerful good editing can be. This is something the editor should have seen in the original manuscript. Now maybe he/she did but Steig didn’t want to “break and fix” – I can sympathize Steig – but by merely shifting the order of a scene from one part to the next you turn a useless plot point into an important plot “element.”

If I were Steig and I saw the movie I would think… wow, that works so much better that way. Which just goes to show you what a new set of eyes can bring to something.

Would I recommend either? I definitely think the book is interesting. I will say that Lisbeth has stuck with me. Absolutely. But she’s a violent girl and has violent things done to her so for me I have to really think about taking on the second book. The movie I think was a brilliant representation of the book and that’s hard to do especially with a book over 400+ pages.

But call me simple, call me sappy, call me predictable - while I was glad I read this book - I was so happy to pick up a nice romance after it.


Eileen said...

The info dump pretty much did me in. I had really been looking forward to reading the book. I had set it aside as kind of a reward for finishing something and I was so disappointed. I was mainly bored, with little bouts of being disgusted by the graphic sexual torture scenes.

Maybe because it got such a big build-up? That happens sometimes. I go in with such high expectations that they can't be met.

Here's the thing that's stuck with me, though. People LOVE those books. I don't know that I've been to a cocktail party/gathering/dinner party thing in months where someone hasn't brought up these books and how much they loved them. The info dump stuff . . . doesn't bother them. Inconsistent pacing . . . not a problem.

So if all these readers love this book and I don't . . . well, who has the problem? I suspect it's me. :-(

Molly O'Keefe said...

I haven't read these books - but I' not going to let that stop me from having an opinion...kidding. Sort of. It's amazing to me what becomes a phenom in the book world. And really totally unpredictable. If you look at the Da Vinci Code - terrible writing, pretty amazing storytelling. I haven't read the Larson books, but it sounds, in part like the same sort of thing.

A concept that is interesting or different enough, surrounded by competent writing and fast moving story....usually told by a man. Hmmmm.

Which only makes me so happy when a book like The Help also does well - it's lovely (just started) or maybe it's doing well with women - to really be a phenom you have to cross gender lines and that's where things get both tricky and simplified....that wasn't supposed to sound as sexist as it did.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Interesting point about men crossing genres. I eat out a lot and sit at the bar with my wine meal and a good book. I get a lot -

What are you reading?

I'll say romance.

Then you get the scowl or the laugh, or the sniff.

I usually follow up with... who do you like.

If they are "readers" the answers are typically (and this is from men and women.)

James Patterson - who I don't read so I can't comment.

Nelson Demille - to which I say. Oh I love his stuff he always has a romance in his story.

Ludlum - Bourne Identity. Yes - I say. Great book and a great romance too.

Men can write romance, call it action, thriller and mystery - and it's acceptable.

This book isn't a romance... it's too weird for that... but there are definitely elements.

And as much as I hate to say it... if pressed I also think what makes this book a phenomena is the graphic sexual torture. It's like he goes so far over the edge (although a lot is told in past tense so it is somewhat easier to read) that I think people are shocked and a little titilated.

The reviews said. "Sexy, Edgy Thriller".

Most of the sex in this book is abusive rape.

Maureen McGowan said...

I still haven't read the book, but I was so blown away by the Lisbeth character in the movie I thought about little else for days after. I can barely remember his story at this point... I do remember he went off to the remote island because he couldn't work because of the scandal, but I thought he'd already served his time then. Really can't remember, though.

Will be interesting to see what Hollywood does to these movies... I expect the story will be tightened up even more, but whether it works will all hinge on that young girl they cast as Lisbeth living up to her Swedish counterpart.

PS. Steph, Alexander will take it as a grand gesture that you've taken an interest in his language and country.

Eileen said...

But there's graphic sexual torture in a lot of creepy serial killer books. What made this one stand out so much? I still haven't got a clue.

Lisbeth is definitely a factor. Almost everyone mentions her, but in the first book, she only shows up a little bit (at least at the beginning). Instead we have what's his face having this weird polite Swedish sex (I think I kind of lost it when his girlfriend walks in on him sleeping with another woman and makes everyone breakfast) and having dinner with someone named Vanger. Unfortunately about half the characters are named Vanger and I could never figure out which one he was with until half-way through the scene.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I am also very curious to see how Lisbeth holds up in "Hollywood."

And Eileen you're so right. I remember reading pages upon pages of Vanger (old guy) going through the family history. It was maddening all the Vangars.

I sort of just decided to stop trying to figure them out and just see where it all went.

And yes - Blomvquist takes up too much of the beginning and even when it's done I have no idea if I like him or not.

But Lisbeth... I think I might have to go back to see what happens to her.... and there it is. How a bestseller is born.

I don't know if I like it... but I have to see what happens next.

Hello Twilight.

Sinead M said...

I saw the movie, and have the book, but have heard it's info dump central, so I may never read it.
But loved the movie, and entirely for the Lizbeth character. That actress is amazing and I suspect given that the director of the Hollywood version is David Fincher, it should be pretty good as well.
Although, they really didn't need a new version. And the same goes for Let The Right One In.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes re: Fincher... and Daniel Craig cast as the reporter gives me hope, too.

I agree about LET THE RIGHT ONE IN not needing a remake and I was super skeptical, but LET ME IN got great buzz at tiff. I saw the trailer and they use some of the exact same shots as the Swedish original. Right now, it's got a 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes... Interesting. I just glanced at them but saw words like masterpiece used. I didn't think it needed to be remade either, but now I want to see it. Kind of wish I'd chosen it as a pick at the festival.

Eileen said...

Can we discuss whether or not the little girl vampire in LTROI actually existed or not? Or if the neglected and bullied little boy created another personality to deal with his world?

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh! Love that, Eileen.

I really want to see the new version of that movie, now.

It's strange, because I remember loving LTROI but barely remember any details about it or exactly what I was thinking at the end. I'll be better prepared to discuss after I see Let Me In which I've pretty much decided to see, remake or not.

I read a few more of the review summaries on Rotten Tomatoes for the US remake, and one guy basically said that if a story is good enough it's interesting to see more than one interpretation of it... I suppose that's a valid viewpoint.

Kimber Chin said...

I walked out of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie.

It was too slow and when I reached the dumbness with the rape, I couldn't take it any more.

I found the heroine's character inconsistent. She does research on people for a living and she couldn't figure out the guardian-type character? You would think she'd be able to read people by then. And why wouldn't she have simply dug up dirt on the guardian and blackmailed him into behaving in the first place?

So yes, I thought that part of the movie was simply thrown in for kicks.

Patrice Kavanaugh said...

I couldn't believe how poorly this book was written..and kept wondering if it read better in the original language. "Sexy thriller?" I thought that meant the reader is gripped from Page 1, can't turn the pages fast enough, can't put it down. I had to force myself to get through it (and yes, have to admit, the graphic torture scenes definitely helped!), but have no desire to stick with the series. Why the (unexplained) popularity? For some, I think it's just because it's the "in" book to read and, for others, it's because the author is dead (this suggestion offered up by a friend of mine.) Or maybe our society wants to read about torture, rape, abuse but can only feel okay about doing so if it's surrounded by bad, boring writing.

Eileen said...

Patricia, I am struggling with just these issues. I keep wondering if the problem is with me and not the book. So many people have told me they were absolutely riveted by this series. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in not getting it.

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