SURVIVOR: let the great world spin (colum mccann)*
CHALLENGER: the girl with the dragon tattoo (stieg larsson)

knowing of my iceland fetish, our friend jacob gave me arnaldur indriðason's first inspector erlendur novel back in '08, and i've made it most of the way through his translated stuff since then (get in paperback and on my bookshelf, hypothermia!). modern crime fiction has never interested me, but modern icelandic crime fiction is all kinds of fun (and educational, kids): i learned, for instance, that almost all icelanders go by their first name at all times (and are listed by their first names in the phone book).

that same nordic setting-magic wafts about stieg larsson's megabestselling the girl with the dragon tattoo, though it's blacker: as alex berenson notes in the times, larsson gives the reader a pretty strong impression of sweden, "especially when it comes to the way swedish men treat swedish women." sections open with grim assault statistics (part 2: "Forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man."), and the swedish original and last year's film adaptation** are both titled män som hatar kvinnor, or "men who hate women." that said, larsson offers us other, more endearing tidbits about the swedes: they love open faced sandwiches, for example, and they are always offering each other coffee. if you can afford to wait, they even eventually stop talking about eugenics! larsson was an investigative journalist, and tattoo is also full of glimpses of the swedish publishing industry that both enthrall and terrify me: millennium, his main character's fictional business magazine, has a circulation of 21,000 and a full-time staff of around six (in both europe and britain, permanent publishing staffs are often infinitesimal compared to their american counterparts, death of print notwithstanding). those details leaven what would otherwise be a fairly standard locked room mystery: mikael blomkvist, a recently disgraced editor, is tasked with finding out what happened to a girl who disappeared on an isolated island in norrland in the sixties. the tattooed girl, in turn, is lisbeth salander, a freelance researcher who turns up to fortify blomkvist's research the cyberpunk way (her handle is "wasp," which somehow solidifies the conflation of her and angelina jolie's hackers character in my head). her methods are both sexy and somewhat vague; larsson is all about describing his characters' macs (at times tattoo reads a bit like a steve jobs speech), but the programming he details is...improbable.

...which doesn't bother me, really; i don't turn to mass market reads for the html. i could've done without a few of the extended abusive sex scenes (i get that larsson wanted to pick apart some nasty bits of the swedish character, but wow, awkward over-the-shoulder subway reading); that said, tattoo has an earnestness i wasn't expecting in a summer thriller. good on you, tattoo.

VICTOR: let the great world spin. iceland's still ahead of sweden (those inspector erlendur novels are quite meaty), and ireland's still ahead of...everyone. colum mccann, are you a cyborg?

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 have you read any nordic crime? how was it?

02 what's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sweden?

03 hackers was the pinnacle of angie's pulchritude: yea or nay?

04 with what shall i unseat colum mccann? i just started denis johnson's tree of smoke, but one should have backup.

05 how's your summer reading shaping up thus far?

*previous battle here.

**best sentence in last week's entertainment weekly item on how daniel craig might play blomkvist in an american version of the film: "David Fincher is set to direct to film [sic] and is said to be high on Craig." best david fincher factoid: he directed jermaine stewart's "we don't have to take our clothes off" video, a work i've always preferred to panic room.


LPC said...

1. Smilla's Sense of Snow. Also both Dragons that are in paperback. I like dour heroines, but I too am perplexed by the Gizmodo bent.
2. Summer, subset=crayfish, granite islands, wild berries.
3. Did not see it but am occasionally tempted to try and bite Ms. Jolie.
4. Something written by a female person just for kicks. I liked Home.
5. I have finished everything I owned and would like you to resend me the list you told me that one time that I forgot. Please.

kidchamp said...

that's an exceedingly fair cop, lisa; i've kept up a relationship with female poets, but most of the female novelists i appreciate have been dead for a long time (and i read them years ago, for the most part). aside from home, which i will check out, which titles and authors would you recommend? on what i suggested for you, if you're feeling like some nonfiction, anything by deirdre bair (particularly her nin biography) and diane middlebrook (particularly her anne sexton biography) is good. and i pushed david foster wallace at you, right? but maybe you'd already read him? oh, memory. will keep thinking. 

megan said...

Ok, enticed to respond again. I was entertained by "the girl..." but found the excessively detailed torture scenes off-putting. It felt as though the author was insisting that he adamantly opposed violence against women while lovingly describing it. 
1) yes, the same larsson one 
2) um. Ikea and H&M. and generous social services and lingonberries, but probably b/c of Ikea. 
4) just got that at a library sale, but need to finish revoluntionary road first 
5) Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth is excellent- book club selection for June.

Milkmaid's dumb friend said...

01: Under the Glacier?
02: The Swedish Chef.
03: I’d disagree and elect her smokin’ hot portrayal of Miss Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, or maybe Manchurian Candidate… wait… Angie Jolie?  Okay, gotcha.  You’re fooling no one, by the way.  Jolie, Noomi Rapace and etc, you’re just promoting the Wild Girls Club: Short Hair Edition for obvious reasons.  But I won’t fall victim to The Motive Fallacy.  Hackers is and seems virtually a lock to remain the zenith; the rest of her exulted motion picture bombshellery afflicts me with TylenolPM-grade somnolence.  You are right by facts, and therefore: Yea.
04: It’s starting to look like you might have to go the Total Request Live route and retire unvanquishable juggernauts such as McCann to Thundertome™ Valhalla where maybe they can fight each other later.  The worthy few I’d suit up still don’t seem ready for freddie.
05: Don’t learn firsthand how bad Russell Banks’ Affliction is.  His essay in Unholy Ghost is choice, but I’ll never pick up his fiction again.
0?: Be aware that the movie version of Girl has some of the worst rape I’ve ever seen depicted in a movie, worse than Mysterious Skin, worse than Irreversible, probably worse even than The Accused.  The movie’s emotional logic barely justifies its inclusion and I mean just barely.

kidchamp said...

@megan + MDF re: the ultraviolence: i think i might avoid the movie for those very reasons. on swedish filmgoing, i really have no business seeing anything before let the right one in anyway. 

(unrelated, on vampires: i might or might not have plucked a copy of wuthering bites from the free shit table the other day. also on the horizon: an unauthorized twilight cookbook (featuring such recipes as "edward, i dare you to eat pizza.")

related, on la jolie: i'm on Team Pixie Cut, sure, but the attractive thing about AJ in hackers is actually that her character got with jonny lee miller (and was married to him around that time). i once fixated on him with such gusto that - posterity, forgive me! - i saw plunkett & macleane in the theater.  

LPC said...

I went to Keplers, surely you know Keplers, and bought some DFW just yesterday. Some SHORT DFW. It will be a start. For other women, I mean, it's a a less astringent world. Hard to keep that hard bitten thing going once babies churn our hormones round. And I claim my right to say that and it's worth any flame wars since I can always back down to, maybe it's just me. So, actually, I liked Lahiri. From the olden days, Beet Queen.

Amanda said...

02 White.
04 I am afraid.
05 Just finished last night the one meandering read I complete nearly each summer David James Duncan's The River Why. Next, a promisingly dreary history of children's literature and Byatt's The Children's Book.

kidchamp said...

i'm secretly terrified of a.s. byatt. not her writing - i enjoyed possession - but the woman herself; she seems impossibly stern. speaking of byatt, can anyone comment on babel tower? i seem to recall paul liking it, which makes it something of a giant-killer in my head.

jacob said...

01 a couple of the detective wallander thrillers by henning mankell (sweden). enjoyable, though more for the characterization of the divorced wallender than the plots.

02 saab. hey, i really wanted a saab 900 when i was younger. the ignition - it's in between the driver and passenger!

04 i was really impressed by stoner by john williams (it is neither about pot or "star wars"). it's like the most unpromising setup - the life of a professor of english who teaches at the university of missouri in the early-to-mid 20th century. but damn if it isn't really, really affecting. it was published in the 1960s, but was re-released by NYRB a couple of years ago.

05 i read the latest kingsolver (lacuna) for book club. it kind of hits you over the head with the liberalism, but very readable. also the boat by nam le, which was very good (he was a iowa writers workshop grad, and one of the stories was set just a block from the new house). got stuck about a third of the way through byatt's the children's book - just too much digression into the arts and crafts movement, early feminism, and the edwardian era. up next - oh, maybe the cary grant biography i picked up at the library sale.

baby jo said...

02: hot blonde girls.
03: wait, why are you not still fixated with jonny lee miller?  aunni and i watched hackers over and over and over and over in junior high.  and i'm going downstairs after i hit 'post' and grabbing it so i can watch it right now.
05: just read about a boy.  it was terrible.