2. The Girl…

In which Carrie becomes enamored with Swedish linguistics, is perplexed by the death of Steig Larsson, and loves people who kick ass for just causes…

The central role of art is to challenge conventional wisdom and values.  One way works engage in this Socratic enterprise is by asking us to confront–and for a time to be–those whom we do not usually like to meet.  Offensiveness is not all by itself a sign of literary merit; but the offensiveness of a work may be a part of its civic value.” –Martha C. Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, 1997

I wish I had heroine Lisbeth’s brain because then I wouldn’t read names of people and places in works like Anna Karenina and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo without wishing I could become instantly fluent in Russian or Swedish.  And yet I can’t help but feel I’ve just had an international experience, and that I am better equipped–culturally and politically–because of finishing the second half of Dragon Tattoo last night.

Where else would I have learned that someone with a “deep throat” is a person who shares confidential information, or that Swede Astrid Lindgren was a beloved author of children’s books like Pippi Longstocking.  I’ve also learned that if you are a goalbird, you might have it better in Sweden than in American prisons.  This makes me wonder about what happened  in consequence to Larsson’s actions of writing the three thrillers besides them becoming bestesellers.

Let’s pretend it is the 90’s and that I can’t google  for information on the death of Steig Larsson.  All I have to go from is the short bio on the second or third page of the book  It immediately notifies me that he is in the past tense, and therefore will no longer be writing novels, or editing magazines.  I also read that he died shortly after handing in copies of three books: Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  What’s up with that?

I’m not a mystery reader.  This book both made me remember why, and excited interest in the genre simultaneously.  I can’t really stomach bad stuff happening to innocent people, but when an artistic proclamation is made in defence of innocents, I’m inspired.

I turned back to the author biography when I finished the novel around 11:00 last night, and couldn’t help thinking conspiratorially: surely he had been offed by some Swedish gangster.  I think someone told me he died of a heart attack, and I’m sure google has a similar story, but after the thrill of the book, my own imagination was racing for the cause.

And what was the late author doing with these novels?  Besides my becoming a little more aware of a country other than my own–it’s linguistic nuances and cultural practices–I learned something else: that there are men who hate women.

Womenhaters, in some of Larsson’s characters’ words.  No spoilers here for the few people who haven’t read this series, but this was a novel concept to me.  The men in my life often proclaim…with a cheery reticence…to not understand women.  But hate them?  Hardly.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made me grateful for what changes have happened before I came along in this world, the women who changed things for the better of future women, and the strong men who also can’t tolerate injustice regarding the other half of the human family.  And, of course, things are far worser in countries that are “undeveloped,” where bad things happen to all sorts of people.

And so I’m hooked.  I began Played with Fire shortly after fishing the first, but recognized that I would not go to sleep.  So I have it to look forward to this weekend, and whatever new awareness Steig Larsson will cultivate through his art.

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