Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My special few weeks with a tattood girl

Her name is Lisbeth Salander and she’s been keeping me company for the last several weeks. At first blush, Lisbeth doesn’t seem the sort of girl I’d spend much time with. Her behavior is a bit odd and her dress even odder.

She’s given to wearing outlandish outfits, mostly black with lots of studs. It all goes rather nicely with the black makeup Lisbeth likes, sort of an eclectic blend of punk and goth. The piercings and tattoos pull the entire look together.

Lisbeth, as many of you already know, is one of the most well-drawn and memorable protagonists to hit the bestseller list in recent years. She’s at the heart of the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster "Millennium" trilogy – “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”.

Despite her look and behavioral issues, Lisbeth has the uncanny ability to find things out and make things happen. And, fortunately, she’s surrounded by an incredible cast of characters that are as interesting and complex as you’ll find in contemporary pop fiction.

The biggest problem when zipping through the trilogy is handling the Swedish names and places – Agneta, Ekström, Hedström and Blomkvist; Appelviken, Mariahallen, Hornsgatan and Saltsjöbaden. Sort of stops you cold, at least for a moment. I quickly found that the alien notes, however, become little more than background noise in the symphony created by Larsson.

Lisbeth, despite being socially inept, uncommunicative and introspective to a fault – all, btw, for good reason – is actually brilliant, with a photographic memory and unique ability to understand and use anything remotely connected to computers.

Over the course of the trilogy, she manages, with a little help from her friends, to solve murders, bring down billionaire thugs and their expansive empires and uncover a nasty little conspiracy that reaches deeply into Säpo (short for Sakerhetspolisen), Sweden’s super-secret intelligence service.

It’s the getting from here to there that makes for fun reading and it’s the richly-realized characters that add meat to the journey. Larsson’s attention to detail becomes all the more apparent if, like me, you've managed to see the films that have already been made of the first two books.

While entertaining – it’s always fun to see characters you’ve grown to love or hate on the big screen – the movies lack the heft and emotional impact found in the novels. How could it be otherwise? A two-hour film just doesn’t have the time to ramble around the landscape and into the lives of characters the way a novelist can do over 600 pages or so.

Unfortunately, Larsson won’t be doing anymore rambling about and Lisbeth has probably hacked into her last computer. The author died shortly after turning in his opus magnum. Apparently, Larsson was working on yet another novel featuring Lisbeth Salander, but it’s at the center of a controversy involving Larsson’s family and his life partner, Eva Gabrielsson.

Meanwhile, Hollywood has decided to jump onto Larsson’s money machine – the novels have sold 20 million copies in 41 countries, making millions (dollars, euros, kronor) – and remake “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”.

Daniel Craig – you know, the chap who’s been playing James Bond recently – has already signed on as Mikael Blomkvist, journalist extraordinaire and Lizbeth’s love/hate interest in the novels. The really big question is who will be playing the “girl”?

No matter, I’m certain we’re talking super blockbuster. Why? Because in the words of Elisson, my Land of Cotton neighbor and blogging pal, this is all “fröcken goot stöff!”

THE GIRL: Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (photo above) plays Lizbeth Salander, the odd, memorable character at the heart of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy.

1 comment:

  1. Me, I can't keep alla them frÿkken names straight. It's worse than reading Dostoevsky.