books


Random quote of the day:

“It is the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are ‘important;’ the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial.’ And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room.”

—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Okay, this book. Every negative thing you’ve heard about it is true. Larsson is a bad fiction writer, fond of long infodumps and a lot of telling-not-showing, head hopping, and muddy character motivations. Especially for women, who are always falling in-love with Blomquist and jumping into bed with him for no apparent reason. Also, Larsson, a crusading journalist who bucked the system, has created a male fantasy role for himself—Michael Blomquist, the crusading journalist who’s always bucking the system and, additionally, beds a lot of women.

And there are a number of rapey salacious bits thrown in for no good reason. Oh yeah, some of them are supposed to be character motivation, but I thought they were lingered on a bit too lovingly sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I like noir fiction but this was just, as I said, lovingly salacious. Which is curious for a book which claims to be a feminist triumph. The original Swedish title of the book translates as “Men Who Hate Women.” I don’t believe Mr. Larsson hated women, and Michael Blomquist doesn’t hate women, but I don’t think Larsson’s feminist cred extends quite as far as he would have us believe.

And Lizbeth Salander. Yes, she is a unique female character, a powerhouse. However, much of her role in this book is revenge fantasy. This is very much Michael Blomquist’s book.

BUT, I wound up finishing the book instead of throwing it across the room because…the central mystery of Harriet Vanger at the heart of the book is very good. Very well constructed and laid out well. I believed in the carefully-crafted investigation as it unfolded and it kept me turning the pages. But it took a bit for me to get to that point. I bounced hard off this book twice before because I couldn’t get past the opening infodumps. But a person whose taste I trusted told me to keep going so I did.

However, I don’t think I’ll go on to the other books in the series. The blurbs I’ve read, the sample chapter, show me that it will be more of the same and I really don’t want to deal with anymore Larssonland.

It’s taken me a long time to realize there are people who love to read but who don’t give a damn about how a thing is written. Yeah, I know, should have been obvious with one browse of bestseller books—but, somehow, the concrete realization of this fact  managed to elude me. Of course, not all bestsellers are badly written. Many are quite well written, in fact. But now and then someone comes along like Stieg Larsson or Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer or E. L. James who are really atrocious at narrative but still manage to concoct a compelling story and capture that certain something in the zeitgeist that has people flocking to them.

Full disclosure: I am again attempting to read Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and this time it seems to be sticking, but I have bounced off Larsson and these other writers. I probably won’t try the others again as there seem to be diminishing returns and too many other things I’d rather read. The thing is, as I have been struggling with my own writing, I have also been struggling with my ability to read fiction. I keep bouncing off of books, even well-written ones, even those by old favorites, and I’ve been longing to become immersed in something. I’m far enough past Larsson’s tell-not-show and long infodump opening that the mystery of Tattoo has had a chance to hook me, so I may actually finish this book. No guarantees, though. It’s been the first part of December since I finished anything, even rereads of old favorites. (The last was Deborah Harkness’s Times Convert, the follow-on book to her All Souls Trilogy. It was meh, but I’d loved the other books and wanted to catch up on the characters.)

My writing and my fiction reading have always been connected. One feeds the other, even if what I’m reading has nothing to do with what I’m writing. Being immersed in someone else’s world for a time helps stimulate the mystic place in my brain where my own singing starts. I can’t help thinking that if I cure one symptom it might help cure the other.

I’m still writing almost every day, and it’s still mostly like pulling teeth, but I do plant butt in chair. Most days it isn’t much more than 500 or so words. Some days I’m blessed by 1000 or so. Today, all I managed was 250. But the important part is sitting my butt in the chair, opening the file, and doing something.

So, readers who don’t care how a thing is written. It’s all good. People should like what they like regardless of nerds like me who care about those things. I once had a friend who absolutely refused to read when he was younger, even though it caused him problems in school. He was a bright, imaginative, funny fellow but he just hated reading. Then one day when he was in high school a perceptive teacher shoved a science fiction book into his hands. He was intrigued by the premise and started to read. From that moment on, he became a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy. He always had a book in his hands. He did confess to me, though, that he often skipped the descriptive parts and dialogue tags and read just the dialogue so he could get through the story faster.

And therein hangs a tale: there are many people like him. Not only do they not care how a thing is written, they want to get through the story as fast as possible to find out what happens. No savoring. They don’t really care about “the art of story,” that immersive feel of a book. It’s a mystery to me why they read at all—but again, that’s not for me to decide. People should be allowed to like what they like and how they like it, and no one—well-meaning nerd, politicizing authors, crusading literati, anyone—has the right to tell them otherwise.

There are no shoulds in reading. Only what gets you through the night. And the book.

 

 

Random quote of the day:

“You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.”

—Maurice Sendak, interview, Boston Globe, Jan. 4, 1987

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The closest you will ever come in this life to an orderly universe is a good library.”

—Ashleigh Brilliant, Pot-Shots

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Ah yes, the head is full of books. The hard part is to force them down through the bloodstream and out through the fingers.”

—Edward Abbey, Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Making a book is a craft, like making a clock; it needs more than native wit to be an author.”

—Jean de La Bruyère, Characters

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.”

—Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dartmouth College Commencement, June 14, 1953

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.”

—David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The lessons taught in great books are misleading. The commerce in life is rarely so simple and never so just.”

—Anita Brookner, Novelists in Interview (ed. John Haffenden)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Next Page »