The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

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Beauprewriter
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 1:41 pm Post

I finished the second book last night and immediately began reading the third, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I really really love these books. I put off reading them, just because I figured they couldn't be that good, that it was all hype. It isn't. I'm so sad Larsson can't keep writing. I'm a huge fan. :D

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Hugh
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:55 pm Post

Dunno. I'm not such a huge fan.

Larrson's got something. I believe he was the most popular fiction writer in the world last year. I read all three books because I enjoy thrillers and because I wanted to try to work out how he did it.

I still don't really know the answer. Certain things are good and clever: Salander is an interesting if sometimes incredible creation, Larsson's take on the dark underbelly of Sweden is different and detailed. It's terrific that he had a clear political point of view: left-wing thriller writers are rare and he was able thereby to revive an entire category of villain. I enjoyed his portrayals of magazine and newspaper journalism, if they are at times surprisingly unrealistic. And there's nothing like a good true story surrounding a dead creator to boost sales.

But his prose is unimpressive (maybe that's the translation) and the plotting though complex too often drags and loses logical drive. There are strange errors of editing. Why in Book 1, for example, do we get detailed discussions of MacBook specs and an entire IKEA shopping list?

After reading the trilogy - which I didn't un-enjoy - I was almost forced to the conclusion that Larsson is deemed so strong because much of his competition currently is often not.
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
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Jaysen
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:10 pm Post

Hugh wrote:But his prose is unimpressive (maybe that's the translation) and the plotting though complex too often drags and loses logical drive. There are strange errors of editing. Why in Book 1, for example, do we get detailed discussions of MacBook specs and an entire IKEA shopping list?

Two points. Well one point and one question. Actually one rambling whine and a question. Not really question, more one rambling whine and one "WTF! Are you trying to undermine my entire view of literature!?"

I am barely literate in one language, so I have to take all foreign works with a feeling of suspicion. Is this really an accurate translation? Did the editor/translator make subtle changes to the work to twist the meaning a little? Blah blah blah.

I've recently finished reading a translation of Hunchback of Notre Dam will be starting Moby Dick (for its now twice a decade read). These two and several other novels "older" novels all suffer the same malady of gratuitous information smack in the middle of an otherwise thrilling story. I always attributed this to the readers/authors desire to "know something extra" (Meville spends how many words describing whales?). Are you suggesting that this is "bad writing"?
Jaysen

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AmberV
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:45 pm Post

My biggest problem with the series, and I'll stay vague to avoid any spoilers, was the editing. Particularly in the second and even more so in the third book, there were several sub-plots that really could have been done entirely without as they ended up producing a zero-sum; they had absolutely no impact on the primary plots once resolved. It was enough to make me wonder if perhaps the author never got a chance to finish working on them. The last book kind of had the feel of Titus Alone, in the Gormenghast trilogy, where it was plainly evident that it had been pieced together posthumously from notes and fragments.

I have no issue with informative tangents, however. I rather enjoyed that aspect, but then, I am a sucker for Neal Stephenson.
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:33 pm Post

I think modern readers are far less tolerant of information tangents than readers were back in those golden days when people actually read. Now, too many of us squeeze reading into small niches of busy days filled with email and Facebook and Twitter and cable TV and Netflix and multitasking and soccer-momming and fidgeting in unemployment lines (and monitoring Lit&Lat RSS feeds).

Back in olden times (which for my purposes I'll define as roughly prior to the mid 1960s), when you laid down the tools of your trade for the day, you pretty much just read. Even up until the 1980s, you pretty much just read. And then Gulf & Western bought Simon & Schuster and Prentice-Hall, and everybody bought everybody else until only six remained standing, and hands-on editors became unnecessary expenses, and everyone got freelanced and offshored, and readers got too busy to read, and books began to be acquired because they were like similar books and thus could be sold similarly, and they mostly wouldn't need editing because no one had time for that.

And so books began to be admired not because they were dense and rich and time-absorbing, but because they were quick reads, and written loud enough to cut through the background din on the commuter train to the cube farm.

At least, that's how it's all seen from the futzy old fuddy-duddy end of the publishing world.

Haven't read the Stieg Larsson books, but they inspired me to re-read Balzac's A Harlot High and Low, Lost Illusions, and Cousin Bette. True classics, and a cost leader--150 Balzacs downloaded to my Kindle for .95.

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Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:40 pm Post

Jaysen wrote:
I've recently finished reading a translation of Hunchback of Notre Dam will be starting Moby Dick (for its now twice a decade read). These two and several other novels "older" novels all suffer the same malady of gratuitous information smack in the middle of an otherwise thrilling story. I always attributed this to the readers/authors desire to "know something extra" (Meville spends how many words describing whales?). Are you suggesting that this is "bad writing"?


Not me!

AmberV wrote:I have no issue with informative tangents, however. I rather enjoyed that aspect, but then, I am a sucker for Neal Stephenson.


I've no issue with informative tangents/gratuitous information either. But first, they need to be interesting, and second, they need to be part of what you buy the novelist's work for - as you do with Neal S and Herman M. Didn't buy Larsson for MacBook specs.

AmberV wrote:Particularly in the second and even more so in the third book, there were several sub-plots that really could have been done entirely without as they ended up producing a zero-sum; they had absolutely no impact on the primary plots once resolved. It was enough to make me wonder if perhaps the author never got a chance to finish working on them. The last book kind of had the feel of Titus Alone, in the Gormenghast trilogy, where it was plainly evident that it had been pieced together posthumously from notes and fragments.


Hmm, I think I agree. I also think Larsson was building towards a fourth and possibly a fifth book, and the breadcrumb trails for them were not edited out.

H
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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robertdguthrie
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:00 pm Post

The translation definitely leaves something to be desired. I'm reading book one, and there's just one word I've run across that tells me the translator does not speak English as a first language: 'forsooth'... as in :

The benefits of living in the countryside, forsooth. There was nowhere to plug in the broadband cable. He did not even have a telephone jack to connect an old dial-up modem.


After a disappointing read in the horror/fantasy genre ("Night Watch"), where other out-moded slang was used, I have to wonder if it's worth it to read translations of popular fiction. Surely there are native English speaking editors that give such books the once-over before publishing. Or am I being naive about how much publishing houses care about quality?
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Hugh
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:13 pm Post

robertdguthrie wrote:The translation definitely leaves something to be desired. I'm reading book one, and there's just one word I've run across that tells me the translator does not speak English as a first language: 'forsooth'... as in :

The benefits of living in the countryside, forsooth. There was nowhere to plug in the broadband cable. He did not even have a telephone jack to connect an old dial-up modem.




Well, Robert, sorry to disappoint but I'm pretty certain that the translator is a native English speaker. I heard him interviewed on the radio the other day.
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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robertdguthrie
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:04 pm Post

Seriously? I guess maybe it's the latest slang word used by the damned kids these days, and verily I am out of touch. Alack and alas!
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:09 pm Post

I don't know, in high-school me and my pals frequently would shout out "forsooth!" at teachers, but we were decidedly odd---and all in the journalism class by our own free will (which says much concerning our mental stability).
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robertdguthrie
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:26 pm Post

Thou makest a fine pointe my dear fellowe, but in thy youth did ye ever say such in all seriousness and gravity? And what of thy scholarly writing that was not of matters historical or forsooth, literary?
Last edited by robertdguthrie on Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Hugh
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Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:30 pm Post

:D
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:47 am Post

I "did" the Millennium over Xmas too, and was shocked to read it in just three days, a speed which was partly the result of its page-turning style, but also due to the ease (newly discovered, for me) of reading ebooks. I just sat back in my very comfy computer chair and kept clicking and clicking!

I enjoyed it overall, more so the first volume, although at times I found the writing hovering not too far above Dan Brown's style, which is to say, workmanlike but uninspired. But I agree that Salander was a brilliant creation.

I was looking to see if Larsson had used Scrivener, but didn't find any evidence.There were a lot of plot-lines to keep tabs on, making it a project ideally suited to Scrivener.

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Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:58 pm Post

I enjoyed this article in the Observer about D. Brown and S. Larsson:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/12/genre-versus-literary-fiction-edward-docx/print

Badly translated and edited as Larsson is, he's better than Dan Brown IMHO. But I'd rather read something by Reg Hill any day.

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Some quiet night when you've shirked your work because of fatigue or distraction, open a window of your house and listen. Do you hear that distant clicking sound? That's one of your competitors, pecking away at his keyboard in Paris or London or Erie, PA

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Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:46 pm Post

Docx' argument is interesting and amusing, but I can't buy all the way into it. To do so, I'd have to consign writers like le Carré and P D James and (perhaps) Erdrich to the genre pile, and admire everything by Franzen and Amis and Roth (some, certainly; all, nope).

And Reg Hill? D&P are near the top of my list.

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