just trying to keep score.

Designed by Josh. Powered by Tumblr.

» By 12:30 the steady flow of emergency cases (SEE NOTE ABOVE) had eased off. He had made a round to check on the state of his patients (DELETE “THE STATE OF”) and then gone back to the staff bedroom to try to (DELETE “TRY TO”) rest for a while. (I’VE NEVER HEARD OF A “STAFF BEDROOM.” ANY WAY TO MAKE THIS MORE VISUAL?) He was on duty until 6:00, (DELETE COMMA) and seldom got the chance to sleep even if no emergency patients came in. (WHY NOT? WHAT OTHER WORK WOULD KEEP HIM SO BUSY ON THE GRAVEYARD EMERGENCY ROOM SHIFT?) But this time he had fallen asleep almost as soon as he turned out the light. (“BUT THIS TIME” DOESN’T MAKE SENSE HERE. YOU’RE CONTRASTING A SENTENCE ABOUT NEVER HAVING THE CHANCE TO LIE DOWN WITH ANOTHER THAT SEEMS TO SUGGEST THAT LYING DOWN AND TURNING OUT THE LIGHT IS COMMON AND THE ONLY THING DIFFERENT IS HOW FAST HE FELL ASLEEP. PLS. FIX.)

June Casagrande begins “to do the detailed, extensive line-editing [Stieg] Larsson’s work requires.”

December 24, 2010, 10:40am  Comments

wilson continued

“‘I realize that they want me to corrupt you,’ said Consuelo. ‘They believe that by holding my son they will have reduced me to their own moral level and that I will make you my friend, or even my lover, in order to corrupt you for my own purposes … . I need you to understand that I know exactly what they’re doing,’ said Consuelo. ‘They’re making me a whore, in the hope that I will entice you to corrupt yourself, and I hate them for it.’”

I’m not sure whether it’s a personal difference between writers, or whether it can be generalized into a national or north / south difference — but the relationship to women is almost directly opposite the troubled (anti-)misogyny of Stieg Larsson. For Larsson, sex is almost always allied with violence and perversity, with the violence and perversity deplored at the same time it’s graphically explained; and even a positive healthy sexual relationship, straight or gay, treats sex as an animal, physical pleasure. The reality of the covert link between sex and violence is a given, and is something that exists to be uncovered, exposed to the disinfectant of sunlight. In Wilson’s book, on the other hand, pressure gets exerted to pervert a relationship, to provoke or perpetuate a crime — femininity carries the power of instrumental influence, rather than an eggshell fragility that requires constant vigilance and occasional vengeance. Despite (and perhaps because of, really) the certain amount of macho in Wilson’s Seville, and the considerably more rigid gender roles, Wilson’s women (especially as women, even at the same time that we recognize that this book has two major female characters who are literally madonna and whore) carry more power and agency than Larsson’s egalitarian, objectified Swedes.

July 14, 2010, 3:45pm   Comments

larsson continued

"When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it’s about violence against women, and the men who enable it."

Blomkvist says this, to his sister the lawyer, at the start of the denouement. The problem is not so much Larsson’s inability to leave any implication unexplained or any subtext covert. It’s the fact that, no matter how much I think the author believes what his character is saying, he’s not proved it through the writing.

Larsson, as more than enough critics have pointed out, decries violence against women with lingering graphic voyeuristic descriptions of violence against women. Just as troubling, though, are his actual characterizations: violent, withdrawn Salander, difficult to identify with; heroic male characters like the womanizing Blomkvist (the womanizing is OK, you see, because he actually loves women, even if he causes them emotional distress); and a cast composed mainly of weak men or villains who universally combine their ordinary villainy with misogyny and perversion. 

Scratch any man, Larsson seems to imply, and you will find just under the skin a rapist. There are cases — over and over with policemen — where the misogyny is casual and unnecessary, a thoughtless add-on; there are cases too, like with the psychologist Teleborian, where his bad actions are enough, and the (random, tacked-on) discovery of child pornography during his testimony at a trial is both superfluous evil and a distraction, a loud noise that draws attention away from the discussion of his culpability. No routine infraction need be proved, and no professional or financial or social crime need be argued or given due process, when each and every sinner, venial or mortal, is naturally also guilty of rape. It ultimately becomes ridiculous, a version of Godwin’s Law.

May 30, 2010, 10:53am   Comments

larsson continued

“‘I’ve brought some bagels,’ he said, holding up a bag. ‘And some espresso. Since you own a Jura Impressa X7, you should at least learn how to use it.’”

We also learn that Blomkvist uses a MacBook and an Ericsson T10. We’re often told explicitly what characters are wearing, and for a long stretch in the book all the women wear a variation of black and white and dark red. It may be true that detail is the best route to a fleshed-out story, but the incidental detail of brand names and physical description, done this blandly, only aid the word count. And show once again the screaming need for an editor

May 29, 2010, 7:41am   Comments

larsson continued

“‘It all sounds a bit … I don’t know. Improbable?’

'I know. It's the stuff of a spy novel.'”

Multiple characters have exchanges very similar to this throughout the book. As with the ritual recitation of the plot, I expect this is a sign of trouble.

May 28, 2010, 11:10am   Comments

larsson continued

"We can ask why the source might want this information to get out. Let me explain why I gave orders that everything to do with Salander has to cross my desk. I have special knowledge of the subject that no one else at SMP has. The legal department has been informed that I possess this knowledge but cannot discuss it with them. Millennium is going to publish a story that I am contractually bound not to reveal to SMP, despite the fact that I work here. I obtained the information in my capacity as editor in chief of Millennium, and right now I’m caught between two loyalties. Do you see what I mean?”

It’s not so much the questionable professional ethics, although I have a much lower opinion of the Swedish journalistic establishment than I began with. And it’s not even so much the fact that this bolus of exposition is spat out so baldly — the situation explained by one character to another, each move telegraphed, making sure at the end that the interlocutor and reader follow. It’s the fact that we’ve already seen each of these plot beats take place, have been informed in the narration of their significance and of the character registering their significance, and now we get them all summed up for a walk-on character. Whether it’s inattentive writing, or the fact of posthumous publication, or an over-reverent lack of editing is immaterial, really — the effect is the same, and the effect of this kind of constant placemarking and repetition is to encourage a reader to not bother paying close attention. Somebody will stop to catch you up. 

May 27, 2010, 11:55am   Comments

stieg larsson, the girl who kicked the hornet’s nest

“‘I think you’re right,” Erlander said to Blomkvist as they walked back to the farmhouse. ‘An analysis of the blood will probably establish that Salander was shot and buried here, and I’m beginning to expect that we’ll find her fingerprints on the cigarette case. Somehow she managed to survive and dig herself out and —’

'And somehow get back to the farm and swung an axe into Zalachenko's skull,' Blomkvist finished for him. 'She can be a moody bitch.'”

Charitably? It’s just a clumsy translation. But given the level of hype for this book, I’m not sure that charitable is the right way to go, especially not for the page-19 last-week-on-Buffy summation of the previous book in the series. And also, for a book that many people are happy to strain to read as feminist (always mentioning that the first volume was originally titled ‘Men who Hate Women’) despite the undercurrent of glee in its violence — ‘moody bitch’ is laugh-out-loud klutzy. 

Knopf 05.25.10

May 25, 2010, 10:02am   Comments

» "Gabrielsson considers herself a shrewd businessperson. But at the same time, she has an odd, moralistic view of the books, which she seems to regard not as entertainment so much as didactic tracts. Larsson was able to write the books so quickly, she told me, because he felt 'deep frustration and rage that things were sliding ever more downward,' and she added that the worldwide success of the books was in some ways unfortunate, because it seemed to reflect that corruption and abuse of power was a problem everywhere, not just in Sweden."

Charles McGrath, “The Afterlife of Stieg Larsson,” NYTMagazine

May 24, 2010, 9:52am  Comments

» Although there is an obvious analogy to recent American forays into the crime genre, like the HBO series The Wire, this only points to what sets Larsson apart—a particularly Scandinavian optimism that insists it’s never too late to effect real change. Larsson, unlike David Simon, doesn’t see institutional dysfunction as a tragic wheel driven around by some essential human flaw. Larsson the idealist believes that an opposing force, if applied strongly enough, can slow that wheel, if not bring it to a grinding halt.

An interesting essay by Ian MacDougall on Stieg Larsson’s books, but I’m not sure I can entirely agree with his arguments. My problem, and it’s a problem I have with Larsson, is verisimillitude: I’m not sure that it’s right, exactly, to confuse the world Larsson depicts in his books with society as it exists. If we are to take Larsson at his word, then virtually every man in Sweden is a drooling, violent chauvinist under his sweater-vest; even the hero Blomkvist is no saint. MacDougall acknowledges this, saying that “there are so many corrupt men who hate women in every corner of Larsson’s Sweden that to present them all in a concise manner would be impossible,” but he takes that as an indication of a deeper sickness at the heart of the welfare state. I think that MacDougall comes closer to the case here, at the end, where he contrasts Larsson with David Simon. Simon’s gift, and his failing (especially in the later seasons of the series) is the comprehensiveness of his view; he has a belief that if a story is told clearly and completely, it can effect change because of that telling. Larsson, on the other hand, takes an activist’s view. And if Simon comes out of and draws heavily from journalism (however compromised his view is, which is another debate entirely), it seems that the journalist Larsson in his novels works much closer to agitprop.

March 08, 2010, 8:32am  Comments