Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Exact Point At Which I Stopped Reading Stieg Larsson

I'm not sure how I ended up in the book publishing business. I clearly have no understanding of the market or what the public wants and I am always amazed by the books which end up as best sellers. For example I dont get why adults read (and apparently enjoy) the Harry Potter series, Twilight baffles me, James Patterson's recent fictions (his first few books are good) read like they were written for and by eejits and the breakthrough success of Stieg Larsson is peculiar. I found the first Millennium novel to be a decent overly didactic novel in need of a brutal editor. If he had lost maybe thirty percent of the financial shenanigans, cut some of the explicit torture and all of the last fifty pages Dragon Tattoo could have been great. Stieg Larsson's novel The Girl Who Played With Fire has many of the same problems but the author's tics are worse. I stopped reading the novel at the point in the text where Larsson mentioned "ignorant American tourists." The book had been getting on my nerves for some time before this but finally I could take the patronising tone no longer. Americans in Larsson's world are always fat and stupid, Australians live on sheep stations, businessman are all secret Nazis, people of color are all simple but good hearted folk. The "stupid American tourist" line was almost the final straw. I did read one more paragraph but unfortunately that paragraph contained a line about an innocent man who was thrown off a British Airways flight for "looking vaguely Arabic." Sigh.
Larsson's humorless political correctness reminds me of a special meeting of the students union circa 1988 when an argument breaks out over what to name the new disability access room, either Nelson Mandela Hall or The Rosa Luxemburg Centre. Who likes this kind of stuff? All those ladies reading Larsson on their holidays can't all be contributing editors to The Daily Kos, can they? If a book is really well written I can forgive and ignore a writer's prejudices: Evelyn Waugh was a squalid individual who wrote like a dream. Philip Larkin was even creepier and even better. But if a writer isn't quite so good then his or her prejudices rapidly become tiresome. And prejudice from the left is just as boring as prejudice from the right. Call me a cock eyed optimist but I feel that the public isn't stupid and they will eventually see this. I mean you just have to look at what's happened to Stieg Larsson's recent sales . . . oh, er, wait.