I just read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire

February 17, 2011 at 12:20 am 2 comments

I wanted to see what all the buzz is about. I wanted to see what readers like – what turns them on for the trilogy to stay at the top of Amazon’s best sellers. 
note: I chose the second book because my daughter said it was better than the first – “a real page turner.”

computer hacking
defection of Russian spy
inner circle government conspiracy
criminal and journalistic investigation
sex trade
brutality towards women (even in Sweden!)
child pornography and abuse
explicit violence and implicit sex
motorcycle gangs and drugs
heroine has unlimited money
heroine is a dominatrix-type who ties men up (there’s a lot of tying up over all – bondage theme)
lots of video game type action that goes on without relief

Wow – no wonder it sells!

What struck me most was that the female protagonist Lisbeth Salamander gets rave reviews from men. I wonder if that’s because she is as little like a woman as possible, while still having all the right parts? Is it a fascination with girl-women? Or are men secretly attracted to a dominatrix who puts them in their place?

I’ve been doing a lot of research for Elektra, exploring the Roman fascination with death in the arena. “Kill! Kill! Kill!” Nothing was apparently too horrible or bloody for them to cheer and enjoy. They, too, liked lots of leather.

That dark part of our psyche is now channeled into shooter games and TV shows like Criminal Minds.  We love the graphic autopsies on CSI. Law and Order Sexual Victims Unit had higher ratings than plain old Law and Order. How many crime and police programs are on every night? We want to hear all the details in sexy murder cases. We really love Nancy Grace if a child is both missing and abused. A movie like Inception gets nominated for an Academy Award when most of the film is permutations of automatic gunfire.

Is it because we can’t all go to war and experience the horrors firsthand that we want to watch others suffer through a protective veil of fiction? What is our fascination with vampires, werewolves and creatures of the night? Why is the human psyche so dark? We know it can be light too.

By the way, I’m not knocking Larsson’s success. I would love to emulate it. He does great character development; his players are real, although they do fall into the white hat and black hat categories. But that’s ok. He’s not literary fiction, but a good read if you like to teeter on the edge of the dark side.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ann Calhoun  |  February 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Didn’t read the book, but did see the 3 films; they went from excellent, to too bloody for no bloody good reason, to blah-blah ‘splaining boring (but with the lead character’s terriffic Mohawk hairdo and S&M leather outfit) But the Salamander character is fascinating as realized on film. Wonder if “men” are drawn to her because she’s both vulnerable and kick ass so they can first wallow in their S&M fantasies watching her get abused, then get (vicarious) absolution for their forbidden fantasies as they watch her “punish” her tormenters? Just sayin’

    • 2. Sandra Gore Nielsen  |  February 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      I saw both the film and read the book. Think the Swedes did a bang up job. I actually liked the film better, which is rare. The casting was GREAT and Sweden is not a big country – obviously has lots of talent. I suppose the population of San Francisco and Seattle could put together a decent film, but I doubt as good as the “Girl” series.


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