Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Unlike Most, I Didn't Like 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'

It’s been impossible to not take notice of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. The books have been everywhere with their unusual covers wrapped around what promises to be a compelling tale featuring a butt-kicking leading character in the mysterious Lisbeth Salander. My parents read the first book. My sister-in-law bought it too. A local book club designated it as a monthly selection. The books were turned into films. So, several months ago, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

In fact, you might’ve noticed that in my “Currently Reading” tab on the right-hand column of this blog, the image of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had been sitting there for months. And months. Usually it doesn’t take me months to get through a book, unless of course, I’m having trouble getting through it. Such was the case with this book. Damn did it disappoint me. It completely failed to grab me by my shirt collar and demand that I ignore everything else and read it. (The last time a book did this to me was when I re-read The Great Gatsby last year and couldn’t stop reading.)

As I plodded 100 pages into Tattoo, I was so thoroughly bored that I kept wondering what all the fuss was about. Usually, I love books about reporters, being a former newspaper scribe myself, but with this one -- about a disgraced investigative journalist trying to solve a mystery and a computer hacker/investigator who teamed up with him -- I was struggling to keep my eyes open.

When there finally was some action, I was distinctly underwhelmed. The only reason I stuck with it – other than to find out what actually did happen to Harriet Vanger – was because I wanted to see why this series of book is omnipresent in pop culture right now. Now that I’ve gotten to the end – finished it when I was feeling a bit better as I battled with the flu germs which were harassing me – I still don’t understand why this book is such a hit. (I can’t speak for the other two books – The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – since I haven’t read them and doubt that I ever will.)

Then I read this post from Entertainment Weekly’s Henry Goldblatt who wrote a wry commentary about the phenomenon of the series saying:

“I hate The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. To many, that is the equivalent of saying, ‘I kick puppies,’ or ‘I choke babies,’ or ‘American Idol is the best show in the history of television.’ Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s crime trilogy about crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his hacker lover/pal Lisbeth, in my view, is poorly written, ridiculously plotted and (yawn!) incredibly tedious.”

Anyone else out there find the Tattoo book didn’t live up to the hype?

In the meantime, I’ve started a classic which I’ve never read and, for some reason, think it’s now time that I do: Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
I’m also toying with the idea of tackling a whole bunch of classics which I’ve never read this year, or ones which I read in high school and didn’t fully comprehend at the time, but haven’t wholly bought into the idea.

Image credits: Entertainment Weekly and Audio Editions.


amy said...

I have not read any of the Tattoo books yet, and now, based on your review, I won't. I am wary of books like this that take everyone by storm because it reminds me of The Davinci Code. I bought it because EVERYONE was reading it and raving how great it was, and it was the biggest waste of money ever. Reading it felt like eating baby food after being used to a palate of fine french food. I have been thinking that the Dragon books might be along the same lines.

Plus, because you also LOVED the last season of thirtysomething, I know i can trust your judgement.

Before you re-read Gatsby, i would like to lend you Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian, it would be great to read it first.

Cooley Horner said...

Blah. I tried to reread it, but as I never took any business classes in college, the first 100 pages--where some dude on a sailboat is explicating a tedious tale of financial fraud or something--felt like sloughing through a marsh in July. I want to like it, as it is such a part of pop culture, but I have better stuff to read, so I'll just wait til the movie.