Saturday, May 22, 2010

Steig Larrson and me

Steig Larrson, the man behind the stories that gave him his name fame glory posthumously led a fascinating life. Larrson could be one of the characters he became famous for writing about in his millennium series. Fighting to right Nazi wrongs in Sweden, he was a well known journalist who founded Expo, an antifascist magazine. Here in the states people don't usually think much about the Nazis but in Europe people give more importance to World War II and the havoc it created in history. In Sweden, its importance is even more meaningful. According to Lev Grossman in Time Magazine, "Fascism is a live issue in Sweden, and fascist groups have been known to attack reporters who investigate them." This makes me wonder if someone stuck him with a needle to produce the heart attack, especially as he was a well known Nazi hunter and Sweden is known to have sheltered Nazis seeking refuge and places to keep their bounty. And who would have known?
Larrson was a known target as the founder of Expo, the antifascist magazine he published. Larrson had built himself quite a reputation as a dragon slayer and his daily life and that of his life-long companion, Eva Gabrielsson, were affected by the backlash. Since Larrson was well known as a journalist and a political activist, most of his writing was reporting. His life was quite stressful because of his political affiliations his widespread writings of unpopular subjects. He was a feminist before men were allowed to be defined as one.
Now another drama ensues from his untimely death:  inheritance issues complicated issues of control surrounding other things in his estate, including his writings. Because Gabrielsson and Larrson never married in spite of being together over thirty years, the Swedish government has given his birth family all rights in spite of the fact that Larrson had very rare contact with them. Not a good situation for the bereaved partner. What deepens the suspense is Eva has a copy of the number 4 book on his computer in her possession. I watched her speak about this in a recorded television interview. Apparently they've always worked together and she edited most of his work.
I first felt compelled to read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo because of the colorful cover plus all I'd heard and read about it and the author. Then after I'd read, I became enthralled with the mysterious powerful heroine. Larrson's gone and passed on but I love his shit!
Larrson wrote fiction to relax and he loved detective stories. I guess it gave him a break from the harsh reality he faced daily. Strangely even the aftermath of his life reminds us how life is often as strange as fiction.
Larrson proves that writers can create anything. Like my friend Anthony Whyte recently said over coffee, you can take a usual situation where people are sitting at a table drinking coffee and all you need to do is put a gun on the table and boom - the center of attention changes drastically and you can do what you want with your characters. All one has to do is let things fall into place and put things where they should be to add a little drama and spice.
Hooked on Lisbeth, the heroine whose intelligence and resourcefulness never fails her, I sped read the entire book submerged in the characters and events. Little Lisbeth, my heroine, is barely 4 feet 9 inches and 94 pounds soaking wet, is an exceptionally skilled computer hacker who survives impossible circumstances. She is lithe, super strong and can kick karate ass as well as Sarah Michelle Geller plus can defeat any enemy intellectually as well. I also love "Kalle fucking Blomkvist" another main character in the trilogy who could be Larrson's alter ego. Together he and Lisbeth could solve any mystery.
The wording is sometimes a bit dry but according to Grossman, that may be due to the translators facility with subtleties but it didn't damage my attention span or interfere with the excitement. This fast paced thriller kept me spellbound like a movie playing in my head.
After this I was compelled to read number two of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, the perfect mix of action and expository to drive its thrust. Now I'm going to read number three next.
It is fine writers like Mr. Larrson who excite me to write. His characters are so finely tuned and defined that we know them as intimately as our closest friends. For those who don't know the series, I wasn't surprised to see Lisbeth buried alive at the end of part two of the trilogy. Lucky for me the first chapter of part three is included at the end of part two. I can't wait. I'll keep you updated!