Jan 252011
 
Authors: Matt Miller

Sweden seems to be all the rage lately. From everybody’s favorite Swedish furniture store, IKEA, finally making its way to Colorado, to Sweden’s involvement with everyone’s favorite hacker/journalist/internet terrorist/alleged rapist, Julian Assange, to everyone’s favorite posthumous internationally best selling author Stieg Larsson.

What can I say? Sweden is just cool lately. It’s like Haight-Ashbury during the summer of love, or Seattle when grunge was cool for like a week.  

Who else could produce the world’s largest retailer of ready-to-assemble furniture?

Who else could create alleged rape stories involving the most wanted man in the world?

And, only the Swedish could make a book that’s not written by Glen Beck or Sarah Palin that Americans would actually read, and finish.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about: first of all, you must be doing everything you possibly can to stay away from bookstores (even Wal-mart has a book section that’s hard to miss) and second of all, I’m talking about “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

Larsson’s, as I like to call it, “The Girl With The…” series (more commonly referred to as the “Millennium” series) has been at the top of best seller charts in countries around the world since its release in Sweden in 2005. 

Even today, three years after its U.S. release in 2008, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” sits at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for paperback fiction. “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is second, and the final installment, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest,” released in May of 2010, is No. 1 in hardback fiction.

If I can once again quote a YouTube sensation, this time coming from Double Rainbow Guy, “What does this mean?” 
What is it about a dark Swedish crime drama that Americans, and the world, have fallen in love with? It’s a translated, dark, sexual, violent, mystery, starring a journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, and a tattooed, punk, bisexual hacker named Lisbeth Salander.

Intriguing, yes, but does this seem like something that would cause nearly as much buzz as Harry Potter?
At first I was skeptical about jumping on the “Girl With The…” bandwagon, but eventually I gave in and this summer read the first of the series.

I finished the book and felt nothing but depression, like the grey lands of Sweden. 

It was disturbing, predictable and poorly translated. Most of the characters were regrettably underdeveloped and every man in the book was essentially a pig (a fact that I hope isn’t an accurate portrayal of Swedish men). The only thing that held my interest was the fact that the main character was a journalist.

With the recommendation of others I read the second book only to find that it was more of the same, but with the added bonus of a ridiculous plot and a disappointing ending.

Maybe I was expecting more based off of all the hype, or maybe the bandwagon didn’t have room for one more.
What is more interesting than any of the books, however, is their author.

Larsson, who worked as a journalist never achieving major success, died from a heart attack at the age of 50 before the release of his novels. It’s a heartbreaking story where Larsson is just a man trying to achieve his lifelong dream of being a famous journalist ­­–– a rags to riches fairy tale where the protagonist dies after all the hardship and before seeing any of the riches.

What is left in his wake is three internationally bestselling novels (complete with movie adaptations) and a vast fortune being squabbled over by his family.

It’s the American dream, Swedish style.

But there is a lesson to be learned. Americans are attracted to poor prose and brain dead clichés just as much as they are attracted to a mystery. There are vast amounts of better literature out there than the “Girl With The…” series, but very few have an author shrouded in as much real-life intrigue and gossip.

Fans were left with a ghost. There were no book signings, no appearances at movie premiers, no interviews with Oprah, no sex scandals involving Lindsay Lohan; just three phenomenally successful books with adult themes and a middle school reading level.

So, Sweden, keep making a name for yourself; keep making Absolut Vodka, give us more Alfred Nobels and most of all give yourself a pat on the back for getting Americans to read something.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller is a junior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian.

Letters and feedback can be sent to verve@collegian.com.

Out this week

Destroyer – “Kaputt”
Iron and Wine – “Kiss Each Other Clean”

 Posted by at 4:53 pm

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