I hate the 'Dragon Tattoo' books. Now I know I'm not alone.

girl-with-dragonI 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. (This is coming from someone who spent seven years working at Fortune magazine and has more than a passing knowledge of the financial arcaneness that dominates the end of the first book.) Today, I realized I’m not alone. A few brave resistance fighters are speaking out, most notably Joan Acocella in this week’s New Yorker, who tries to understand “Why People Love Stieg Larsson novels.”

Her best passage is below:

“However much the book was revised, it should have been revised more. The opening may have been reworked, as Gedin says, but it still features an episode — somebody telling somebody else at length (twelve pages!) about a series of financial crimes peripheral to the main plot — that, by wide consensus, is staggeringly boring. (And, pace Gedin, it is preceded by a substantial description of a flower.) Elsewhere, there are blatant violations of logic and consistency. Loose ends dangle. There are vast dumps of unnecessary detail. When Lisbeth goes to IKEA, we get a list of every single thing she buys. (‘Two Karlanda sofas with sand-colored upholstery, five Poäng armchairs, two round side tables of clear-lacquered birch, a Svansbo coffee table, and several Lack occasional tables,’ and that’s just for the living room.) The jokes aren’t funny. The dialogue could not be worse. The phrasing and the vocabulary are consistently banal. (Here is Lisbeth, about to be raped: ‘Shit, she thought when he ripped off her T-shirt. She realized with terrifying clarity that she was out of her depth.’) I am basing these judgments on the English edition, but, if this text was the product of extensive editing, what must the unedited version have looked like? Maybe somebody will franchise this popular series — hire other writers to produce further volumes. This is not a bad idea. We’re not looking at Tolstoy here. The loss of Larsson’s style would not be a sacrifice.”

It’s a paragraph that is far more beautiful than anything Larsson wrote. (Indeed, his description of Lisbeth’s visit to IKEA is far more tortuous than actually going there.) What do you all think? Have you read the books? Do you think they are worth all that acclaim? Or should I just say that I kick puppies?

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  • Jen

    I found the first one hard to get into, but once I did, I loved these books!!

    • sarah

      I felt the same. I really liked them, although the level of tedium sometimes amused me. For example, the way he describes in detail what everyone eats during a meal and how many times a day they brew coffee. Maybe he just had a food fixation?

      • Stephanie

        OMG, coffee and sandwiches! I definitely laughed about that. Mikael likes to buy a loaf of bread, some cheese at the store. Lisbeth really into Billy’s Pan Pizzas.

    • Rock Golf

      Agree with Sarah. Dear sweet Jesus, do we need the list of condiments on every one of the 30-odd sandwiches the main character eat?

      Then, there’s the matter of the climax of the plot taking place about 125 pages before the end and a longer denouement then the final LOTR movie.

      • Mother Nature

        What he said ^^^.

    • jules

      Me too–the coffee thing was a bit irritating. That said, it took me a week to get past the required exposition…but I read the last 500-or-so pages in 24 hours. Could not put it down.

    • Liz Lemon

      The first one got good after the first 100 pages. I flew through the second one. I’ve been stuck on the 3rd one for about 8 months. I’m half way in, but it’s just so…boring. He rambles on about seemingly pointless things. I might give it another shot soon.

  • lanie

    i feel your sentiment because i feel when i say i hate the twilight series much of the same attitude from other readers. that being said, i have enjoyed the reading so far but will admit it gets lengthy and quite tedious at times. much like when i read war and peace…but, for some reason – once the action kicked in, i enjoyed the read. there were times i skimmed, i admit it – especially during the ikea shopping – but overall so far, so good. but i’m only halfway through the 2nd book.

    i think part of why i like the series is the puzzle of lisbeth – and now i’m wondering what happened to make her this way. it’s like a train wreck in someways, i don’t want to look but for some reason, i cannot look away.

    • Tarc

      I sampled the first fifty pages and it didn’t interest me in the slightest, but it was (literally) a million times better than anything Stephanie Meyers has ever written. It’s genius compared to the first (eye-bleedingly bad) Twilight book.

      • Couchtime With Jill

        If being better than Twilight is now the standard with which we judge novels, I am crying for the literary world.

      • miss k

        @Couchtime With Jill: You took those words straight out of my mouth. Thank you. Twilight is targeted toward an entirely different audience and isn’t even in the same genre people.

      • angelcop74

        i have to agree with miss k on this one. You’re comparing apples, and oranges. Also, Meyers’ books are not poorly written, you just dont like the subject matter. you might as well have said “I hate dogs, but my ford focus is a decent car.”

      • Jason

        miss k, that doesn’t remove the fact that they are horrible books.

      • jules

        THANK YOU, COUCHTIME! Amen, sister.

      • Mika

        @couchtime with Jill. THANK YOU for saying this. The insipid Meyers novels set a writing talent and quality standard so low that an earth worm could look up to it and hurt its neck doing so. Yes, I understand their appeal to the tweener set; what dweeby schoolgirl virgin doesn’t want the hottest boy in school to fall in love with her for no reason whatsoever. But how she managed to sell that dreck to anyone over the age of 18 should really be the next subject of an article in the New Yorker.

      • Erin

        I found, that the Twilight series was well written. It didnt interest me, but it wasnt a literary travesty. And again, its TEEN FICTION, Dragon Tattoo is not, and so there really is no purpose in comparing them.

      • Di

        Anyone who doesn’t think the Twilight series are poorly written has obviously never stood in the middle of Borders and attempted to read them out loud. “Bella tripped awkwardly.” “Bella walked slowly” It’s like every sentence begins the same way. Although you should all try the reading out loud thing. It’s hilarious.

      • Roseli

        Definitely! It’s raelly weird at first but you’ll eventually get use to the yellow filter, which …

    • Kevin

      This is as tedious as parts of War and Peace? You are comparing the two????????????????????????

      • Word

        PALEEZ, she was only comparing the tediousness thus her actions of “skipping” when too much arcane detail is present– relax. I am SURE she doesn’t beleive they are comparable in any other manner

    • michas

      Indeed, the books have numerous flaws; many more than are listed here, yet once I slogged past the tortuous beginning of book one, I couldn’t stop. These books are not for those who seek memorable writing. Rather, its wise to skim over parts where the obsessive reporter takes over (ikea), and ignore some of the contrivances of plot.

      • Carolyn

        Agreed,the 500 pgs could have been edited better. I tried to stay away from the “pick of the month” books but throughly enjoyed this series.

    • Humpheryc

      There is no puzzle.

      No really. The book is so bad that the mystery requires everyone, everysingle person, to be screwed up to make it work.

      The real mystery is why anyone considers this stuff remotely good. Reminds me of Harry Potter in that way.

      • Elbyem

        Thank Heavens – another person who thinks the Harry Potter books are terrible! You can join the club myself and my brother’s girlfriend are forming – we’re the only people I knew, before today, who thought they were unreadable, even to children.

  • srw

    I have read the books and no, they do not deserve all of the acclaim. They are too slow for my taste. The first one went on 100 pages past when the crime was solved. Why?

  • Rebecca

    I’m over 100 pages into the first one and still wondering when it turns into the “fast-paced thriller” its cover lauds it to be.

    • Mimi

      Please stick with it…I almost gave up on the first one. It gets much better after the first 100 pages and Hornet’s Nest and Plays with Fire are much easier to read. They really are worth it.

    • joblo

      I agree w/ Mimi. Book one starts slow and I almost put it down. But then it kicks in and I didn’t want to put them down until I’d finished book 3 (and wish there would’ve been more books).

      • deborah

        They are really worth reading – they’re excellent + can’t be put down. I’ve been ‘lost’ since finishing #3.

  • Jon

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I am so happy to not be the only one that hated Dragon Tattoo. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how anyone could like this book. The dialogue was putrid, the “mystery” was boring and quite predictable, and the character of Lisbeth was 1-dimensional and uncreative. I didn’t find any depth in the book, and found absolutely no reason to continue on with the trilogy.

  • Denise

    I totally agree. I really didn’t care for the 1st book in the series and could not understand why all my friends claimed to love it. I liked the 2nd book much better, but have yet to want to delve into the 3rd.

    • Auth

      “Graceling” and “Fire” by Kristin Cashore (companion nolevs to each other) are some of my favorite YA finds of the last year.

  • Nini

    It’s never a good thing when you have to force yourself to finish a book. There were moments I liked in the first book, such as Vagner [sp?] backstory on being in love with a Jewish girl (or something like that). I also liked Lisbeth getting revenge on her “guardian”. And the last chunk of the book, even if the villain was a bit stereotypical. But you can tell that Larsson was a journalist; too many details. The financial stuff was boring. The only thing I kept thinking was, “Where’s the girl with the dragon tattoo?” I don’t hate the series though.

    • Stephanie

      The Vagner backstory went on far too long, I agree. The first 100-150 pages of Dragon Tattoo are pretty rough, I kept wondering when this mysterious girl with the tattoo was even going to show up. While the first book was uneven, I really enjoyed book 2, and for the most part, the 3rd was a good finish for the series. It got bogged down a bit from too much detail on Sapo and several characters with similar names, which would slow me down.

      I enjoyed the series but I’m genuinely surprised at how popular the series is. They are tedious and overly detailed at times, and with so many references to Swedish culture and landmarks, I would think it would alienate more American readers.

      And it is by far better written than The daVinici Code.

  • ashley

    yeah, i don’t get it (the fierce love) Before my ipod broke, I started listening to the audiobook for the first one and it was MUCH better than reading it. I’m not going to finish, however, or buy the next books. Just. Don’t. Care. Enough.

  • cole

    I havent read the book but I find the first movie to be incredibly overrated.

    • Jen

      I liked the first book, but I also don’t get the hype about the movie.

      • DTO

        I must admit that I’ve not read the books. I enjoyed the first movie, though it was not the end-all, be-all of everything like many of its fans say it is. The second movie got rather silly in its final 30 minutes. I’ve not seen the last movie, but based on reviews I’ve read and the comments of friends who have seen it, it apparently craps out big-time. I just don’t see why people are so up in arms about the incredibly talented David Fincher having a go at the books. Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED is a remake of hong Kong’s INFERNAL AFFAIRS and people seem to be able to appreciate both. Stieg Larson’s a Swedish Dan Brown anyway.

      • Ysabel

        YES! YES YES YES! That is exactly it DTO! All these books are are another DaVinci Code! They hit big, get people who try to pick up a book and read them, become a movie and then will slowly fade away in a year or two just like DaVinci.

      • Lisa London

        For me, seeing literally everybody reading these massive, bright books on the tube for months on end (much like the Da Vinci Code) was a big turn off. Popularity does not always equal quality!

  • matt

    my complaint with the series is how little Lisbeth changed throughout the series and how cold she was towards Bomkvist even at the end of the trilogy

    • S

      You do understand that, without explicitly being confirmed, she is implied to have Asperger’s, right? To quote the always reliable Wikipedia, Asperger’s is “an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction…” It’d be pretty remarkable for her to overcome that.

      • Rock Golf

        Only someone who’s never known a person with Aspergers could diagnose Lizbeth as having Aspergers.

      • James

        My son has Asperger’s. I find it entirely feasible that Lisbeth does as well.

      • S

        Rock Golf – Multiple characters reference that she displays certain characteristics of someone who they would describe as having Asperger’s. I’m not sure why Larsson would do this if he did not believe her to be somewhere on the autism spectrum.

      • Word

        yes, he does delve into a possible Asperger’s diagnosis on the 3rd book. I am only half way though it though. On the series, it is just mindless entertainment, I put these books on a scale of beach reading,but “good” beach reading material

      • Carolyn

        No one goes through abuse and trauma unaffected. Children in particular display this through their behaviour and social interactions. Aspergers maybe, untreated childhood truama definitely.

  • Natalie

    I’m not a fan either. I figured that some of the strained language might be due to translation but they’re oddly detailed and then not detailed and they’re overly long. Agreed on all points.

  • efinerfrock@gmail.com

    Overall, I liked the character of Lisbeth Salander, and I kept reading the series to watch her character development. To me, the series was merely a showcase for her as a unique character. Otherwise, I wasn’t in love with teh books.

  • vj

    the first book is a bit slow, but I like the book due to the strength of Lisbeth’s character than anything else. Other than waiting for her to arrive, the book is slow

    • Zuheri

      I am nutty to the point of cmploete daftness over Catherine Fisher’s INCARCERON and SAPPHIQUE. It’s not that I don’t sympathize with some of the reviewers who wanted less deeply flawed characters and a touch more romance; I also understand why some people find it hard to follow, because it combines SF, fantasy and quasi-historical elements in a strange and often mystical way. But it hits every single one of my bulletproof kinks, and the premise (a sentient prison that’s an entire world unto itself, with a boy on the inside trying to get out and a girl on the outside trying to get in) is brilliant. Also, it has Jared Sapiens, who is my favorite literary boyfriend since Faramir. No lie.

  • welshgirl

    THANK GOODNESS SOMEONE SAID IT! I did like the first one – once you got past all that crap about the finances which bored me to tears. BUT the other two sucked. I was so bored.

  • themusicaddict.blogspot.com

    I think all you guys are crazy, all 3 books were amazing. Blomquist and especially Salander were two amazing characters. When I read these books I could not put them down. I’d like to know what you haters think are good books. Please let me know.

    • DTO

      Try reading some Cormac McCarthy or, if you’re into pulpier material, some Dennis Lehane books. There’s also James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard. I could go on and on.

      • Lisa

        Cormac McCarthy is pure drudgery…I thought the books were better than I expected. I read A LOT of mediocre books last year (Up in the Air) and I thought there were fast paced and intelligent. My only complaint is the third one. That one was only ok. I thought for sure they would introduce her twin at some point.

      • Rick

        Ironically enough, the last book I read that was way too overrated was The Road. Didn’t like the characters or the plot for that one.

      • Leigh

        Lisa, Cormac McCarthy is not drudgery. His writing is spare and beautiful. His books are completely accessible without wasted words.

    • sparkle the gym bag

      to kill a mockingbird….
      the Godfather…
      QBVII
      Ragtime…
      The Sun Also Risess..
      The Grapes of Wrath…

      • saint of E. 69th st

        nice
        I would add
        Winds of War
        The Thorn Birds
        Gone with the Wind
        most Mark Twain
        anything by Kurt Vonnegutt

      • Tarc

        Dear God, I hope no one seriously used The Grapes of Wrath as an example of good literature. I’m guessing that you also like the Wuthering heights and the Bronte sisters drivel. Ugh. You’re also welcome to all the Faulkner in existence. Garbage all.

      • Leigh

        Tarc, so who do you like? Grisham? Dan Brown? Faulkner’s works are genius.

      • Casey

        @Tarc – Yes, do tell us what/who you like or regard as good literature. Faulkner isn’t my favorite, but he is most definitely a good author. It’s why his works are considered classics and studied in schools. Steinbeck and the Brontes are amazing too. Maybe you don’t like them, but they are classics for a reason.

        Also, good books: East of Eden, Anna Karenina. Two fantastic novels.

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