Why I wish the United States could hire Lisbeth Salander (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) to retaliate against Putin’s Russia

By Dan Burstein*

There’s a big problem with President Obama’s retaliatory steps taken against the regime of Vladimir Putin over Russian hacking into the American electoral process. No, the problem isn’t that the Russians aren’t guilty or don’t deserve it—they are, in my opinion, very guilty and deserve all the steps Obama has taken and much more. The problem is that, in the administration’s commitment to openness, transparency, and decency, the American side telegraphed what we were going to do, laid out the rationale, and then did it. Sure, there will be more behind-the-scenes in the future, but as we come to understand the extent of the cyberhooks the Russians have already put into our economy and public and personal lives, the game of Spy vs. Spy may escalate dramatically.

Washington would be better served hiring the admittedly fictional Lisbeth Salander, the central character of Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Larsson started writing these novels in 2002-3 and died in 2004 just before they were published and became international sensations. But even 15 years ago, he already understood not only the malevolent nature of Russian power versus western democracies, but also the tricks of the trade of cyber-warfare. Continue reading

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First editions of the Larsson trilogy up for auction

For those of you interested in the Stieg Larsson collectibles market, we received the following notice from auctionata.com:

I wanted to share with you Auctionata’s upcoming Rare & Exceptional Book auction which will take place on Thursday, April 28 at 4pm EDT. We have an extraordinary collection of first editions and literature. Highlighting the sale are first edition copies of all three volumes of the Millennium Trilogy.

All three volumes are first edition, first printings of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, each book is in cloth and with endpapers.
This complete set of first edition hard cover books are the perfect addition to any Millennium Trilogy collection. I’d like to invite you to explore our sale: https://auctionata.com/en-us/o/225712/larsson-the-millennium-trilogy-london-2008-9-first-eds

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Guest Post: David Lagercrantz’s Girl in the Spider’s Web “was a soy milk latte to my preferred triple espresso”

We encourage readers of this blog to send us their reviews, thoughts, and comments on the recently published The Girl in the Spider’s Web novel by David Lagercrantz—the long awaited “fourth book” following on the great success of Stieg Larsson’s original trilogy. Spider’s Web is obviously controversial. Larsson died a decade ago and Lagercrantz was authorized by Larsson’s father and brother, who control the Larsson estate, as well as the Swedish publisher, to continue the saga of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist with a novel of his own invention. Below guest blogger Jill Yesko comments on David Lagercrantz’s Girl in the Spider’s Web:

I really wanted to like Spider’s Web. And it wasn’t a bad book, particularly if you weren’t a die hard fan of the trilogy. But I’m really attached to Lisbeth. I found Langercrantz’s version was a soy milk latte to my preferred triple espresso.

I think he can do better. And perhaps reader’s reviews will encourage him to do so in the next novel.

Though Stieg Larsson, creator of the Millennium Trilogy, has been gone nearly a decade, when I heard a new novel–one written by fellow Swede–was in the works, I got a little excited.

And who could blame me? Larsson created one of the most compelling, hard ass, take no prisoners, computer hacking genius heroines of early 21st century fiction.

When Larsson died the world thought we’d lost Lisbeth as well. Now we have The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the long-anticipated follow up to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Billed as “A Lisbeth Salander Novel,” Spider’s Web is to the Millennium Trilogy what hamburger is to Kobe Beef. Both are qualify as red meat, but only one is something you want to sink your teeth into.

I really wanted to like Spider’s Web. So much so that I drove across town to the library to take out the large type edition (yeah, I didn’t want the book so badly that I was willing to buy it. Still).

The problem is that The Girl in the Spider’s Web is boring. Not so boring that I wanted to put it down halfway. But enough that I don’t remember much of the plot and don’t care to visit Wikipedia to refresh my memory.

The issue is that author David Lagercranz has tried too hard to please readers hungry for what Larsson envisioned as a ten book series. Instead of picking and choosing characters to re-introduce to readers after a 10 year hiatus, he crams them all in like a Thanksgiving dinner groaning board. Too many characters with too little to do in one novel. Big mistake.

Besides, we really don’t care about lesser players like Detective Sonja Modig and heiress Harriet Vanger. Lagercranz doesn’t give his second stringers much to do other than to name check them to make readers feel like they are still in play.

The only characters readers really care about are Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. And the only thing we want to know is when they are going to have sex and what it’s like.

Instead we get a watered down plot, and worse, a watered down Lisbeth Salander. Yeah, there’s an angsty Blomkvist who worries that he’s obsolete (welcome to middle age buddy).

What happened to the Lisbeth who hog tied then tattooed “I am a rapist and a sadistic pig” on her attackers torso then shoved a dildo up his ass?

Maybe Lagercranz was under pressure to present a more grown up Lisbeth or one that he thought would appeal to a more broad audience. Whatever he’s done, it’s a tremendous disservice to the legions of Lisbeth fans who want…no…demand their heroine to take control of the novel. At the very least he could have had her ride her motorcycle or punch someone other than her boxing partner.

Aside from some international computer hacking hijinx involving the NSA and the Swedish Police, there isn’t a lot going on in Spider’s Web. You get a little sucked in then the book fizzles out. There is a cliffhinger ending but it’s so timid that I wouldn’t even issue a spoiler alert.

I’ll give David Lagercrantz one more chance to breathe life back into Lisbeth Salander. Let’s hope he won’t fuck it up the second time.

Author Cover PhotoJill Yesko is the author of Murder in the Dog Park and Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery. She is directing and producing the documentary Tainted Blood: The Untold Story of the 1984 Olympic Blood Doping Scandal.

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Driving Ms. Elizabeth: Will the Tattooed Girl arrive in her Ducati…or a sputtering Vespa?

The drumbeat of publicity for the August release of the fourth Stieg Larsson book that is really not the fourth Stieg Larsen book has become louder. Leading the parade is David Lagencrantz, the publisher’s chosen heir to Stieg Larsson’s authorial chair.

In a recent interview with EW, Lagencrantz said he had dug deeply into the soul of our heroine. He struck a Bloomkvist-like pose, trying on the mantle of that character’s own thoughts about Elizabeth Salander: “She still is a riddle…but I’m just crazy about her.”

As for the “fourth book” controversy, Norstedt, its publisher, neatly sidesteps that conundrum by rather slyly promoting the book as “the fourth installment.”

One person who is absolutely, positively guaranteed not to join in the publicity-generated huzzahs is, of course, the clearly still bitter Eva Gabrielsson, Stieg’s long-time companion, who saw both his legacy and his royalties pulled out from under her by the Swedish courts (because they were not legally married). Says she: “This is not about continuing the life of a hero, it’s about a publishing house that needs money, [and] a writer who doesn’t have anything to write so he copies someone else.” Continue reading

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Charles Wright, America’s New Poet Laureate, has been reading “the Scandinavians”

The newly named Poet Laureate of the United States, Charles Wright, has said
in interviews that since retiring from his professorship at the University
of Virginia, he has more time to indulge his interest in reading things he
had tried to keep out of his mind while focusing on his poetry. According to
the New York Times, Wright “plans to keep gobbling up fiction, which he said
he had mostly denied himself before his retirement in 2010, to keep his mind
clear for poetry. Crime fiction is a particular obsession.”

And what does he like in crime fiction? The recent Scandinavian noir
writers, which no doubt includes the late Stieg Larsson. “I’ve read all the
current stuff, from Elmore Leonard to the Scandinavians,” he said. “I’ve
picked up every narrative I could get my hands on, to make up for 50 years
of nonnarrative.”

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Julie O’Connor’s photographs of Stockholm now on exhibit

The photographer Julie O’Connor, whose “Tattooed Girl Tour” slideshow of images of Stockholm is accessible to the right, was recently in The Weston Forum:1_bellmansgatan1 panorama SMALL

Westonite Julie O’Connor is one of a small group of photographers whose work has been selected for the Images 2014 show, sponsored by the Fairfield Museum and History Center. The show’s gala opening is Saturday, May 10.

Ms. O’Connor’s photo, entitled “Bellmansgatan 1,” is a panoramic architectural image of a street scene in Stockholm, Sweden. The title refers to the apartment building at that address, where the fictional journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, was said to live in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and other books in the Millennium trilogy written by Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson.

More of Ms. O’Connor’s photographs of Stockholm, as well as her other work, including the images for her book Doors of Weston: 300 Years of Passageways in a Connecticut Town may be seen on her website, julieoconnor.com.

A three-person jury selected about 50 photographs for exhibition in the Images 2014 show, which will be on view at the Fairfield Museum from May 10 to June 22.

The Images 2014 gala is Saturday, May 10, from 7 to 11 p.m. For more information, call 203-259-1598.

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Lisbeth and Larsson Live On

Several new books and other cultural works call to mind the legacy of Stieg
Larsson as an author and the unforgettable power of his character, Lisbeth Salander.

  • A Darker Shade of Sweden, edited by our colleague John-Henri Holmberg (co-author of The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of Our Time), introduces English language readers to 20 Swedish crime writers. Published by Mysterious Press, the book includes stories never before published in English from Stieg Larsson as well as his partner of three decades, Eva Gabrielsson.
  • In her current bestseller, The Goldfinch, author Donna Tartt gives an intriguing and slightly backhanded tribute to Larsson when one of the characters discusses his reaction to Dostoevsky’s classic, The Idiot. Boris, an important character in this gripping, neo-Dickensian tale, says that The Idiot so disturbed him he never wanted to read fiction again. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the only novel he mentions by name that he has read since his last experience with Dostoevsky.
  • Jimmy Carter’s just published book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, takes up many of the themes Stieg Larsson wrote about in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy – the many ways women are abused and oppressed in the modern world, even in the most advanced and progressive-minded countries. Introducing the book, the publisher (Simon & Schuster) notes: “The world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls is the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights: This is President Jimmy Carter’s call to action. President Carter was encouraged to write this book by a wide coalition of leaders of all faiths. His urgent report covers a system of discrimination that extends to every nation. Women are deprived of equal opportunity in wealthier nations and “owned” by men in others, forced to suffer servitude, child marriage, and genital cutting. The most vulnerable, along with their children, are trapped in war and violence.”
  • Larsson fans continue to wonder – and worry – about the forthcoming “fourth” novel in the Larsson series. Stieg Larsson himself died shortly after completing his trilogy and before the first publication of the books. As we discussed in our last post, Larsson’s Swedish publisher, Norstedts, has commissioned a Swedish writer, David Lagercrantz, to write an officially sanctioned fourth novel that is reportedly to be Lagercrantz’s own invention, rather than a completion if the mysterious “fourth” Larsson novel that was much discussed after his death. According to media reports: “Lagercrantz himself commented endearingly to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet: “Help, what can you say, I hope this will work out. It is amazing and I have already started writing, but it is a huge responsibility.” But he also stressed that his contribution would not build on or adapt the 200 pages or so of a fourth volume that Larsson had begun writing before his death: “This is not that, this is something new. I am creating my own intrigue, but he has left strings of ideas for me to follow. I will carry on his legacy, I will keep his characters, but I also have to give something of my own. The characters will continue but also evolve.” And while Lagercrantz will take on the characters of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, the new book will be “a standalone part of the Millennium series.”
  • The spirit of Lisbeth Salander continues to show up in literature and culture in many ways. Our guest blogger Jill Yesko, for example, has just published a novella, Murder in the Dog Park, whose protagonist is inspired by Lisbeth and Yesko’s deep interest in the Larsson series.
  • Meanwhile, if you are looking to Nordic culture for a European update to The West Wing or for a more optimistic and more female point of view on politics than House of Cards, you should check out Borgen, a Danish television series dealing with the life and times of a fictional first female prime minister of Denmark. (The actual first female prime minister of Denmark was elected shortly after the TV series began airing.) We think Stieg Larsson would have liked this.


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