Monday, August 16, 2010

Following the sublime...


... with the silly.

A design/criticism blog called "Better Book Titles".... The theme is obvious.

10 comments:

Generic said...

The teeniest of implications here that you like the book less now, or are backtracking, just because it's so massively popular? Or reflexively doubt the sincerity of said popularity the more massive it becomes?

Tulkinghorn said...

I liked the books enough to make an effort to get them early on, but admit that I'm baffled at the overwhelming popularity of the series, which has almost everything going against it: it's translated, the plots are very complicated, there are no characters most people can identify with, it's not a romance, it has no new-age or self-help hook, it's not about Arab terrorists, the male protagonist is a mostly passive guy (certainly no Jack Reacher)....

I don't dislike something merely because it's popular -- I rejoiced at the popularity of the Harry Potter books and understand without sharing the Twilight frenzy -- but this phenomenon seems curiously rootless. Although the progeny of Harry Potter and Twilight have been numerous, I don't see this one going anywhere.

It's a pet rock or a Nehru jacket, attracting attention because of its celebrity rather than because of its quality.

And thus, irritating the way all celebrity phenomena are.

Generic said...

So you dispute the very premise of my supposedly brilliant essay -- that Salander is a great, iconic character. Because the key to this is obviously the protective feelings and strong rooting interest she stirs up in quite a few people. You seem to be slipping back into a falacy I thought we'd dealt with a couple of weeks ago. "I don't get this so it must be bogus."

Tulkinghorn said...

Not at all: Salander is a great iconic character whom I cannot imagine gaining the kind of following she has.

(By the way, the significant delay in releasing the books here after the publication of the English translations -- as well as the complete lack of interest in Hollywood -- as well as the fact that the Swedish movies were not intended as theatrical releases-- indicates that my surprise is not unique.)

Look at it this way: when the Beatles made popular music of the highest quality, it was not hard to understand their enormous popularity...

If suddenly Elliott Carter leapt to the top of the charts, it would be permissable to wonder whether Carter-mania was the result of a sudden embrace of atonal music or some sort of perfect storm of celebrity and publicity.

Millions of people poring over the genealogical charts of the Vanger family? I have to wonder.

It reminds me of popularity of "The Sopranos" -- which was never, of course, as popular as, say, "Jersey Shore". The series was complex, dark, and violent -- but was a phenomenon because of the characters.

But Larsson's books are long books and are being read by more people than watched "The Sopranos"...

It is not snobbery to wonder if something else is going on.

Generic said...

That's what I'm saying, son. And the "something else" is...?

Tulkinghorn said...

Celebrity.... mass movements of culture arising out of nowhere... mullets and macrame, disco and leisure suits. Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton.

As indicated by the greater emphasis on casting than on, you know, the books. (and the almost total lack of interest in the Swedish films)

If I'm wrong, of course, complex and dark literary crime novels from Europe will become a significant part of our culture.

I'm waiting.

Generic said...

Your resistance to the simple idea that what people are responding to is this character has gotten acute enough to seem downright odd. You're looking right at it and pretending not to see it.

Tulkinghorn said...

28 million "people"? Bigger than Lady Gaga?

Steig Larsson's three books have sold more Kindle copies than James Patterson and Stephanie Meyer....

Your lack of curiosity about this is getting acute enough to seem downright odd.

Anytime somebody says that something is 'simple' -- like the completely unexpected emergence of a cultural figure with no antecedents -- I reach for my gun.

Generic said...

No, sorry. The appeal of the character is, if not simple certainly primal -- pre-cultural, omni-cultural whatever you want. Universal. That's why she invites comparison with Bond, Holmes and company.

Generic said...

I think I've got it: Lots of people care deeply about this character but lack the intellectual resources or even the vocabulary to say why. Arguing about casting is the only way they have available of expressing how they feel; picking an actress their only way of indicating how they see the character.