Thursday, May 27, 2010

A wonder from Sweden

There are snobs who raise their noses at any novel that their professors failed to deem literature. Of course, such people are full of snob juice. It drips out of their noses. (I like to think of a grade-school joke: "I thought I had a bloody nose. But it'snot.")

Anyway, that kid joke off my childish chest, I now get to discuss an amazing story about a modern-day series of best sellers that may not have happened in the same way ever before in the history of publishing. One day, something like seven years ago, a Swedish man walked into the office of a publisher with manuscripts for a series of three thrillers. It turns out he had been writing these books as a hobby. His name was Stieg Larsson.

Larsson was an editor of a magazine that kept tabs on antidemocratic extremists like neo-Nazis and skin-heads, and when he died of a heart attack in his late 40s (not long after delivering his manuscripts), some wondered whether he had been killed or died as the result of stress from dealing with the bad guys. But his family denies this.

In any event, Larsson, out of nowhere, came up with stories - and a young heroine, the astounding Lisbeth Salander - that rocked the publishing world. I read the first of the three, published in English as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," a couple of years ago. I loved it. As it happened, I only read the even-better second book, "The Girl Who Played with Fire," a month or so ago. I immediately wanted to read the third in the series, but it hadn't been published yet. Shit! I went to Amazon and preordered "The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest." It came today, and I've started reading it. It looks to be every bit as good.

The names of Swedish characters, and Swedish place names, can be slightly off-putting to Americans. But that quickly disappears into the story. Read the books in order. They may not be literature. But they show that in a world of 6 billion souls, wonders can come out of anywhere!

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