Monday, February 21, 2011

Unpleasantness

"When did we become so enamoured of unpleasantness? More importantly, when did we start automatically accepting it as truth, particularly in literature? The world is, of course, often quite unpleasant, and any brainlessly pain-free book purporting to show truth can and should be dismissed as unrealistic contrivance. But while contrived cruelty may seem more artful than contrived sentiment, it’s still contrivance."

Patrick Ness in The Guardian, writing a review of the book, More Than it Hurts You, by Darin Strauss.

I'm just about finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a book I've been keen to read since a friend let me skim through the first few pages while I was waiting to accompany him in a singing competition two or three years ago. The book is overlong - Stieg Larsson never spares on detail, even when it contributes nothing to the story in hand - but that's survivable.

What I've struggled with is the emphasis on sadistic sexual violence. I think if it wasn't for the fact that the story itself is intriguing, I'd have put it away early in the piece. Larsson is making a point, I guess, and puts statistical quotes at the beginnings of chapters about how many women are abused sexually each year - and in terms of the way women are abused throughout the world, it does no harm to remind us of how awful some women's lives are.

Nevertheless, there's a sense of enjoyment in the way the book writes about these episodes, and most of these episodes are written in such a way that they draw the reader in. This is particularly evident when one of the main characters takes revenge on a man who's abused her. However, I found myself skimming pages when Larsson continued to add more and more sickening detail to later parts of the book. I didn't feel it was necessary to have all this hammered home.

We've got the other two titles on Kindle, but if they're similar to the first, I think I won't be reading them.
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