Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the monsters among us

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After hearing the buzz aplenty about Stieg Larsson and the clearly unwarranted conspiracy theories surrounding his run-of-the-mill-heart-attack brought on by his poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle, I was intent on reading his trilogy at some point. I must confess that since this is not my usual fiction genre, I would have missed it altogether, without said buzz. The advent of the movie based on the first of his three novels, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, made me hurry up and get my hot little hands on the book, before the movie imprinted my brain with its own clever but potentially biased interpretation.

I was not disappointed. It was a page turner, in the true sense of the word. I include in this qualification the fact that I turned pages backwards many times to reread a passage or to look up the initial introduction of a new character. The plot was dense, with very well detailed characters (in fact a whole family of it), and the storyline jumped between the two main protagonists at dizzying intervals. So yes, I read it all in one shot, but I must confess it was mostly because I knew that if I put it down to restart some time later, I would need to reread a whole bunch to get back in the swing of things. And partly because I couldn’t believe where the story was heading. So yes, it was that good.

When a book/movie/topic finds you still thinking about it after a few days or still dreaming about parts of it, catches you off guard in the middle of your regular routine with some rehashing of its minor detail, you know the author was competent. Aside from some minor language snafus, which I assume mainly stemmed from the translation from its original Swedish version, I found the book very well written. And I do like me good-wins-over-evil plot twists, eternal optimist that I am. But what I keep coming back to is whether the relatively small but incredibly graphic gore and disturbing elements were warranted, or at the very least, about how much they contributed to the success of the book as a whole. Clearly, the contrast was necessary, to a certain extent, to delineate good from bad, but just how bad did bad have to be?

At the risk of divulging too much for those of you who have not yet read this book, aside from the aforementioned disturbing details that would make a normal person ooh and aah, if not wince outright or drop jaw to floor, there is a serial killer in it ::: Shudder::: It is cleverly hidden and plods along behind the scenes of the main activities, but it’s there. And it’s brutal. And it involves a bible freak. Who takes the bible literally. Which explains the bad taste in my mouth, in retrospect. No matter how many times I think about this topic, or witness it firsthand, I still don’t get it: the violence that religious fanaticism begets, completely at odds with its fundamentally compassionate tenets, is something for which I cannot find any justification! Religions, despite their worthy emphasis on virtuousness and moral decency, seem to contain some pretty discrepant opposites and guess which ones fanatics latch on to, to make their warped point? Worrying about mentally deficient violent individuals comes with the territory… I can even find some plausibility to the violence perpetrated by victims of abuse and violence themselves (emphasis on some). But to expect evil from people who are purportedly on the “good” path, that is a worry overload that I cannot make peace with. Yes, I am fully aware that this was a fictitious character in a work of fiction, unfortunately, the same monsters depicted in works of fiction roam freely in our society, and may in some instances, be stranger than fiction. And it scares the bejeezus outta me.

Feel free to tell me if I’m losing my marbles or taking my role as a mother to the overzealous extreme. 
How do you feel about the monsters among us?


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