Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stieg Larsson's apotheosis in America

A large chain bookstore here in Philadelphia currently displays in one of its windows the trade paperback of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo alongside a bunch of books about Michael Jackson.

In today's America (though maybe not tomorrow's or next week's), a book can receive no higher tribute.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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53 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

Oh!

Who is Michael Jackson? ;)

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Fred said...

I'm sure there's a moral to be drawn from this, but it's too early in the morning to come up with anything remotely coherent.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Must have been the "Dead Legends" window, eh?

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte, one could only wish more people couls ask that question.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The moral would be that so much of American life involves breathless efforts to latch on to massively popular phenomena. In this case, it's fortunate that one phenomenon is a crime novel.

Or maybe Reg was right. Maybe it was just a window for popular dead guys.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, though Larsson and Jackson dominated the window display, it did contain some other books and maybe magazines as well. If I pass the store again, I'll check to see if their subjects have also passed on.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Good to keep track, Peter, you could report your results to:

www.deadoraliveinfo.com

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. That Web site could serve me well, in this discussion and elsewhere. I have a tendency to kill well-known people off prematurely. The site might curb that tendency.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Books,Coffee,etc.... said...

"The moral would be that so much of American life involves breathless efforts to latch on to massively popular phenomena. In this case, it's fortunate that one phenomenon is a crime novel."

Hello! my name is DeeDee, and I have been a lurker for
about...hmmm... 3 or 4 months, but I decided to post after reading this post.

I have to admit that I agree with you, wholeheartedly, and your quote that I have quoted above, but I just hope that I ‘am not "guilty" of latching on to "popular phenomenon" too!...being an American and living in America.
(Which in some instances, can so easily happen among some Americans..."methinks!")
and…
…When it comes to why some Americans latch on to "massively popular phenomenon" all I can say is…
…Go figure!...Hmmm..I wonder if this latching on to "popular phenomenon" is just "unique" to/or among Americans?
Thanks,
DeeDee ;-D

July 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for dropping in, Books. No, I would certainly not accuse readers of phenomenon-following because they read Stieg Larsson. His novels get critical props, too. Nor would I have harsh words for anyone who became curious about the fuss and decided to take a look. I was just startled to see a writer in my favorite genre elevated to the status of a Michael Jackson.

As for the phenomenon of phenomena, I do think there is a worrisome tendency in American cultural and economic life to concentrate disproportionately on the biggest, the best and the most famous. In this case, it would be nice to think that some of the readers drawn to Stieg Larsson will go on to read other crime writers as well.

July 23, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

America has always been a nation of fad followers, at least from the 20th century on. So let MJ have his day in the sun, although I can't see that he was as good as Elvis, as some are claiming. And Peter, everybody said that they hoped all the Harry Potter readers would grow up and be big fiction readers, but I've seen some articles claiming that reading is still dropping among kids and teens. I know I never read a book longer than 400 pages until Crime and Punishment at 15... Jeez, maybe that's why I'm translating crime now. Let's hope Stieg at least smashes the fear of translations in American minds. Publisher aren't stupid -- they won't go to the extra expense of paying for a translation unless the book is pretty dang good. Nor do they hire abominable translators [very often]. Welcome DeeDee, glad you stopped lurking, let's hear more of your thoughts.

July 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, that might support my suspicion that the Harry Potter phenomenon is so much hype.

One would hope readers and publishers don't consider that they've had their fill and done their duty with The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. One would hope that the books clear a path for translated crime fiction.

I wonder if the International Dagger award has helped. Even though it was born in controversy and even though you may have questioned this year's result, perhaps it has raised the profile of translated crime, at least in the UK.

The suggestion that Michael Jackson was as important as Elvis is a joke.

July 23, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

The King is dead, long live the King! I'm itchin' like a man on a fuzzy tree.

July 24, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had this argument with a colleague. She said that Michael Jackson was the father of the music video.

Without Michael Jackson, there might be no MTV today. Without Elvis Presely, there would have been no Beatles, no Rolling Stones, no Bob Dylan, and who knows how large an auience people liek Little Richard and Chuck Berry would have reached? Not much of a contest there, I'd say.

July 24, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

I don't think I'd miss the music videos. I would miss all the artists Elvis turned me on to, though: Roy
Brown, Wynonie Harris, Bill Monroe, Kokomo Arnold, Bob Wills, Junior Parker, etc. Rock on.

July 24, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, he was a crucible of rock and roll, I'd say, bringing bluegrass, blues, R&B and all kinds of other great stuff together. Michael Jackson was a pioneer of ... well, he could dance.

July 24, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Yep, I'm still trying to do that moonwalk thing.

July 25, 2009  
Blogger Books,Coffee,etc.... said...

"You have my attention. Sounds like a really good book. In reading your post, is this a novel (Stieg Larsson's novel) based on a true story?"

Hi! Peter Rozovsky,
A commenter, who post on my blog asked me this question and being a "novice" and not familiar with author Stieg Larsson's work yet...I’ am at a loss for words...because I do not have a response to her question. Therefore, I would like to know do you, or your readers know if author Stieg Larsson's book is a work of "fiction"
or "nonfiction?"

Thanks,
Oh! By the way, Reg, thanks, for the very cordial welcome!

DeeDee ;-D

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The moonwalk is a beautiful thing, and I confess to having attempted it myself. To me, it still does not add up to what Elvis Presley meant to popular music.

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

DeeDee:

I have not seen the question of a real-life basis for Stieg Larsson's work discussed. He was a journalist, and I believe his political activism included work against racism, so it would not surprise me if he at least found some inspiration in real Swedish life.

You may know that the Reg whom you thanked for his welcome is Larsson's English translator. Perhaps he might have something to say in this matter.

By the way, Hitchcock is the nearest thing to a director about whom I can claim comprehensive knowledge. I had a nice chat about "Sabotage" and "The Lodger" with some friends this evening.

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Hey, DeeDee, Stieg did mention some real cases in his books, and some that were probably taken from real life but with the names changed to protect the guilty. There was indeed once a "Bear Gang" (a mistake left in book 1 -- it really means "The Beagle Boys" from the Uncle Scrooge comics), and in book 2, Paolo Roberto is a real prizefighter. So there's a lot of real journalism inserted among the fiction, but they are indeed novels.

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

P.S. See also this interesting link between a person mentioned in the books and the fall of General Motors!

http://www.theoaklandpress.com/articles/2009/07/20/business/doc4a60dd662ea2f976100924.txt

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for that link, Reg. I hope the topic of French Dagger winners is not too sore a point for me to mention Dominque Manotti's Lorraine Connection. The corporate villains in that novel and in Larsson's work are signs of the vitality of contemporary crime fiction, I'd say.

I checked that display window again today. It's all Stieg Larsson, Michael Jackson, and one or two living people at the margins.

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Tell 'em to get those interlopers outta the window. Stieg's doing pretty good in Entertainment Weekly and People this week, though -- even Eva's in the story.

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

They need no encouragement from me in the matter of displaying the book. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is in the window, It's in a separate display outside the crime section. It's a "Best of the best" recommendation from the staff.

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Books,Coffee,etc.... said...

Hi! Reg,
Peter Rozovsky said, "You may know that the Reg whom you thanked for his welcome is Larsson's English translator. Perhaps he might have something to say in this matter..."
Reg,
Thanks, for all the "wonderful" information pertaining to author Stieg Larsson's novel.
I will be sure to past this information on to the inquisitive commenter on my blog.

By the way, I must admit that while lurking on your blog, I did read that you were author Stieg Larsson's English translator.

Once again, Thanks,
DeeDee ;-D

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Books,Coffee,etc.... said...

Peter Rozovsky said,"By the way, Hitchcock is the nearest thing to a director about whom I can claim comprehensive knowledge. I had a nice chat about "Sabotage" and "The Lodger" with some friends this evening."

Hi! Peter Rozovsky,
I guess that we are on the "same page"...when it comes to director Alfred Hitchcock, because I was consumed with his "every being"...Twenty-four/seven last year.
For instance, constantly, discussing his films, TV shows on DVDs, books, OTR
programs.
You name it I was there to listen to or talk to others about him...
...to discuss his work on film, listening to others discuss his work, etc, etc, etc...

Thanks,
DeeDee ;-D

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've been a Hitchcock fan long enough to have been through two re-releases of Rear Window.

July 26, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

I missed seeing Hitch shooting Family Plot in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco because I had to work that day. My girlfriend at the time stood close behind his director's chair and watched for quite a while. Dang.

July 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Very nice. She got to see Hitchcock working on one of his more comic films. People don't often mention what a fine comedian he was.

How wa she able to get right up close to his chair?

July 27, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

I don't recall exactly, but people were wandering in and out all afternoon and it's a big place -- maybe it wasn't that close!

July 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It must have been something to experience. I wonder if it would be possible to get that close to a movie director of any kind today, much less one of Hitchcock's stature -- if there were any directors of Hitchcock's stature today, that is.

July 27, 2009  
Anonymous Vee said...

I find that pretty funny, but hey, no complaints here! I still can't get used to that yellow book cover - there was a different version floating around (maybe the UK/European version??) that was a lot better. Also have a question for fellow Larsson-fans - I'm trying to create a page for him/his works on infloox.com but I need to enter in his literary influences. Does anyone know some high profile ones off-hand? So far I've only found random Swedish ones that don't ring a bell.

July 28, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Hey Vee, Skim through Dragon Tattoo and you'll find a bunch of British and American mystery writers cited. Or you could wait for Eva Gabrielsson's book to come out -- she would know, having lived with him for 32 years. Check www.supporteva.com/

July 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This cover answers at least one objection to the American hardcover, which some readers complained (well, observed. No one seemed all that upset) did not accurately reflect the tattoo described in the book. I kind of like this cover, actually.

Since Stieg Larsson came from journalism and did not write fiction until late in his too-short life, he may have influences that those of us outside Sweden don't know about.

Broadly speaking, his fiction's social concerns might reflect influence of his compatriots Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö, who were among the first to bring such concerns to bear on crime fiction in their Martin Beck novels.

July 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for that link, Reg. That site looks like a good place to start for people curious about the dispute.

A number of people I've talked to, some whom know nothing about crime fiction, were surprised that Swedish inheritance law seemed not to recognize common-law partnerships.

July 28, 2009  
Anonymous Vee said...

Thanks for that link Reg, very helpful indeed!

July 28, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

According to what Eva has told me, the Swedish law is based on medieval German law, in which blood counts for everything. So Stieg's estranged father and brother inherited it all, including the right to decide about his literary legacy. Since common law is an English invention, I believe, it's not something they have in Sweden, hence, no common-law marriage. Eva is working to get this changed, especially in light of the Scandinavian propensity to have kids and then (maybe) get married afterwards. You can imagine the problems if one of the partners then dies. Apparently the reason Stieg left no will was that all such documents are in the public record; he wanted no link to Eva on paper in order to protect her, considering the constant death threats he received from neo-Nazi and other extreme right-wing groups (they even called on his home phone). I hope Eva's book will clarify all this. Stieg wrote the books for fun and to secure his and Eva's financial future, as well as that of his magazine, Expo. Irony is not a strong enough word to described how things turned out. There was a documentary that some of my Danish friends saw on TV about all this, but I haven't seen it. It did prompt the Norwegians (who recently revised their "common-law" marriage statutes to protect people in modern-day relationships) to start the site to help pay Eva's legal bills, which are ongoing.

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, this may have come up before, either here or at Crimefest. In any case, I remember remarking that the situation reminded me, in my near non-existent knowledge of medieval law, of the Salian Frankish rule that no woman could reign.

I suppose the absence of common law is surprising, since statutory law must have originated in common law. Wouldn't the first laws to be set down or memorized be records established by precedent? But then, I'm neither a lawyer, a historian, an anthropologist nor a Swede, so what the hell do I know?

As a practical matter, do a high proportion of Swedes have children without marrying?

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Peter, I have no clue on the legal stuff, just repeating what I've heard. But from experience living in Scandinavia, it seems more common than not that the kid comes first, then the marriage. This is a habit/custom that's come down from the Viking days, I would think.

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I wasn't sure if Swedish couples that had children would then follow by getting married. I'd guess that many do, if only to avoid the sort of situation highlighted in this messy fight.

My only knowledge of Nordic law comes from "The Saga of Burnt Njal," where legal maneuvers and killing form a great part of the action. One of my favorite passages concerns, marriage, in fact:

"Hallgerd was outside. `There is blood on your axe,' she said. `What have you done?'

“`I have now arranged that you can be married a second time,' replied Thjostolf."

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Reg says: "But from experience living in Scandinavia, it seems more common than not that the kid comes first, then the marriage. This is a habit/custom that's come down from the Viking days, I would think."

It is certainly correct that many children come before the marriage (if any), but as it was still frowned upon in Denmark in the 50s, I would say it is a habit that dates back to the youth rebellion of the late 60s.

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Whatever the origin of Scandinavian marrage habits, the interesting questions in the present matter are whether couples who might otherwise be disinclined to marry will do so to protect their children's inheritance. That would nake all the sense in the world. it would also be a novel argument here in the U.S., where public pronouncements on marriage, usually from noisly social conservatives, tend to procalim marraige a holy act between a man and a woman in the eyes of God. If they say much about inheritance, I've missed it.

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

To quote a famous R&B song, "Romance without finance don't make no sense." I'm sure that God and mammon will always be linked in religious marriage laws.

The Swedes at least do preserve a high degree of "pagan" customs surrounding marriage. When I was in Dalarna in 1965 I asked what a birch tree tied to the corner of a house, its limbs stripped to leave a topknot of foliage, might mean. I was told that a young woman lived in that house who just got engaged, and that it was a fertility symbol.

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

P.S. Thjostolf rocks.

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That is a charming custom that inspires me to think about our own marriage customs -- such as the bride tossing a bouquet. What's the origin of that one?

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thjostolf's reply to Hallgerd is my favorite hard0boiled-crime line ever.

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Fred said...

Or the groom tossing the bride's garter to the single males in the crowd?


vword = rasibly

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was going to mention the garter thing, except I forgot who tossed the garter to whom. Somehow it's easier to conjure up associations from that custom of slipping a garter down and so on ... I mean, how much imagination does it require to figure out what that symbolizes?

My v-word sounds like a book Reg might have translated: sundsols

July 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

"sundsols" in Danish would mean "toward the sun over the sound"

what's a v-word?

July 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The v-word is the verification word, the letters you are asked to type to verify that you are a human rather than a spam generator.

And thanks for the Danish lesson.

July 30, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

With regard to Scandinavian marriage habits I am not a legal expert. As it is in Denmark of today, I don´t think anyone would (have to) marry to secure their children, but it is the easiest way of securing your spouse. A good will can do a lot, but some pensions after death can only be paid to spouses. (I hope I am making myself clear).

V-word: paria (unwed mother in the ´good old days´)

July 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, I don't why I brought children into this. As far as I know, Larsson and Eva had none.

In any case, it appears that the situation with respect to ensuring a spouse's inheritance may be at least roughly similar in Sweden and in Denmark. But then, such is the case in the U.S., too, as far as I know.

July 30, 2009  

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