Thursday, July 08, 2010

The girl who kicked the publisher's keister for misplacing an apostrophe

Good punctuation: Left, The Hornets' Nest, Bruno Fischer, 1944 (hat tip to Elisabeth)

Bad punctuation: Right, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson, U.S. edition, 2009

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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177 Comments:

Blogger Kiwicraig said...

Unless it was a single hornet, who had a nest all to itself, of course...

July 08, 2010  
Blogger Dana King said...

Maybe hornets live along in Sweden. If you're willing to go along with some of what Larson has in his books, it could happen.

July 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here's the headline, Craig:

Hornets' nest opens can of worms

July 08, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Maybe they shoulda switched cover illustrations... as hornets plural depicts one hornet and hornets singular depicts several hornets. Years of art historical training made this observation possible.

And I think all hornets, even shy and retiring Swedish ones, are social insects.

July 08, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Okay, grammatical experts, I have an extraneous question. If youe were to title something "Big Bad Wolf" would you in fact title it Big Bad Wolf or would you title it Big, Bad Wolf? I'm torn.

July 08, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

There must have been a big meeting of staff at the publisher's office to decide to punctuate like this. How did they make this decision? Do they think U.S. readers are ungrammatical and just don't care about this? Or did they think it would give them an edge selling copies? If so, why?

It hasn't hurt sales any here. But I would gather most purchasers aren't copyeditors or proofreaders. Some may not even notice and to many, the misplacement of an apostrophe wouldn't prevent them from buying the book.

But I wonder what the publisher's motivation was? Somehow they calculated this wrongly punctuated cover would sell more than a correct one?

I don't get it.

By the way, there is a satire of the Larsson trilogy over at the New Yorker by Nora Ephron, called "The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut."

It is hilarious.

July 08, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Seana, our bible, aka The Chicago Manual of Style, says:

6.39
Comma or no comma between adjectives:

When a noun is preceded by two or more adjectives that could, without affecting the meaning, be joined by "and," the adjectives are normally separated by commas. But if the noun and the adjective immediately preceding it are conceived as a unit, such as “little girl,” “political science,” or “glass ceiling,” no comma should be used.

So are we talking about just any old "big, bad wolf" or is it THE Big Bad Wolf of fictional fame? If the latter no comma is necessary, as BBW is Mr. Wolf's pseudonym, perhaps a nom de guerre.

July 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, are hornets part of the nefarious conspiracy?

July 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe they shoulda switched cover illustrations... as hornets plural depicts one hornet and hornets singular depicts several hornets.

That is ironic! No, wait. It's coincidental.

July 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd retain the comma in Big, Bad Wolf for the reasons the Chicago Manual of Style gives. Big and bad are parallel terms describing the subject wolf regardless of whether the phrase is title or not.

I'd drop the comma only if the subject were bad wolf rather than wolf by itself (a lone wolf, one might say). If one needed to distinguish between bad wolves of different sizes, one would write little bad wolf and big bad wolf, no commas.

July 08, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Thank you. Looking through examples of how the phrase was used proved unhelpful.

July 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A quick search suggested that most uses of the title dropped the comma. They do this wrongly, I think, but there you are.

These distinctions are becoming less important in any case. As we in the U.S. use words more and more and read less and less, punctuation will become less and less important except as a a kind of fashion accessory, on the order of a customized ring tone. I see that in my work, where the semi-colon often replaces the comma, seemingly because it lends an air of deliberation to even the most pedestrian sentence, only to be replaced by the portentenous long dash (em dash).

Needless to say such replacements often do not see the light of day if they have to go through me first.

July 08, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

But if we were to write Big, Bad Wolf (isn't this considered a term, rather than simply a noun + 2 adjectives?) -- and this after centuries of no comma... then, it begs the question, must we then write "Little, Red, Riding Hood," again, after centuries of _no_ commas.

Isn't Big Bad Wolf the fellow's name?

Placing a comma between Big and Bad in this instance would be like writing Joseph, Mallord, William Turner.

And doesn't use / practice override what we know to be "good" grammar and punctuation? As reprehensible as that may be to us.

Ex., the discussion re hyphens here a while back.

And don't get my mom started on fewer vs less. The latter is seen more and more frequently in ads that, just like the cover of Larsson's book, passed by dozens of pairs of eyeballs before committed to print.

More on commas... the Australia-based field editor (subject matter expert) of our database constantly tries to get us to delete commas in abstracts. Apparently commas are going out faster in Australia than other English-language countries based on the Australian journals we cover. But our copy editor keeps puttin' 'em back in! And we like commas between the penultimate and the final adjectives, too. How old fashioned is that?!

v-word = copsit Is that slang for a stakeout? A bedsit marketed to police officers?

July 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Begs the question, you say? (That’s another concern of careful copy editors.)

You’re right – if one regards Big Bad Wolf as a name.

Use and practice do override what is considered good usage. I like to contrast a language with a sport or a game. The former has descriptive rules that in literate cultures may harden into prescriptive. A sport or game, on the other hand, has prescriptive laws. Baseball has three strikes, and you're out, not two strikes and not four.

In English, on the other hand, if everyone decides that a preposition in sentence-final position is fine,and if it does not impede communication, and if it enjoys the sanction of those who wield the language well. then it's correct -- or if people start using pea, from pease, wrongly regarded as a plural form, then pea at some point becomes the correct singular form whether anyone likes it or not. (Whether a given speaker or writer chooses to use it is a different matter, of course.)

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

That's why I'm the 2nd pair of eyeballs in the copy editing command, not the lead! What trite cliche should/could I have said instead?

July 09, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I think the discussion around this points to the problem. It's called Big, Bad Wolf (or Big Bad Wolf) not to refer to a particular wolf but to a particular fairy tale, which we all collectively know. Big, bad wolf would be right in any other context. But is it wrong in this one? Basically, I'd want the reader to associate to the fairy tale, not go wandering off on to random thoughts of large malintentioned wolves they have known.

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

This thread seems as good a place as any to bring up this question... I know you are a great admirer of Ken Bruen and, if I remember correctly, you wrote somewhere (here's where that "search within the blog" feature would come in handy) that you had read one of his books that seemed to have a number of errors that should have been caught by a copy editor.

Scenario: a woman hands Jack Taylor her card with the name "Gina De Santio." We find out later that her family is from Naples, Italy. So, would you have changed the "de" to "di" (as "de" is not Italian, although de' would be; and we won't worry about Santio prolly should be Santo) or would you leave as is for artistic license reasons? Or whatever reasons.

I know it's a teeny thing but...

Oh, and I spotted the common error "just desserts" in A McKinty's "Hidden River."

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I'll begin by noting that, after apparently honoring America by registering comments properly for a couple of days, Blogger has found a new way to mishandle them. I don't know if your comment will appear once, several times, or not at all.

I don't think the Big, Bad Wolf will mind if we omit a comma. And, any style manual or self-ordained expert to the contrary, neither way -- with or without comma -- will be wrong in the way I think you want to use it.

Follow your ear -- a character in the fairy tale is talking about a fearsome creature. She wants to drag the words out, to let the terror sink in. She talks about the big, bad wolf, the pause implied by the comma doing the necessary dragging it out.

But a comma might be out of place for prosodic reasons in "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? (Ya, ha-ha-ha-haaaaa)."

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, since Blogger is, indeed, refusing to publish the comment to which I reply immediately above, here it is:

seana has left a new comment on your post "The girl who kicked the publisher's keister for mi...":

I think the discussion around this points to the problem. It's called Big, Bad Wolf (or Big Bad Wolf) not to refer to a particular wolf but to a particular fairy tale, which we all collectively know. Big, bad wolf would be right in any other context. But is it wrong in this one? Basically, I'd want the reader to associate to the fairy tale, not go wandering off on to random thoughts of large malintentioned wolves they have known.

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Friends of mine who are copyeditors use fewer commas than they used to. Semi-colons are becoming more popular, true, however, often they are misused, where a comma or a colon could be used.

Also, it dawns on me that perhaps the Millenium trilogy publisher in the U.S. may have thought (although horrifyingly wrongly) that since they were talking about one nest, that they should only refer to one hornet and have a singular possessive. That may be even worse of a faux pas if they don't know that many hornets a nest makes.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth said...
That's why I'm the 2nd pair of eyeballs in the copy editing command, not the lead! What trite cliche should/could I have said instead?


You could have used raises the question.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth has left a new comment ...

Scenario: a woman hands Jack Taylor her card with the name "Gina De Santio." We find out later that her family is from Naples, Italy. So, would you have changed the "de" to "di" (as "de" is not Italian, although de' would be; and we won't worry about Santio prolly should be Santo) or would you leave as is for artistic license reasons? Or whatever reasons.


Names mutate in the oddest ways in real life, so in this case I'd raise your point with the author or whomever else I was reporting to and let him or her decide. Since a good editing program will let the editor insert notes and the final user accept or reject changes, this would be easy to do.

I'd also ask whether the "de" spelling might stem from the various periods of French rule in Naples.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A nest make, I think you mean. Sorry. I couldn't resist.

I suppose there is a remote possibility that something in the book justifies the singular possessive form in the title.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Elisabeth, is there a white search box in the top left corner of this page when reading this blog? That's the "search within this blog" box. Type your search term in there and "enter" or click the arrow/magnifying glass (I'm using Firefox -- it's a glass) and your term will be located if Peter's ever used it.

I'm too tired to argue commas or even to take a position on them.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I don't think that function will search within comments.

As for staying out of the comma discussion, you're a wise man.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, Santio could be Sanzio as well, couldn't it? Raphael's name appears both as Santi and as Sanzio, I think, or at least his father's does.

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

di, de, de' are all possible, though distribution varies.

di is normal Italian, singular form;

de' is a contraction of dei/degli, which is a plural form, in concordance with the grammatical plural of many surnames:
Pia dei Tolomei/ Pia de' Tolomei/Piera degli Esposti;

de comes from Latin - from the practice of choosing Latinized surnames. De Sanctis or De Laurentiis are two relatively well known Neapolitan examples.
The Italianization of these surnames may result in various surviving intermediate forms between standard Latin and Italian variants:
De Laurentis/ De Laurenzi/ De Lorenzo/ Di Lorenzo
Santio sounds a bit off. It's generally either Santi or Sanzo/Sanzio.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Perhaps she had a vendetta against a particular hornet, and she followed him, or her, home.

Peter, did you recommend Frederick Nebel, of the pulp writers?: I'm currently reading his 'The Crimes Of Richmond City', and, as Cilla Black might say, its a 'lorra' fun...
....Chuck!
(nice light relief after 'The Sound And The Fury')

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

Maybe the Hornet in question is The Green Hornet, the masked vigilante.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

If it was Bruce Lee who played 'The Green Hornet', perhaps she will have got more than she bargained for!
(a sting in the tail, indeed!)

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I thought my Raffaello Sanzio/Santi was a good example. Santio doesn't sound like anything I'm familiar with, but if anything, it sounds closer to Spanish than to Italian. And the Spanish had their turn in Naples as well. But I suspect none of this has anything to do with the character in question.

But all it takes is the slip of a pen at a hospital or immigration intake center, and an odd name becomes part of history. And then there's the explosion of weird intentional names in the U.S. So perhaps I am more permissive than most in this matter.

My v-word is especially evocative: hangskin

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, Nebel would likely have come up in a discussion with Elisabeth, who loves those old pulp crime stories. I have read some of the "Crimes of Richmond City" stories in an anthology, and I like them.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe the Hornet in question is The Green Hornet, the masked vigilante.

Marco, I think I read somewhere that The Green Hornet was going to be made into a movie. Could the apparent sloppy punctuation error on the Larsson cover really be an ingenious bit of cross-marketing?

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Celtic Kagemusha said...
If it was Bruce Lee who played 'The Green Hornet', perhaps she will have got more than she bargained for!
(a sting in the tail, indeed!)


TCK, I picture a World Cup knockout-stage style bracket, in whick Bruce Lee and Lisbeth Salander face off, with the winner meeting Modesty Blaise. Knockout stage, indeed.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Colons and semi-colons, and when best to employ them, have always been something of an 'Achilles Heel' for me: I presume semi-colons are used in lists following colons, and colons are used for 'dramatic pauses', whereas 'semi-colons' can also be used almost like 'pauses for breath', or stronger forms of commas.
Or have I lost the (grammatical) plot.


Peter, I know you recommended a few pulp writers to me, including Paul Cain, and, I think, Nebel also, but I couldn't find that conversation: this is the first pulp story I've read since that somewhat disappointing Earl Stanley Gardner one and its served to revive my interest in them.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I reckoned those under-achieving Brazilian 'bottlers' will have stirred up more than a few hornets nests in their homeland by the abject manner of their capitulation against Netherlands.

And no doubt they'll have plenty of 'flies in their ears' reminding them of that fact, now that they are back home.

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Marco and Peter, for the "de, di, de'" response. I did a lot of Web searching to see if I could find any combination of those two words (de and Santio) in such sources as the Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN) and other biog. sources available where I work. No Santio as a variant spelling for Raphael, for ex. Yes, the De + Italian surname sourced from Latin I know. I'm guessing Bruen was toying with the Italian name and noun "Santo" (as the female character has a couple of saintly qualities) but didn't want to make it too obvious. And I thought, too, as you pointed out Peter that "all it takes is the slip of a pen at a hospital or immigration intake center, and an odd name becomes part of history."

It was, indeed, a trivial thing but reminded me that many copy editors nowadays (I hate that word) don't know any foreign languages. I'm sure we all spot gaffes in books that employ foreign terms, names, etc. incorrectly. I'm always a little uneasy proofing, taking the second pass at the copy editing, etc. when I'm looking at a Czech or Polish journal for ex.

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

TCK, if Peter didn't recommend Frederick Nebel, I certainly would. He's one of my favorite Black Mask writers. Esp the Jack Cardigan and Tough Dick Donahue ss. He also wrote several novels that are hard to find even in libraries.

Paul Cain is a must. We've discussed here before how contemporary his ss and one novel seem to today's readers.

Try Raoul Whitfield, W.R. Burnett, and Roger Torrey, too. Some of Torrey's ss have an immediacy that reminds me of many of the first-person narratives of some of contemporary crime fiction.

v-word = readbrig

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Linkmeister, It is not possible to search within blog comments, only within some of Peter's original posts and even that within a Blogger-determined time frame (current year, I think) and and Peter's tags.

Ex., I tried to discover if Peter had ever posted comments on Peter Temple's novel "Dead Point." Got frustrated and ended up having to Google DBB + PT + DP where I found a 29/10/07 ref to this book. I really loathe Google being able to provide access to something that a blog should be able to handle.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, their coach had lost his job practically before the team was back in the locker room after losing to the Netherlands. so he felt the sting pretty quickly. But the Guardian's Brazilian guest commentator was relaxed and philosophical.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, semi-colons are also good for separating items in a sentence thatthemselves take commas:

The three shirts were red, white and blue; black, yellow and red; and green, blue and yellow.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco and Elisabeth, if you like the band the Police, may I suggest a listen to their song "Doo Doo De Da Da Da"?

Nothing to do with copy editors is trivial.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, most of the authors Elisabeth mentioned appear in an anthology called "Hard Boiled."

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I'm sure you'll recall how I 'bigged up' Brazil.

The game against Netherlands was the classic 'game of two halves': they should have been three up by half-time, but, after the keeper's blunder, the team, collectively, froze.
And Robinho's transfer value plummeted with it!!

I think the problem may have been that they hadn't had to deal with set-backs in the 2 or 3 years when they had been sweeping all before them; and they had been 'on auto-pilot'

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth has ..

Linkmeister, It is not possible to search within blog comments, only within some of Peter's original posts and even that within a Blogger-determined time frame (current year, I think) and and Peter's tags.


One can search comments from the Google search page. Sokeone told me how to do this, but I don't have the details here.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, that's right. You said this Brazil had the defense that previous Brazil sides lacked. Paul the octopus is laughing at you.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

To be fair, Paul's got his tentacles full gathering up those plaudits that he's garnered.
But he'd best watch out: Adrian McK is waiting in the long grass for him

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul ought to be up for a Golden something or other from FIFA.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

How about a 'Golden Inkwell'??

.....I'll get my coat!

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Seana, your comment "random thoughts of large malintentioned wolves they have known" made me think of the classic Tex Avery cartoon, "Red Hot Riding Hood" (1943). No commas. The "wolf" (as in the "sexually aggressive male; a would-be seducer of women") of US-slang fame and his eye-popping, tongue-dragging, drool-dibbling leer when he watches Ms. Red Hot's nightclub routine. (available on YouTube)

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, your drollish "wolf by itself (a lone wolf, one might say)" reminded me of a line in an Ed McBain novel I read recently.

Hapless, clueless, "equal opportunity bigot" Detective Ollie Weeks has written a 36-p. "novel" (he took the advice "keep it simple" too much to heart). His protagonist, a slim female version of his fat self, is named Olivia "Livvie" Watts.

"...I'm known in the squadroom as 'Livvie the Lone Wolverine,' which of course is the female tense of 'The Lone Wolf.'"

Ollie's idea of what it takes to write a successful thriller is pretty funny and relevant to some of the discussions on this blog. I'd recommend this novel to anyone wanting to read a hard-boiled "police procedural" with a lot of laugh-out-loud lines.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

How about a 'Golden Inkwell'??

For Paul the Octopus, how about the Golden Sucker?

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Red Hot Riding Hood" (1943). No commas.

Though one could argue for a hyphen between Red and Hot.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elizabeth said: But if we were to write Big, Bad Wolf (isn't this considered a term, rather than simply a noun + 2 adjectives?) -- and this after centuries of no comma... then, it begs the question, must we then write "Little, Red, Riding Hood," again, after centuries of _no_ commas.

Elizabeth, I think the comma should be used to separate the adjectives to give equal emphasis to each, and also in cases of repetition, as in 'Bad, Bad Leroy Brown'
".....the baddest man in the whole darn town,...badder than old King Kong,....",....yadda, yadda

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Or how about Red Hot (does 'doodley squat') Riding Hood" to quote a line from a classic rockabilly toon!

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, what's the Ed McBain novel in which Ollie Weeks writes a novel of his own? That was nice line that you quoted.

You may know that in Calibre, Ken Bruen has his thuggish Sgt. Brant love Ed McBain novels so much that he writes one of his own.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I think I've only ever read one McBain novel: has anybody here seen the Kurosawa movie, 'High and Low', and read the McBain novel it was based on?
I have to believe that its one of the rare cases of the film being better than the source novel

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Fat Ollie's Book" (2003).

Ollie believes in something he calls The Rule of Five. Among other "fives" are the five surefire ways "to crack the bestseller list."

1) You must create a plot that puts an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation.

2) You must create a plot that plays out a universal fantasy.

3) You must come up with a plot that passes the "cool" test.

4) Your plot must involve high stakes.

5) You must introduce a ticking clock...the reader should be regularly reminded of the urgency via "countdown cues."

Needless to say, poor Ollie's book possesses none of these "surefire" tips.

I'll get to that K Bruen sometime. I plan to read "Sanctuary" this weekend. (I believe it is the latest US-available Jack Taylor.)

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If the Big, Bad Wolf met Leroy Brown, I'm rooting for the wolf, commas or no commas. Jim Croce-- well, his tough-guy songs work only as jokes, but they're not funny.

I don't know that the practice is in published versions of the fairy tale, but I read the characters' names as Little Red Riding Hood and Big, Bad Wolf. Why a comma in one but not in other? Because "Red Riding Hood" is the subject, modified by just one adjective, Red, and "Wolf," rather than "Bad Wolf," modified by two parellel adjectives of equal weight Big and Bad.

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

The earliest known printed version of Little Red Riding Hood is Charles Perrault's "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge." Literally, The Little Cape Red. Perhaps the source language affected the non-use of commas in its English variant?

The Germans have the right idea. Rotkäppchen. Combine the adjective and noun in one word and commas be damned!

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

has anybody here seen the Kurosawa movie, 'High and Low', and read the McBain novel it was based on?

I have to believe that its one of the rare cases of the film being better than the source novel


I've seen High and Low but not read McBain's novel. I have read his Nocturne, which was nicely done, tightly and suspensefully constructed.

Kurosawa did a good job with adaptations even when they do not surpass their sources -- Throne of Blood, for example.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, that sounds like a good bit of puckish humor on McBain's part, relasing years of pent-up fun he'd wanted to poke at writing books, courses and rules.

I think one Jack Taylor book has appeated since Sanctuary or is about to appear.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The French placement of adjectives after the nouns they modify, rather than before, as in English, also militates against the need for commas.

July 09, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"One can search comments from the Google search page. Someone told me how to do this, but I don't have the details here."

Yes, this is how I found that "Dead Point" post of yours, Peter. From the top of the Google homepage click on the "more" down arrow (carat?). A dropdown list appears and from here you can select "Blogs" and, as they say, Bob's your uncle. However, this feature does not permit one to search within comments, only the text of your original blog posts.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elizabeth said: The Germans have the right idea. Rotkäppchen. Combine the adjective and noun in one word and commas be damned!

.....which brings us neatly back, full circle, to the Welsh, and their 'Llanfair..........whatever'!

July 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, that gets you to Goggle's blog search page, which I've known about for a while. For a search that will cover both a blog and comments, one needs to go the main search page, then type the word "site," the blog's URL and the search term. I don't remember the coding one needs to type in; I have it saved on my computer at home.

July 09, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

If the Big, Bad Wolf met Leroy Brown, I'm rooting for the wolf
Do you always root for the under'dog', Peter?
Might I remind you that Leroy Brown was 'badder than old King Kong', who was, assuredly, in a higher weight division than the Big, Bad Wolf

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was mildly disappointed on my day in Wales not to find anything odder than the occasional w in an odd place -- nothing tongue-twistingly unpronounceable.

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

The earliest known printed version of Little Red Riding Hood is Charles Perrault's "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge." Literally, The Little Cape Red.

Typical French, wanting to have it both ways.
Or is that indicative of their 'surrender monkey' national characteristic: being unwilling to make a decision regarding an afjective's preferred placing

July 10, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"For a search that will cover both a blog and comments, one needs to go the main search page, then type the word "site," the blog's URL and the search term. I don't remember the coding one needs to type in; I have it saved on my computer at home."

I tried tinkering around with that, didn't have much success with my search terms. Could you post that coding in this thread when you get the chance? If it's appropriate to do so...? Thanks. I'll take that "search grey lit online" course soon!

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter I presume you know that the Welsh 'Ll' is pronounced 'kl'.
I wonder what the sign-posting, -and maintenance, - budget would be in the village of 'Llanfair..........whatever!,
And I can just imagine the local nationalist blowhards getting all hot under the collar if any 'young turk' on the local council were to propose my solution to the almost unpronounceable full name.

Incidentally, on the subject of Welsh 'nationalist blowhards', may I recommend Kingsley Amis' hilarious novel, 'The Old Devils'

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Do you always root for the under'dog', Peter?
Might I remind you that Leroy Brown was 'badder than old King Kong', who was, assuredly, in a higher weight division than the Big, Bad Wolf


No, it's just that this wan, wussy, sensitive singer-songwriter singing tough-guy songs was always a ridiculous spectacle to me. Maybe as a kid when the songs were popular on the radio, I just didn't get the joke.

And isn't there something inducing about that lin, "badder than old King King"? Who would ever say "old King King"?

And the copycat song,"You Don't Mess Around With Jim." Yeah good, tough name there, Jimmy Boy. Why didn't you just call it "You Don't Mess Around With Louis" or "You Don't Mess Around With Bob."

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Peter I presume you know that the Welsh 'Ll' is pronounced 'kl'.

TCK, our guide did demonstrate the slightly guttural pronounction of the Welsh ll. I also got some pronunciation tips from a Welsh reader of this blog some time back when I wrote about one of Malcolm Pryce's Aberystwyth novels.

July 10, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Or "Don't Mess with Bill" (by The Marvelettes.)

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

And the copycat song,"You Don't Mess Around With Jim." Yeah good, tough name there, Jimmy Boy. Why didn't you just call it "You Don't Mess Around With Louis" or "You Don't Mess Around With Bob."

Methinks he doth protest too much!
('Time In A Bottle' was more yer typical Jimbo fare)

But I seem to recall Croce's and Gram Parsons' deaths being reported on the same day in September 1973 in Dublin's 'Evening Herald' newspaper
I'd just started work in Dublin just a couple of weeks previously.
Guess whose record company was more shameless in cashing in on their respective newly-deceased artist?

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Could you post that coding in this thread when you get the chance? If it's appropriate to do so...?

I will. It's not coding, actually, it's simply how one sets up the search.

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I hadn't heard of "Don't Mess With Bill." Perhaps Jim Croce was paying tribute to or making fun of tough-guy songs about guys with untough names.

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Either way, he was still a Grade A wimp, Peter

'chfulum' is the word verification for this post: the Poles would probably pronounce it 'fulum'

Blogger must have taken offence at me lampooning their precious word: now I have to type what looks like 'cacklyp'

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, you're right. "Time in a Bottle" was more typical Croce fare. I mean, the guy released an album called "Photographs and Memories," for ----'s sake. Or maybe that was a posthumous greatest-hits record, but you get the idea.

I guess things could have been worse. We could have had "You Don't Around With Geoffrey" or "Bad, Bad Lawrence Harvey Johnson."

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Chfulum" is Welsh for "wimp," isn't it?

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

or "Bad, Bad Lawrence Harvey Johnson."
Pop music's answer to Lord Peter Wimsey

fismsion: take the 'm' away and you get 'fission': hmm!

July 10, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Don't Mess with Bill" is the oft-repeated refrain of the woman in an abusive relationship with that rat, Bill. But other dames better keep away or she'll scratch their eyes out. Bill may be a loser, but he's her loser. And besides, every time he puts her down, he apologizes, so he must really love her, right?

July 10, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Now I'm laughing. "You Don't [Mess] Around With Geoffrey" -- that was the name of my first boyfriend, same spelling. The one who got rid of all his worldly possessions.

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elisabeth, I recall there was a whole slew of 'to the other woman' records in the early to mid 70's: Millie Jackson, and, I think, Doris Troy were among the better exponents.

I always loved Millie's rasping raps: I still have a number of her albums on vinyl.
'Don't Mess With Bill', though, had a somewhat repetitive and slinky piano 'vamp', as I recall.

kinfluta: any relation to Kunta Kinte, I wonder?

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Don't Mess with Bill" is the oft-repeated refrain of the woman in an abusive relationship with that rat, Bill. But other dames better keep away or she'll scratch their eyes out. ... And besides, every time he puts her down, he apologizes, so he must really love her, right?

Yikes, that was an unpleasant undercurrent in 1960s pop music, wasn't it? Any irony or bitterness to the song?

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I remember I used to think Geoffrey was pronounced 'Gee-Offrey': I suppose thats as good as any 'kiss-off' for them,Elisabeth?

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Pop music's answer to Lord Peter Wimsey

fismsion: take the 'm' away and you get 'fission': hmm!


I like to imagine it stands for "fish mission."

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

that was the name of my first boyfriend, same spelling. The one who got rid of all his worldly possessions.

Typical thing for a flipping Geoffrey to do.

July 10, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Any irony or bitterness to the song?" -- Not on the part of the singer. She just keeps telling other "girls" to find some other guy. Joe, Frank, and yes, Jim.

"Now I know he's a guy who put tears in my eyes
A thousand times or more
Oh but every time he would apologize
I loved him more than before."

Yep, very pre-women's movement.

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A kinfluta was an ancient musical instrument, an ancestor of the vuvuzela.

There were some "to the other man" songs, too; "Hats Off to Larry" comes to mind. There was apparebntly a dark, weird, masochistically self-lacerating side to the innocent early-'60s pop.

July 10, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

TCK, Yes, I'd sometimes call him Gee-Off-Ree or Godfrey (so nice and Medieval).

Oh, and his last name was very English... Haddock.

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

She just keeps telling other "girls" to find some other guy. Joe, Frank, and yes, Jim.

... Morris, Luigi, Sven, Ricardo ...

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and his last name was very English... Haddock.

Haddock? Billions of blistering blue barnacles, was his father a sea captain?

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Is there anything more English than 'haddock and chips'?

eptinget: I presume its some multiple birth noun, as in 'sextuplets', but how many births in an 'eptinget'?

and 'pheflu' to you, too, Mr Blogger!

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

A kinfluta was an ancient musical instrument, an ancestor of the vuvuzela
most memorably, and endearingly, celebrated in that rousing Afrikaans folk tune, 'Willem The Kinfluter's Ball'

July 10, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A list of Captain Haddock’s curses.

July 10, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

'Fancy-dress freebooters!', eh?
Hardly one of those 'expletives deleted', I would wager!

July 10, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Even if there's only one solitary weird Swedish hornet doing peculiar things I'm still not going to read this book.

Books 1 and 2 are about the more overrated novels I've read since Harry Potter. Admittedly I skipped most of book 2 and I only read Harry Potter book 3, but still it would need to be a REALLY interesting hornet, like maybe The Green Hornet or something for me to be suckered a third time.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

What made you read Book 2, Adrian?

July 11, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, I suppose if ever a hornet lived alone, it could well be one of those stolid, solitary Nordic hornets.

I've read two interesting observations about Stieg Larsson's books. One was the reminder that he was a first-time novelist, with many of that phenomenon's attendant flaws. The other was that his estate forbade serious editing, editing he would likely have received had he lived.

July 11, 2010  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Celtic,

Well three people I know told me that book 2 was better and I'm always willing to give an author another chance. If I'd given up n Ellroy after the confusing LA Confidential I would never have read his masterpiece, The Cold 6000.

Book 2 however starts with the torture of a little girl and then a 100 page prologue that has no bearing on the rest of the book. 100 pages of "ignorant American tourists" and simple but good hearted black folks was enough for me.

I skipped to the end though where I discovered that SPOILER ALERT Salander's father is yet another man who hates woman! Gasp. And I admit that I did like the fact that she got shot in the head, the bullet lodging in her brain, she gets buried alive, and then she climbs out of the grave and kills her dad. I havent laughed so much since The Evil Dead.

July 11, 2010  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Still dont speak ill of the dead and all that and I admit that I may be in a prickly mood...that stupid off side goal just cost me 1200 dollars on a 10 dollar bet.

July 11, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Adrian I'll keep in mind your recommendation of 'The Cold 6000', but after reading 'LA Confidential' AND 'The Big Nowhere' I thought that was enough Ellroy to be getting on with, even though I greatly enjoyed both, and was sorry that he couldn't get Hansen to be true to the book's ending, for the former

July 11, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

You can always get your own back:you can make a 'Howard Webb', - or a close approximation of same, - the nastiest form of low-life in your next novel!

And you don't know how many times have had to defend my man Nigel De Jong in the last 24 hours!
although it was substituting Nige that handed the initiative to the Spanish

Liam Brady allegedly lost his communion money on this one

July 12, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I didn't watch the game because I was up in the Adirondacks with my brother and his family. Was it really that bad a call by Webb?

July 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian/TCK: I suppose a phenomenon like this reaches a point where the presumption becomes that one will read the books, and a certain onus falls on anyone to explain why he or she had not read it.

Adrian, were you serious about that spoiler alert?

July 13, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I liked Book 3 the best of Larsson's. The conspiracy was unearthed and Salander was vindicated. And lots of great women characters.

I had to skip part of Book 2, the beginning violence against the child and some other violent scenes.

Yes, Salander did climb out of a grave and even though severely injured, did deal her horrible sadist of a father a terrible blow. But he didn't die. (See Book III).

This is one reason why Salander is such a popular character. She never gives up, keeps going, fueled by anger and determination.

July 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the correction on Salander's father. Does he bounce back in the third back the way she does in the second?

In any case, Adrian's account of the second book made it sound like "Terminator."

July 14, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, do I really give a spoiler here?

No, Salander's father doesn't bounce back in Book III. But it's someone else's doing, not hers.

Book III uncovers a deep-seated conspiracy, in which it is shown that Salander's father had friends and enemies. There are a zillion characters in Book III, all part of the conspiracy or uncovering it.

Salander is vindicated, the conspiracy is revealed and lots of strong women characters are involved.

My own opinion of the trilogy is NOT that Larsson is any great writer or literary figure, but that he knew how to plot a story, pull in readers, write interesting characters, and do this in a big story with quite a bit about Swedish society.

The violence is part of the story. However, that said, I had to skip part of it which is no great loss.

A friend who just finished the 3 books wrote to me looking for something to follow them. He can't find anything similar.

I suggested several in the Nordic noir category but none are the same. No one is really comparable to anyone else, as I think about it. The whole "the next Stieg Larsson" hype is just that: hype.

July 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The fatuous comparisons and invocations of Stieg Larsson's name have started already. Jacket copy of one of Hakan Nesser's books apparently quotes a review that calls him as good as Stieg Larsson. Now, what Larsson and Nesser have in common is that they're both Swedish, and that's about it.

July 19, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Oops to have written "anonymously." Wasn't intentional.

Yes, I agree. That NYT article a few weeks ago asked "who is the next Stieg Larsson"? Several possibilities were raised.

Having read several books by Scandinavians this year due to having signed on to the Scandinavian Book Challenge, I can say that no one writes like any other writer. They all have their own styles. Hakan Nesser is good but he does not write like Larsson.

One thing that had me gasping with disbelief was a statement I read where promoters were calling Camilla Lackberg "the next Stieg Larsson."

Now, I say with honesty that I started to read her book, "The Ice Princess," and I had to close it. I could not read it.

As Marilyn Stasio said in the NYTBR a few weeks ago about Lackberg, the fact of Swedish citizenship does not a writer make.

I agree with this, in spite of the many good Swedish writers.

Maybe one could compare Larsson to Sjowall/Wahloo or compare Mankell to them, in that they write the "big picture" but they all write differently.

July 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I may have mentioned what Jo Nesbø said when I interviewed him in March. I asked whether he considered himself part of a boom in Nordic crime ficiton, and he said:

"I am part of that whether I consider myself part of it or not because it's sort of a commercial label. It doesn't necessarily have much to do with Scandinavian writers having the same style. When I've been asked what I think are the similarities between Scandinavian authors, I would say that they were either from Denmark, Norway or Sweden."

I read and very much enjoyed the first Sjowall/Wahloo novel relatively recently, and I was surprised at how little they wrote about the big picture and at how well they wrote suspense.

July 19, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Although I agree in general that these writers are wholly distinct, it remains true that if someone likes one of these authors it's a good predictor that they'll like another. It's partly just that if people are even willing to open a book that is not James Patterson, Dan Brown, or John Grisham, they are probably more adventurous mystery readers than most, but there is some elusive common factor that means many of these writers will appeal to the same audience.

It's also true that one author just leads to another by some process of association. At least, I've found that to be the case with Irish crime fiction, which is if anything even more diverse, ranging from the comic to the very dark, and yet can still somehow be thought of as being of a group.

July 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, having quoted Nesbø's skepticism about the Nordic or Scandinavian label, I should add that he also conceded the following:

"I think my style is probably closer to some of the American writers — Bukowski, Hemingway — than to other Scandinavian writers. Then again, I write from Oslo, so the atmosphere would probably be similar to Stieg Larsson or Henning Mankell."

Sure, there are bound to be similarities between writers from the same country or reason, but you know and I know that that's not what anyone has is mind when they invoke Larsson's name.

As it happens, I can see see certain similarities among many of the Nordic crime authors whose work I've read -- a certain stolidity of attititude, for instance, and, in some, special concern for the individual. But I don't see much of that in the one Larsson novel I've read. The comparisons that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo brings to mind are comic books and sprawling pot-boilers, but those are probably infra dig in respectable discussion.

July 19, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Really? I haven't found the Scandinavians to write the same way. The only similarity I've found is often the means of death is particularly brutal--creatively so.

I don't think that Steig Larsson writes like Asa Larsson or Hakan Nesser or Kjell Eriksson or Henning Mankell or Arnaldur Indridason.

The Sjowall/Wahloo books I've read recently have the basic plots but do discuss the bigger pictures in Swedish society and government. "The Laughing Policeman," and "The Locked Room," which I read this year had those features. I will read the first book this summer.

I don't think Michael Connelly writes like others who write police procedurals in the U.S. Nor that others in the same category write like Lee Child.

July 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I think Nesbø was right when he called "Nordic crime fiction boom" a marketing label. He cited Hemingway and Bukowski as influences, but who is going to sell more books these days, Hemmingway and Bukowski, or Stieg Larsson?

Creatively brutal death is a hallmark of some Nordic crime novels; Nesbø's and Mankell's come to mind.

Like you, I see no special similarities among the writers you mentioned, other than the obvious ones that Nordic novels will usually portray a way of life of the Nordic countries and different from, say, the Mediterranean ones.

Eriksson, Nesser and two of their compatriots did have a few things to say about similarities among themselves here.

The first Sjowall and Wahloo novel, Roseanna, was one of the highlights of my life as a crime-fiction reader.

July 19, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I do see some similarities among creative ways of murdering someone. Asa Larsson's books contain this trait. Actually, one by Anne Holt had very brutal murders. And I've seen this in some other Nordic nois.

One thing they do have in common is ice and snow and cold, desolate weather and regions. This is perfect reading for the hot summer.

I look forward to reading "Roseanna," this summer.

Yes, Stieg Larsson's name will sell books, hence the comparisons with other Scandinavian authors, but just not so. But once readers pick up other books, they will notice the differences.

One can fool some of the people all of the time and vice-versa, but not all of the readers all of the time.

July 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, sure. There are national differences. One is unlikely to find characters taking long siestas in a Scandinavian novel or going cross-country skiiing in a Mediterranean one.

I may have mentioned this before, but your remarks about gory killings go back to my earliest experiences of Nordic crime fiction. Someone asked Henning Mankell at a reading why he kills off victims in such horrific ways. His reply was disarmingly simple: Because such things really happen. Maybe a certain somber realism is characteristic of Nordic crime writing.

Jo Nesbo opens one of his novels in a sweltering Oslo summer, which I found a humorous touch.

I have no doubt that readers will notice the difference between Larsson and other authors, provided they pick up those other authors. The comparisons between Nordic writers are, as Nesbo suggests, a marketing device.

July 19, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, of course a marketing device. And hype! All aimed to build up the drama around an author and create the purchasing frenzy.

I have only read one Mankell, "The Man from Beijing," and the murders are pretty awful, but not quite as bizarre as Anne Holt's or Asa Larsson's.

A relative who is a therapist thought it's because of the lack of sunlight and the effect on the writers' psyches.

Anyway, I look forward to reading anything set in icy, cold weather while boiling in August.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Similar or dissimilar, it's pretty certain that the only reason we the American audience is being treated to such a wealth of Scandinavians in translation is that someone saw the commercial opportunity in translating them. I think it was really Mankell, though, who made publishers realize a potential audience in the past ten years or so, and start them on the quest for other Nordic crime novels that could feed this newfound appetite.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, that sounds right to me. Current Swedish crime writers credit Mankell for blazing a trail. A reader might naturally think, "He's from Sweden, and his books are good. She's from Norway; maybe her books are good, too." That's all to the good. I object only when the phrase "in the tradition of" starts getting bandied about.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

What it reminds of a bit is the rise of the female detective novels in say the late eighties or early nineties. I believe Marcia Muller was at least one foremother of this wave, and then Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky sort of arose out of that. And there were and to some extent still are countless other books riding out that wave. Are they interchangeable? No. Are they all of the same quality? No. But did it create an appetite for 'more like that', even if what they had in common was actually a fairly surface quality? Definitely. And savvy publishers were quick to put out novels that seemed to fit the trend. As far as I can tell, no one really lost out in this deal, either.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, I don't think anyone loses out, except if misled by marketers or trend-mongering reviewers into reading something marketed as like Stieg Larsson that turns out not to be so.

But really, this sort of hype is beyond criticism. Does "as good as Stieg Larsson" imply that the author in question is comparable in some way? If not, why invoke Larsson's name at all?

I suppose if Stieg Larsson leads readers to Arnaldur Indridason and Karin Fossum, the comparisons are to good end. But it would be nice if readers knew those other authors in the first place. And I have this lingering apprehension that some reader, learning from whatever English reviewer it was that Hakan Nesser is "as good as Stieg Larsson" will be disappointed when Nesser's books turn out not to have abused, super-genius, recluse, omni-sexual, breast-enhanced heroines or to be novels rather than tomes.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

You know, I actually don't feel all that bad about that type of disappointment.

July 20, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I can't stand the "So-and-so is the 'next' Stieg Larsson."

It's Stieg Larsson whom the publishers and booksellers are comparing Nordic authors to, as they've been selling his books.
And, readers are asking what to read next after they've finished the trilogy.

What really got to me is "Camilla Lackberg is the next Stieg Larsson." No way. (I could not read one of her books.) I agree with NYTBR writer Marilyn Stasio who said, upon reading Lackberg's "The Ice Princess," that Swedish citizenship does not "a writer make."

All of the Nordic writers should stand on his/her own.

Also, there are good qualities about Lizbeth Salander. A lot of women readers like her feistiness, intelligence and more. And, there are several great women characters in Book III, including Annika Gianni, Erica Berger, government agents, security personnel and more.

But I wouldn't compare any of the Scandinavian writers. They're all different and some are worth reading.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I ought to trust people more and rest secure in the faith that some will converted to Arnaldur, Fossum and so on.

It's just that I see people reading Larsson in such staggering numbers, and I can't believe all of them think his stuff deserves all the acclaim. At some point, the discussion shifts from weighing the book's merits to justifying the phenomenon.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Personally, I think that Larsson is a lot like Rowling in his effect. I remember watching a Newshour show with the usual panel of experts expounding on about whether Rowling had changed reading patterns in a positive direction for kids. I had assumed that it was obvious, but I was wrong. The Potter love did not translate into love for books in general, nor do I think Larsson love will bring a whole lot of new people into the mystery realm. A few, yes, but in general, no.

Although I will say that I think Harry Potter boosted the interest in kids series considerably. So if there is something that seems like Larsson to people, they may give it a go. Eventually.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I can report that a number of people, knowing of my international interest in crime fiction, have asked me about Stieg Larsson. I should try to remember to evangelize about other authors when I am asked such questions.

I wonder what it says about readers' attention spans or, heaven forbid, about the quality of the books, that eagerness to devour Harry Potter does not extend to other books.

I get the sense, too, that there is increased interestest in "young adult" series these days. I wonder what sorts of books would seem "like Larsson" to readers.

I should sit down and have a calm, reasoned chat with my man Ali Karim about Stieg Larsson. He was talking the books up long before they became a big thing.

I should add that if I am going to discuss crossing borders and, God forbid, transcending genres, I have to allow for the possibility that readers will find Larsson-like qualities in writing that is not crime fiction.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, if I were an author from a Nordic country, I'd roll my eyes at Larsson comparisons, keep my mouth shut, and hope that it just might help sell more of my books. That was the attitude Jo Nesbo seemed to take.

July 20, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Arnaldur has cited the influence of the Icelandic eddas and sagas on his fiction. Perhaps the bloodthirst and brutality that are common to so many Norse myths are behind these same qualities that some readers say they find more than enough of in contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction. More graphic violence than other European crime fiction? -- Italian? Irish? Scottish? German? etc.? I haven't read widely enough across contemporary Euro crime fiction to say. But I do know that until about 1000 AD, when Norway converted to Christianity, some of my ancestors were still drinking the blood of their vanquished enemy out of the poor sap's skull. Perhaps cultural memory is at work in today’s Scando crime fiction.

Saw a woman reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in the “quiet room” of my spa yesterday. Crikey! Hardly soothing reading for relaxation I should think.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I am happy to report that I discussed this with Arnaldur over gin and tonics at Bouchercon in 2008. (One does expect a Nordic writer to drink a cool, brisk drink, does one not?)

He had mentioned at a panel that the sagas had influenced his style.

How? I asked.

Their laconic style, he said. The sagas were set down on calfskin, an exceedingly dear commodity, he said, which dictated a style that wasted few words. And he said he tries to imitate that style.

My mother's friend Celia likes the Larsson books, and she is not bloodthirsty, as far as I know, though she may have undercooked a roast beef or two in her time.

July 20, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Can't recall if the topic of the English-language titles of Larsson's novels has come up here. The first one in Swedish, "Män som hatar kvinnor," literally translated would be "Men Who Hate Women" -- more like a feminist self-empowerment book title than the titillating "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." (Golly, wonder where on her body that tatt is??) But the second one, "Flickan som lekte med elden" does indeed translate as "The Girl Who Played with Fire." Then the publishers reverted to sensationalism with book 3, "Luftslottet som sprängdes," translated as "The Air Castle That Blew Up" and nothing to do with hornets or nests or violent actions done to same.

To be fair, other European publishers did not always go with translations from the Swedish for the titles but I think the English-language ones are the most lurid of the ones I've seen -- and mighty clever marketing to begin them all with "The Girl with/Who..." -- implying that if you read one you must read them all.

And since JK Rowling came up here I was reminded of how the UK's "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" became the more sensational (and less accurate) "HP and the Sorcerer's Stone" for the US market. The author's reference to the philosopher stone of alchemy was ditched.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That came up here with respect to the first book. I think English was alone in not using a literal translation of the Swedish title or something close to it.

and mighty clever marketing to begin them all with "The Girl with/Who..."

I've never seen the thought expressed before, but is Stieg Larsson the new Lillian Jackson Braun?

I was reminded of how the UK's "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" became the more sensational (and less accurate) "HP and the Sorcerer's Stone" for the US market. The author's reference to the philosopher stone of alchemy was ditched.

We don't like philosophers in America.

July 20, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

No, Larsson is not the new Lillian Jackson Braun--no way!

A friend just mentioned to me that he didn't know what to read since he finished the Larsson trilogy. I gave him a list of Scandinavian authors and titles which I had read this year.

I wanted to go on the record here since it came up above that although I like to read my share of thrillers sometimes (they're great for distractions), I would break out in hives if I had to read a book by James Patterson.

Also, I did have a lapse and read "The DaVinci Code," but that was my first and last encounter with Dan Brown.

My formerly Catholic relatives liked it and said they thought one had to be an ex-Catholic to like it, but since I don't fit that category, it annoyed the heck out of me.

And I do like to read John Grisham, a quick, easy read, usually with a focus, a point--and I like legal themes.

But back to "Gunshot Road" right now.

Wonder how we'll all look back on the "Stieg Larsson phenomenon" in a few years or who will be the next few highly-promoted-and-read authors?

July 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Yeah, I'm an American and philosophy bites.

For some reason the violence of the books is something women readers can largely pass over. I have no idea why, but the way people talk about these books convinces me that they have patched over any rough experiences they have had in the reading. Of course, we do it all the time in relation to crime fiction. Women who like to read crime fiction have had to resort to all kinds of, "well, I think I'll just ignore that bit" forever.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the reminder about Philosophy Bites. I'd like to be able to say I'm listening to Stephen Neale as I type this, but either my computer is busted, or the links on the site don't actually link to anything. I'll try again tomorrow.

In re the rest of your comment, I started thinking about this after Adrian railed against Larsson's violence against women. Around that time, I thought of my mother's soft-soken friend Celia, and a commenter here, a woman, said she had skipped lightly over bits of Larsson.

Women who like to read crime fiction have had to resort to all kinds of, "well, I think I'll just ignore that bit" forever.

That's a topic sentence if I've sever seen one.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

It won't be in crime fiction--it will hit somewhere else.

What to read after Stieg Larsson? How about Fifty Grand? It's got a feisty female heroine set on vengeance, and frankly, it's better written.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or how about the collected works of the Marquis de Sade? They're fat, they're multi-volume, they're full of sexual violence, and frankly they're better written.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A friend just mentioned to me that he didn't know what to read since he finished the Larsson trilogy. I gave him a list of Scandinavian authors and titles which I had read this year.

Kathy, that's one good answer. If someone asked me that question, I'd reply with questions of my own about what he or she had liked in the Larsson trilogy.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I haven't really read the Marquis, but I did see the movie Sade, and according to that, people were reading him with quite a good deal of glee. Men, women, and, uh, inappropriate minors and all.

Ah, but what is to be done with the French?

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, but what is to be done with the French?

I'll try to come up with a better answer than an enigmatic Gallic shrug by tomorrow.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I meant to say "alors".

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

To which I'd have replied, "Zut!"

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I did, of course, read the Larsson trilogy and skipped over violent parts. This I did because I enjoyed the other parts of the books and they were worth reading to me.

Some women friends don't mind the violence; others also skip over parts they don't want to read.

But there are many other books I reject if there's a lot of violence by male and female writers. Many books I'll reject because I've read "reviews" or "previews" or "critiques" and know what's coming and I won't read them or because I've read one book by the author and didn't like the gratuitous violence.

Also, if book covers show torture, brutality, or other horrific pictures of women victims, then I won't read the books.

Is the story worth it? The characters? The writing?

In some books, I think it's laziness on the part of the writer to write very violent scenes, as a shortcut and substitute for good writing.

There was violence in "Truth," but the book was showing the life of a Melbourne Homicide officer and what he has to deal with every day, and there was a point to it all and it wasn't just thrown in for shock value.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I would rather read a discussion of a novel that addresses the novel's violence than I would a review that simply flags the violence as something to look out for. To be fair, that sort of thing is the province of capsule movie reviews rather than book reviews.

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"...is Stieg Larsson the new Lillian Jackson Braun?"

Or the new Harry Kemelman?

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or the new Lawrence Block:

The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (1979)
The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza (1980)
The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian (1983)
The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (1994)
The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart (1995)

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Seana, re "How about 'Fifty Grand"? It's got a feisty female heroine set on vengeance, and frankly, it's better written."

Far better written. This book keeps haunting me a couple of weeks after finishing it. And going into it, it had 2 strikes against it when it comes to my crime fiction preferences: a female protagonist as the main character and a Colorado setting.

Have you read A McKinty's earlier "Hidden River"? Also a coming-to-America-for-revenge plot (with a male protagonist) set in Colorado. Not as good as FG but you see where McKinty was going with this kind of tale and the fact that he just seems to keep getting better and better leaves me anticipating his future novels.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I knew you had a thing about female crime-fiction protagonists, but what have you got against Colorado?

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

What's wrong with women detectives? Or lawyers? Or cops? Or journalists?

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"...what have you got against Colorado?"

Visited the state once and, with the exception of Dinosaur National Monument, didn't find it very interesting culturally or physically (landscape).

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"What's wrong with women detectives? Or lawyers? Or cops? Or journalists?"

Kathy, nothing's "wrong" with any of these. Nor with women soldiers, veterinarians, prime ministers, astronomers, sculptors, surgeons, etc. etc. My comment was not meant to inflame any feminist rhetoric. It's just that when it comes to the crime fiction I've read, most of the female crimebusters as main protagonists have been of the ballbusting shrew variety. Trying to outdo men in the macho department. One exception = Carlo Lucarelli's Grazia Negro. Can't really add Ian Rankin's Siobhan Clarke to the exceptions as she is not the main protagonist in the Inspector Rebus series.

Have I not read widely enough? Very probably.

I read lots of historical fiction and "classics" with female main protagonists. But that is neither here nor there as far as this blog is concerned.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Hidden River is the one McKinty crime novel I haven't gotten to yet. Saving that up, though, as it doesn't sound like there's going to be another in that genre all that soon.

Colorado is actually a draw for me, as I lived their as a child for a few years and liked it.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth has ...

Have you read A McKinty's earlier "Hidden River"? Also a coming-to-America-for-revenge plot (with a male protagonist) set in Colorado.


Hmm, McKinty himelf came to America ...

July 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Very interesting point, Peter. But don't call him "himelf", or he might get mad, and then that whole vengeance thing he's got going might turn on you. Even though you're from Canada.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"...what have you got against Colorado?"

Visited the state once and, with the exception of Dinosaur National Monument, didn't find it very interesting culturally or physically (landscape).


So all that stuff about the Rockies' soaring majesty is just hype?

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"McKinty himself came to America" -- and left for a nation on the other side of the world after a few years. Coincidence or...?

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I think I'm allowed to call him himself as long as himself does not stand alone.

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"So all that stuff about the Rockies' soaring majesty is just hype?"

Or shite. Take your pick.

"Rocky Mountain High"? Bah! Too confining. Give me the ocean and a distant horizon every time.

You know some of the things I like to see when I travel. Colorado has no FL Wright-designed bldgs, for ex. Essentially it's an architectural wasteland.

Here is McKinty himself on architecture in Denver:

We turn on Broadway past two of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. One is a tall windowless slab the color of baby puke, the other a demented Lego assemblage of blocks and pyramids.

"Art museum and library," the cabbie explains.

-- Hidden River

July 21, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

You can call him 'himself' whenever you please. But 'him-elf' might be a bit beyond the pale. You know, because of the whole leprechaun thing.

Yeah, McKinty's whole citizenship thing would probably send the anti-Obama 'birthers' into the insane asylum.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"McKinty himself came to America" -- and left for a nation on the other side of the world after a few years. Coincidence or...?

And fled a few short years later with his new wife and his American citizenship.

Hmm.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you may be interested in knowing that it was President McKinty who asked Yrsa Sigurðardóttir via Internet hook-up why such a rational people as the Icelanders believed so strongly in elves (singular form, elf).

There may be more to my apparent typographical error than you suspect.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Rocky Mountain High"? Bah! Too confining. Give me the ocean and a distant horizon every time.

Write a travel song called "Rocky Mountain Low."

Here is McKinty himself on architecture in Denver:

We turn on Broadway past two of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. One is a tall windowless slab the color of baby puke, the other a demented Lego assemblage of blocks and pyramids.

"Art museum and library," the cabbie explains.


He also has some interesting things to say about Denver's hsitory and some of the people who lived and passed through there.

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

On women protagonists, there are thousands and they have the spectrum of personalities. There's the lawyer in Yrsa Siggordadotir's books, the profiler in Anne Holt's the woman police officer in Harry Dolan's "Bad Things Happen," who aren't like your description.

Many have families and are not wonder-women.

Recently, there have been more women writing thrillers and the women characters are very tough, have lots of weapons, and fighting skills, etc. I don't read those with male or female protagonists.

And then there are women detectives who run the gamut of personalities.

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, are you familiar with the legend of the tragic Scandinavian heroine, Yrsa? The stuff that good crime fiction is made of. Think D Hughes's "The Price of Blood."

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I knew that the name Yrsa figured in Scandinavian myth or legend as someone's mother or daughter. I shall look again for details.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, with respect to wonder women and crime-fiction protagonists, I've occasionally had the feeling when reading a crime novel with a female protagonist that the author is trying too hard to go in the opposite direction, to show that her lead character is just a regular woman.

I thought that Helene Tursten did this in the first of her novels to be translated into English, then managed to better integrate her heroine's domestic life in the third of the books to be translated.

July 21, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Again, my experience is that women protagonists in crime fiction run the gamut of personalities and the spectrum of personal lives.

Some have families, some don't. Some have a spouse or long-term partner, some don't.

There isn't a stereotypical role these days, with all of the variety in crime fiction, from cozies to thrillers to suspense, from whodunnits to whydunnits, with detectives, cops, lawyers, doctors, etc.

And why does Helene Tursten have to put in her character's home life? Granted, it's a pleasant one, especially because her spouse is a great chef and she can enjoy gourmet meals, but is it necessary?

Can't the character just be an adventure-seeking person who's courageous, smart and skilled?

A lot of male characters--good ones--don't have home lives, are alone, some are depressed. (That is rampant in Nordic fiction, but also with a lot of U.S. detectives and European detectives.) And in "Truth," a main character messes up his home life and knows it.

So, variety, I say and we all pick and choose what we like to read and glad there are lots of options these days.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I suspect you've read more crime fiction by women and with female protagonists than I have (but just in case, let me recommend Christa Faust, Megan Abbott and Vicki Hendricks.)

A character's home life is not essential to any novel unless the author makes it so. I thought Helene Tursten did a better job of this in "The Glass Devil" than in "Detective Inspector Huss." But I can well understand a female author feeling pressure to include a female protagonist's home life just because the tug between domestic and other responsibilities must be a factor in the lives of many women.

But then, novels don't have to be slabs of social realism. They can be adventures and imaginative fantasies of all kinds.

July 22, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, mysteries and all novels can be whatever the authors want them to be, including their own fantasies of being super-women or super-men or even having talking cats or dogs (that Lillian Jackson Braun theme again).

I actually don't like super-action-thrillers with not much character development or introspection and characters with lots of martial-arts skills, a helter-skelter pace and lots of violence.

A good thriller for me is by Linwood Barclay, Joseph Finder's "Vanished," or Davis Ellis' "The Hidden Man."

And then Sara Paretsky and others with characters like hers, but I like many other women writers--international and U.S. V.I. Warshawski doesn't worry too much about a domestic life nor does Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton's detective, but many others do it all, as you mentioned Helene Tursten's police investigator and also Yrsa Siggurdadottir, Anne Holt and many more.

Anyway, today, I think the pressure is on for all writers to produce more action-packed thrillers, international in scope and it's hard for male or female protagonists to have home lives at all.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anyway, today, I think the pressure is on for all writers to produce more action-packed thrillers, international in scope and it's hard for male or female protagonists to have home lives at all.

Yes, it's probably more difficult to maintain a full domestic life while saving the world in a thriller than it is while working on a case in a police procedural.

July 22, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, or being a lawyer finding the real killer, or a forensics expert or a social worker and a local cop. Usually they are in one location, although Harry Bosch went to Asia to find his daughter in "Nine Dragons."

Even many at home can't work it out from Erlander to Adamsberg to Kurt Wallender and in mysteries by Sjowall and Wahloo and so many more, including in the U.S.

Jack Reacher does his own thing to the nth degree, responsible to none.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jack Reacher does his own thing to the nth degree, responsible to none.

That fantasy element may help account for his popularity.

July 22, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, true. He has no baggage, human or otherwise, yet is a super-hero type, in one sense, yet violates laws on the other in his individual quest.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That'd quite a feat, to write a fantasy figure and create the illusion that he is realistic. It's easier discussed than achieved, I think.

July 22, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Just to add to the confusion...

Don't think Patricia Cornwell's 1997 police procedural "Hornet's Nest" was brought up in this long thread. (Apologies if it did.)

Spotted it in a used bookstore last weekend.

August 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It had not come up and even if it had, I suspect most of us would have forgotten by now.

I suppose there is just the possibility that Cornwell may have meant a single hornet.

I see from the table of contents that tomorrow's editions of my newspaper include an article about two "word nerds" who wrote a book called "The Great Typo Hunt" and are in town "to combat the plentiful colecisms produced by an increasinly illiterate nation. They visit apostrophe-crazed Philadelphia."

It would take longer than I have time for and longer than would be politic for me to explain why I have absolutely no interest in this.

August 16, 2010  

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