The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Large Print Edition
By Stieg Larsson
Random House Large Print (2009), 800 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 12, 2010
The writer Nora Ephron wrote a clever parody of Larsson's best-selling book in the July 5, 2010 The New Yorker, which she called The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut. Ephron humorously focused on Lisbeth Salander's unusual energetic unsocial reactions, her sometimes foul language, laptop, moods, confusions, irritability, miserable childhood, abusive father who she set on fire, tiny breasts, small height and weight, and ability with computers. Ephron also pocked fun at our American difficulty in locating the places mentioned in the Larsson novel and in handling the Swedish names, "people's names were so confusingly similar." She mentioned Blomkvist who needed Lisbeth's help, and Plague who "was fat, but he would know what to do." Ephron concludes her lampoon describing Lisbeth: "She thought about smiling, but she'd smiled three hundred pages earlier, and once was enough."
Ephron does not mention other idiosyncrasies of this extraordinary best seller that has spurred interest in other Swedish mystery novelists. Blomkvist, the investigative reporter and publisher who will reappear in Larsson's two remaining novels with Lisbeth – Larsson died in 2004 – has his own strange behaviors, including an unusual relationship with a married woman. Ephron also does not speak of Lisbeth's genius, unusual mental abilities, and odd version of morality. What also stands out in the Larsson novel is the dysfunctional Vanger family that Blomkvist was hired to investigate.
What makes this book so successful? Its characters are different as Ephron makes clear. The drama and suspense move with accelerating pace without let up. We may not identify with the book's unusual characters, but we become interested in what they are doing. But probably most of all it seems that the joy in reading the book it is the way that Larsson tells his story, which is so different from the current conventional thrillers.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.