Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beating Up Somebody Else...

I made it to the end of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. There was no real risk I wouldn't, although there were moments where the violence started to rise up around my ears a bit more than I liked. The writing worked well, although making that judgment when it's a translation is always tricky. My generalized critique is wondering at times whether humans actually behave as some of these humans do. But there are a lot of humans out there and some are very poorly behaved, indeed. And I've never been to Sweden. Sorry, Sweden, that's an undeserved dig.

The interesting study here is one of structure. This book has the set-up of an erotic thriller. Erotic thrillers have two main story lines: one is conventional, usually a business deal of some kind, set up to contrast with the other storyline, which is the erotic part. The protagonist is trying to navigate the business storyline when along comes the (usually) femme fatale or erotic interest he should avoid but doesn't. I'll use the terms "business story" and "erotic story" for clarity.

There is a business story here, about a corrupt financier. And there is an erotic story (trust me), about a missing girl and her wealthy family. Structurally, this is an erotic thriller. With one small problem.

The two storylines end in the wrong order. The classic erotic thriller ends the business story first. The apparent driving force of the story, whatever the business issue is, ends. For a moment the story may seem to be over, but the erotic story line steps in with a new twist, we realize the story is something else indeed, and we're off again.

Not here. Here the erotic story ends, and then the business story comes back to life and we have to go through the conclusion of that. It feels as though the book is over, but it isn't. Worse, the business story and erotic story are unrelated.

Imagine that Chinatown got to "forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown," and then went on for another half hour, investigating the water supply issues in Los Angeles a bit more.

Yeah, like that.

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