There is something to be said about a bad book. How was it published? What was the author thinking? Why do people like this? Etc.
In my case, there is the common belief that criticism is always more fun to write about something that is just, well…awful. However, I’ve always had an easier time writing about something I like, I guess that is why all the books I have reviewed so far have been books that I’ve enjoyed. It’s easier for me to write a good review instead of a bad review. Maybe it has to do with passion, or maybe it has to do with the fact that when I write a review I get to rehash what I just read and get something pleasant and reassuring about the book that I would have otherwise missed. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that when I write a review for a bad book I realize what a stinking pile of crap it was and then I lose faith in humanity for allowing this book to exist. Whatever the case, I feel like it’s time for a bad review.
Ok, frankly for the past two weeks I’ve been dealing with 2 books that I absolutely cannot stand to the point that I just could not finish them. The unfinished are: Her Fearful Symmetry and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (BTW for me to NOT finish a book is unheard of, I’ll read just about anything, so something is up if they are unfinished)
I’ll start with Her Fearful Symmetry. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical about the book from the get go. Niffenegger became well-known because of her début book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, which was recently turned into one of the worst movies I have seen in a while (I have no idea who the editor was for the film, but they need to stop. They need to stop using fade outs. They need learn about continuity. They just need to stop.). Anyway, the book was pretty good, there are certain passages that I found lovely and the love story was interesting (the guy time travels for god sakes), but it was nothing to go crazy about. It was an enjoyable, a little long, but an enjoyable read that made me really mad at the main character for being so goddamn attached to her constantly disappearing husband. Whatever.
So, I thought I would give this glowing gem a chance, and I did and I became really unhappy. First off, I do not think it is well written. The analogies from the get go were painful, which I found odd because her first book was really quite lovely with its descriptions and use of language, but this book was just lacking. It felt forced. It felt a bit rushed. It was not well written.
Second, the story is sooooooooooo slow. Nothing happens in the beginning and the mystery was not compelling enough for me to actually want to know what happened between the twins that caused their falling out, and actually, I didn’t care about anyone. It just all felt so terribly dreary. So, I stopped reading it, because it wasn’t worth it and the book was overdue at the library.
Alright, on to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I think I might get stoned for saying that I hated this book and could not finish it, but thankfully (or not, I might as well make this a glass half full situation instead of empty) no one reads this blog so I can rant and rave about how I hated this book. I actually got it as a Christmas present and my mother took it from me and read it in two days and gleefully stated, “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” So I thought, what the hell, this book must be AMAZING. Alas, it was not.
First off, I hate mysteries. I hate crime novels. I hate Murder She Wrote. (My mom LOVES Murder She Wrote) So, this book is a crime novel written by a man who was a journalist who specialized in exposing corruption in Sweden. Urgh. I cannot take impersonal novels, I cannot take impersonal writing, which is how the book is written. Very impersonal and very much like a newspaper or a business report. All facts, no fluff. My mom adored it. I hated it. Everything was straightforward and nothing was left to the imagination. Also, I just don’t care about mysteries.
I also take issue with novels that deal with touchy subject like abuse to women. I understand that Larsson was trying to show the misogynistic relationships in government and economics and how they are hurtful to women (rape, molestation, etc) but I couldn’t take it. It’s hard enough being a woman, but I don’t want to spend my time reading a novel that is so terribly impersonal with the subject of abuse to women. I can’t take it. Also, the Lisbeth character doesn’t hit home. I don’t like her. I don’t want to hear her story. I just… can’t deal. It’s too disturbing and so I stopped reading.
Something that did make me think and wonder for quite a while is the treatment of rape and violence and how I couldn’t deal with it, whereas I could with other fiction like Coetzee’s Disgrace or any of Toni Morrison’s books. Yes, those descriptions were terrifying, but there was something personal in those narratives that made it seem as if the author cared, that the author was trying to do something, whereas Larsson was so cold. So brutal and so straight forward, that it was like the police going over a rape report. So, that made me think about what fiction and violence means to me and how depending on the treatment of it, I can read and enjoy a novel. I have to think about this more.
Oh and fun fact, the Swedish name for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Man Who Hated Women. That explains a lot. Urgh.
Anyway, that’s it. I do not intend to ever finish these books and hopefully, the next book I read is actually worth it. Here’s to hoping.