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The Custom of the Country
Edith Wharton, Linda Wagner-Martin
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Leo Tolstoy, Louise Maude, Alymer Maude

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy) - Stieg Larsson Edited to include link to Nora Ephron's very funny piece ("The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut") from The New Yorker:

D E P R E S S I O N…

You’re probably depressed when, in the space of 3 or 4 weeks, you leave the house only when absolutely necessary, and read about 30 books – 90% of which are crap, including 15 books by Harlan Coben, a grade Z mystery writer. Even worse, you read Coben’s entire Myron Bolitar series, which is the equivalent of reading the same book nine times in a row. If you could survive it, shooting yourself in the head the same number of times might be more productive.

Of course, this helps explain my initial hostility toward David Foster Wallace's title essay, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” because—given the same assignment—I probably would have clocked just as many hours in cabin 1009, creeping out only to take far less brilliant potshots at the touristas. I get agoraphobia, and Wallace's coping strategies were just a little too familiar.

Among this book wallow, I read The Girl Who Kicks the Hornet's Nest, having read Stieg Larsson’s first two books a couple months ago. Larsson’s third book is akin to re-watching a long movie, with a somewhat predictable and semi-satisfying ending. You know what’s going to happen, so it’s just a matter of letting it unfold. Unfold may be too kind a verb. I need a verb here that conveys time passing very slowly – a bit like Marvell’s description of time in the first third of “To His Coy Mistress” when the would-be lover muses on the possibility of according two hundred years apiece to properly adoring his mistress’s breasts.

There’s really no way to spoil this book given that its outcome is pretty damn evident, but rather than provoke complaints I’ll provide some quiddity.

The Godfather I, II, and III: Forgive me for writing ill of the dead, but come on. I thought the Godfather was the male bible! You go to the mattress, you don’t sit with your back to a door, and you learn life’s lessons of violence, murder, and mayhem. For example, you figure out that if someone, like Lisbeth Salander, who can apparently do anything and makes Rambo look like an ineffective twinkie, is *theoretically* immobile you put a guard outside her hospital room, and YOU DON’T HAVE HER PATHOLOGICALLY WARPED & EQUALLY DANGEROUS FATHER TWO ROOMS AWAY. Did you learn nothing from these movies, Larsson?

Sandwiches: To borrow from My Cousin Vinny, the bad news about cholesterol has not yet reached Sweden. They eat sandwiches – morning, noon, and night, and these aren’t ordinary sandwiches, but sandwiches that are serious contenders for KFC’s double down. Throughout the first two books, and for the first third of the last book, we get a steady array of sandwiches complete with descriptions of their ingredients. One sandwich – toast with orange marmalade, cheese, and avocado – sounded so interesting that it prompted one of my few ventures out of the house so that I could get the ingredients. As awful as it sounded, it’s good. ...The others, though. Gawd. Cheese is the primary ingredient. How about a nice sandwich of cheese, caviar, and a hard-boiled egg? Cheese and liver sausage? Cheese and pickles? Cheese and liver pate?

However, the regularity with which the sandwiches surface seems to be a narrative crutch. Larsson hauls out the sandwiches whenever his characters need to ponder something ponderously. It also gives Kalle Blomkvist something to do when he’s not boinking the main characters.

Despite the serious editing needs of the third book in particular, I enjoyed the trilogy. Lisbeth Salander is an interesting character, and her slim presence in the third book contributed to its sluggish pace.

Larsson’s books are escapist literature to be sure, but a few steps up from Harlan Coben. 2.5 stars.