Ellen's Reviews > The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
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it was ok
bookshelves: mysteries

Edited to include link to Nora Ephron's very funny piece ("The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut") from The New Yorker:
http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2010/0...

  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.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 13, 2010 – Shelved
June 13, 2010 – Shelved as: mysteries

Comments Showing 1-32 of 32 (32 new)

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message 1: by Ken (new)

Ken Haven't read any of these books, but they're ubiquitous. I didn't know the poor guy died a few years back.

What could be worse than writing books that become successful after you croak? You can't collect royalties 6 feet under....


Ellen Yes, I know. What I find so interesting is that fact that he'd completed three fairly long books without submitting any to a publisher. Wouldn't most writers submit the first book after completing it, rather than finishing three and not knowing if they're publishable?


message 3: by Ken (new)

Ken Good God, yes. I can't get the things out fast enough -- and publishers feel the same way in sending the manuscripts back (with puke stains on them).


message 4: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Glad to see you back, Ellen. Larsson sounds like an unusual character. I recently read an article by a British journalist who interviewed him just before he died. Let me see if I can find it.


Ellen Newengland wrote: "Good God, yes. I can't get the things out fast enough -- and publishers feel the same way in sending the manuscripts back (with puke stains on them)."

My stuff is academic theory that two or three people probably read. The first thing I submitted was published, which was good, because some time later, I got a rejection letter to end all rejection letters. I wish I had it; it would give all would-be publishers hope :).


Ellen Elizabeth wrote: "I second the "nice to have you back" sentiment and this made me laugh: Larsson hauls out the sandwiches whenever his characters need to ponder something ponderously. They do tend to ponder, ponder..."

Thanks, Elizabeth: I've missed being here. However, I swear by the marmalade, cheese and avocado sandwich. It was surprisingly good, and I don't think it had anything to do with my Swedish/Norwegian heritage


Ellen Hazel wrote: "Glad to see you back, Ellen. Larsson sounds like an unusual character. I recently read an article by a British journalist who interviewed him just before he died. Let me see if I can find it."

I'd like to read that, Hazel. Larsson seems as mysterious as his characters.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Yay! Said before and said again, glad to see you back.


message 9: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Ellen! Hello!


Ellen wrote: "I swear by the marmalade, cheese and avocado sandwich. It was surprisingly good, and I don't think it had anything to do with my Swedish/Norwegian heritage "

That does sound delicious! It could only be improved by grilling to get the cheese and marmalade all superheated-melty and dangerous.


Ellen Eh! wrote: "Ellen! Hello!

Hello, Eh! I was catching up on the BR group and your comment about empathizing with Mormon guilt by betraying all your open books made me laugh out loud. I just downloaded a sample of Soulless to see what it's like.



message 11: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! We're all glad you're getting back in the gr saddle again!

I think hurling was the universal reaction to Skye O'Malley so it's good you skipped that one. Soulless isn't bad, sort of back to the silliness of PtP, in comparison.


Ellen Eh! wrote: "We're all glad you're getting back in the gr saddle again!

I think hurling was the universal reaction to Skye O'Malley so it's good you skipped that one. Soulless isn't bad, sort of back to the s..."


Thanks, Eh. So far Soulless is less compelling than PtP, if that's possible, because Carriger thinks she's witty!


message 13: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Heh, the appreciation is part of the PTSD. If I was reacting normally, I'd probably be more critical. This could be a sign of your mental resiliance.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Eh! wrote: "Heh, the appreciation is part of the PTSD. If I was reacting normally, I'd probably be more critical. This could be a sign of your mental resiliance."

And how. I was so deeply traumatized by Skye that anything without 6 billion instances of rape is aces. Well, not aces aces, but not torture anyway. Yup, Skye OMalley, lowering the bar since 1982.


message 15: by Reese (new)

Reese Ellen,
You're back? I've been lamenting the cancellation of your show, but now I see that you're back . . . and Leno's back. Maybe Johnny Carson will come back? He died? So -- worse things have happened to people, and they still come back. Anyway, like others -- though I'm really not like others -- I'm glad you're back. I missed reading your interesting reviews of uninteresting books.


Lobstergirl And they never just make one sandwich, either. It's always "sandwiches." Which always makes me wonder how big they are. And they always eat them with coffee, or am I confusing Blomkvist with Wallander? No one drinks water in Sweden, apparently.


message 17: by Alan (new)

Alan re sandwiches - a bunch of Chinese students joined us on a study day recently and we were talking about things they found strange in the UK - diet of course. Bread. They couldn't understand why we ate so much bread. And pizza. Then I met an African student (from Cameroon) and he said the same thing - our diet was bread, bread and more bread.
Us Europeans can't get enough carbs obviously. I lived on toast for about 25 years. I try to vary it a bit now, toast every other day.


Ellen Lobstergirl wrote: "And they never just make one sandwich, either. It's always "sandwiches." Which always makes me wonder how big they are. And they always eat them with coffee, or am I confusing Blomkvist with Wal..."

No, you're right; they eat these leaden-sounding sandwiches with coffee, and for that matter, caffeine apparently has no effect on them as they drink it day & night. How do they sleep?

...By the way, how's the menu in Pitcairn?


Ellen Reese wrote: "Ellen,
You're back? I've been lamenting the cancellation of your show, but now I see that you're back . . . and Leno's back. Maybe Johnny Carson will come back? He died? So -- worse things hav..."


Yup - am back, but not sure I want to lumped with Leno :). Interesting reviews on uninteresting books, huh? Some of the books I read are interesting - really!


message 20: by Reese (new)

Reese Okay, so I won't lump you with Leno, whose show I don't watch. AND I'll say that your reviews are, more often than not, of greater interest to me than the books that you review.

MY COMMENT ON MY COMMENT:
Not quite up there with Chaucer's "Retraction" -- but hey, I'm not a poet; I'm not famous; and, as you know, I'm not a Christian.


Lobstergirl Ellen wrote: "Lobstergirl wrote: "And they never just make one sandwich, either. It's always "sandwiches." Which always makes me wonder how big they are. And they always eat them with coffee, or am I confusin..."

Oh, the menu here in Pitcairn is fantastic. Sugarcane, yams, and human flesh.

Swedish detectives do not sleep. I can't remember if you are a Mankell reader, but they drink coffee nonstop, have constant insomnia and are always exhausted, and when they do finally fall into bed, they get a phone call from the commander announcing a body has just been discovered.


Ellen Reese wrote: "Okay, so I won't lump you with Leno, whose show I don't watch. AND I'll say that your reviews are, more often than not, of greater interest to me than the books that you review.

MY COMMENT ON MY..."


Nope, no retractions. I like your comments and always find them funny and/or astute.


Ellen Oh, the menu here in Pitcairn is fantastic. Sugarcane, yams, and human flesh.

Swedish detectives do not sleep. I can't remember if you are a Mankell reader, but they drink coffee nonstop, have constant insomnia and are always exhausted, and when they do finally fall into bed, they get a phone call from the commander announcing a body has just been discovered.

* * *
I rather thought that would be the menu of Pitcairn from your perspective...

No, I haven't tried Mankell yet. Do you recommend him? And yes, the coffee drinking is astonishing. I'd never sleep if I drank coffee all day. But then I guess they don't sleep. No wonder they're so morose.


message 24: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Ellen, this article from the Telegraph made me wonder, but I haven't investigated further.


Lobstergirl I do recommend Mankell. I'm a fan, although sometimes he can be mediocre. But most authors can, I've found. Read him in order, if possible.


Ellen Abigail wrote: "Coming into this thread a little late, to say that I too am glad to have you back, Ellen!"

Thanks, Abigail!


Karen Lobstergirl wrote: "Ellen wrote: "Lobstergirl wrote: "And they never just make one sandwich, either. It's always "sandwiches." Which always makes me wonder how big they are. And they always eat them with coffee, or..."

No wonder all Swedish detectives are so cranky and depressed -- they're just tired.


Karen THANK YOU for the link to the Ephron essay -- Hil-arious. How many times can Larsson mention that Blomkvist has an iBook? One page mentioned it three times. I'm less than 100 pages into the this book and I don't know if I'm going to finish it.


Ellen Karen wrote: "THANK YOU for the link to the Ephron essay -- Hil-arious. How many times can Larsson mention that Blomkvist has an iBook? One page mentioned it three times. I'm less than 100 pages into the this..."

The Ephron essay is a hoot! I was reading it rather mindlessly in the New Yorker when I realized it was a take-off on Larsson's trilogy and started laughing.

If you've read his first two - not short! - books, by all means, finish the third one.


message 30: by Jody (new) - added it

Jody That Ephron essay hit the nail on the head as to why I can't get through this book! It's been sitting by the side of my bed for weeks.


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

i love myron bolitar!


message 32: by Aynge (new)

Aynge Thanks for the New Yorker link. Hilarious!


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