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    • Accepting and Using Climate Change
      A couple days ago I was thinking about the problem of surveillance states and I realized “this problem is likely to become less of one because of climate change.” And I started thinking about all the opportunities and good things climate change makes possible. My grieving was done. My pre-grieving, I suppose. I see grieving […]
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Summer Reading: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Oh, stop your whining.  You won’t have to write a paper or anything.  (hmmm, maybe that’s only meaningful to the users here who have kids in school.)

Stieg Larsson, Swedish journalist turned thriller/mystery writer, created a fascinating character in the shape of a spritely, stinging, punk avenging angel named Lisbeth Salander.  He got off 3 books out of a proposed 10 in the Millenium series before he died of a massive coronary caused by years of heavy smoking, proving that nicotine truly is the most evil substance on the planet.

The Girl Who Played With Fire is the sophomore success to Larsson’s debut The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Run, do not walk to the nearest bookstore and buy the sucker.  If you haven’t read the first one, you’ll be doubly blessed this summer as you kick back on the beach with your SPF 50 and cooler full of beer.  We won’t see book three until some time in 2010 but there is plenty in these two books to chew on like Swedish granola.

The Millenium series revolves around two characters: Mikhail “Kalle” Blomqvist, investigative journalist exposing the nasty, sexist underbelly of Sweden’s cool exterior, and Lisbeth Salander, the twenty something computer hacker extraordinaire with the obsessively private personality.  Blomqvist and Salander’s last adventure has made her rich beyond her wildest imaginings and she disappears for 2 years to travel the world, while Blomqvist and his business partner and part time lover, Erika Berger, delve into the seemy depths of the sex trade.  When one of their contract investigative journalists working on the importation of sex slaves from the former eastern bloc countries is executed in his apartment, newly returned Lisbeth Salander becomes the prime suspect.  It’s Blomqvist’s task to put the missing pieces together to exonerate her without much help from the decidely unhelpful Salander as she goes on the run and communicates with him by hacking into his computer at night.

Larsson’s Millenium series is part mystery and part commentary on society’s uneasy relationship with women.  Mikhail Blomqvist is the ideal man- for both men and women.  He’s a Matt Taibbi type who has the suave and debonnair touch of a James Bond.  Women want to sleep with him because he respects them and treats them like adults.  In fact, maybe Larsson just wanted to suck in as many readers as possible but most of Blomqvist’s lovers are women in their forties, independent and with highly developed erotic personalities.  Jeez, it makes me want to move to Stockholm.  Salander represents a new generation of women who’s not partial to one sex or another.  She uses sex to get the little amount of intimacy she allows herself to experience.  But it is Larsson’s uncanny knack of getting into the heads of men and revealing what they really think about women that feels just about right.  His characters are not politically correct.  The sex trade gangs reduce their victims to a collection of human parts, police commissioners make no attempt to disguise their contempt for their female subordinates and Salander’s colleagues at the security company she works for cavalierly expose women’s private lives for money.

Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza would be right at home in Larsson’s world.  Several reviewers have remarked that the book loses momentum in the middle while the interested parties begin their investigation of the crime.  But those of us who are tuned into how the media works will immediately recognize that Larsson has laid out the anatomy of a media smear campaign, directed at a woman with few allies and all for the purpose of sensationalizing and money making.  The life of the character in question, her hopes and dreams and even the most sensitive details of her personal life are exposed to the world to the point where the media image is unrecognizable to the character herself.  Larsson shows that you don’t have to be a member of a sex trade gang to brutally dehumanize a woman.  It can be done with the flick of a pen.

Highly recommended.

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