Readers invest quite a bit of money and plenty of spare time on the sayso of critics of the arts, and most of all on the sayso of critics of books. Yet the same readers rarely catch even a glimpse of the critic at work.
Alina Holgate, apparently on impulse (I certainly didn’t suggest anything so dangerous! — I didn’t even know her), decided to open up the process by showing her mental deliberations in reviewing STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress</a> on Amazon's Kindle Discussion Forum.
Alina is a consultant psychologist of stress management who works out of Melbourne with emergency workers and victims of natural disasters; I too am a psychologist, though by training of abnormal psychology and by practice of mass psychology, so I was intensely interested in how a person who is by training sensitized to character, the main preoccupation of the novelist, would see my critique of Larsson.
Here, stripped of the interference of the sourpusses and dickswingers and special pleaders who infest those fora, is Alina Holgate’s mental process, in her own words, as she wends her way through the book towards her review. The review itself is the last entry.
— André Jute
Critic at Work
Dec. 21, 2010 3:32 AM PST
Just read the Foreword to STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress.
Bit of background on me. I've read all of the Stieg Larsson books because a friend who'd bought the paperbacks lent them to me. I rarely read fiction but I read these because my friend was so enthusiastic about them. I loved the first one. I stayed up way too late reading it. I loved how dense and intelligent the plot was and I loved that it did not follow a standard Hollywood 3 act structure and I loved that the plot twists came as genuine surprises. I enjoyed the 2 following books but they probably didn't have the same impact of surprise that the first one had. I think it's terribly unfortunate that Mr. Larsson died before he could write more.
My impressions following reading the foreword (written by Andre Jute) of STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress:
This guy can write, he's engaging and honest and intelligent and bemusing.
- I want to read more.
- Now I've got to check out what else this guy has written because I want to read more written by him.
- So, first impressions are - I want to keep reading, and, as far as I'm concerned, that is the best recommendation you can give a book.
I'm going to read more and I'll update as I do.
Dec. 21, 2010 4:09 AM PST
First chapter finished. This chapter would be of especial interest to any novice writer interested in how the publishing game has traditionally worked and the impact of the internet on publishing . Names are named and quoted. The writing has an excellent pace and I'll definitely be checking out anything more Andre Jute has written. I think he is both appropriately cynical and appropriately respectful to the best and worst of the publishing industry.
Off to bed and will continue updating as I read. I'm looking forward to reading more.
Dec. 21, 2010 5:05 PM PST
Continuing to read "STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress". It's a very entertaining read and the author certainly has a nice turn of phrase ("Sloane Square wet dream") and I've had quite a few chuckles along the way. He certainly knows how to put the skewer into pretentiousness of all kinds.
The author is so far doing an effective job of demolishing the iconography and myth making surrounding Larsson as an individual, and his criticisms appear to be well researched and well-founded and very entertaining to read as he takes swipes at the media and publishers and certain individuals. I'm wondering though what the point of all this is. No doubt I will find out as I continue to read.
Posted on Dec. 21, 2010 5:12 PM PST
Good grief, I learned a new and very handy word - "irredentist":
One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but now subject to a foreign government.
Posted on Dec. 22, 2010 3:36 AM PST
OK, now I get the point. The author(s) declared most important chapter is "Is there a single feminist in a house of 50 m people?" This chapter is a j'accuse of, well, pretty much everybody associated with the publishing, distribution, reviewing and consumption of Larsson's books, which seeks to kick out the foundations of the claim that Larsson's trilogy is feminist.
I identify myself as a feminist and I found this a most interesting (and amusing) chapter. I've always been perplexed at the notion that Larsson is any kind of feminist. In point form:
- He depicts female characters who are intelligent, self-determined and in charge of their sexuality. Does this make his books feminist? Perhaps, but surely there are many other books that do this.
- He abhors systematic violence against women. As the author(s) rightly point out this simply makes him a decent human being, not a feminist.
- His depiction of violence against women comes across as prurient to me, he describes what happens (e.g. he takes an observer's perspective), he does not describe this horror from the perspective of the victim, the victims (like so many victims of serial killers) are not humanised, they are simply depicted as sad and vulnerable women.
- The perpetrators of violence against women in Larsson's books are depicted as cartoonish villains of the military-industrial complex who are simply motivated by unmitigated evil. Yes, we know they are "baddies" and that is very satisfying to the reader but it is not a particularly sophisticated depiction of the small and large rationalisations that permit men like this to continue perpetrating violence against women.
- He provides no solution to the problem of violence against women beyond the possibility that we should all turn into vigilantes who personally arrange the tattooing and murder of individual perps. Again, satisfying to the reader to see Salander take revenge - but hardly feminist, more like standard issue good guys vs. bad guys stuff.
- As the writer(s) point out, one of the most irritating things about the character of Kalle is his incredible passivity. He merely blunders through the world having his bones jumped by every single female he encounters. You hardly need to be a feminist scholar to ask yourself "Really? Every single woman he meets wants to do him? And they jump his bones? And he doesn't have to do anything other than be his violence-against-women-abhorring self?" Yeah, if I were male I'd be wanting to sign up for that alternate reality. And I think that's where Larsson truly shows himself as a middle-aged male fantasist. Larsson has been careful to show that Kalle is a mere passive recipient of women's initiated sexual desires but Larsson essentially panders to the fantasy of "I wish I could boff every woman I meet with no complications". The idea that if feminism reigned women would demand sexual satisfaction from men in the street is, er, an adolescent fantasy I'm afraid.
I agree with the author(s) that Larsson is no feminist and that the promotion of his books as some sort of feminism is a crock and that this debate will only be had in forums like this because no-one else gives a FF (that is, flying f-word).
I have read the rest of the book but I want to settle on it and re-read the last few chapters before doing a more formal review. I can assure you that it's a very enjoyable read.
Dec. 23, 2010 3:59 AM PST
Just published a review of the book for anyone interested. Copy text below:
Fasten your seatbelts, we're in for a bumpy ride
I'll declare my interests. I received a free review copy of this book from the author Jute through the kindle Discussions boards. Would I shell out 2.99 of hard-earned to read this? Yes, I would.
This book will certainly be of interest to anyone perplexed by the hoopla over the Millenium Trilogy.
Good things about this book:
- It is written in an extremely entertaining and engaging manner (to my mind) and provides much amusement and quite a few chuckles as the author(s) attack *everyone* associated with the Larsson legend.
- It is thought provoking to the degree that I have reread some chapters just to make sure that I have extracted every bit of juice from them.
- Its central attack is upon the notion that Larsson should be considered some sort of feminist warrior. The demolition job done on this notion is particularly effective.
- It also evaluates Larsson's books as a contribution to literature and is also particularly effective and amusing in this critique.
- There were 3 words in the text that I had to look up to discover their meaning (e.g. irredentist). This may sound like pretentious tosh but it happens so rarely that I have to look up a word an author has used appropriately that I am agog in admiration. I like obscure words.
Some things people may not like about this book:
- The author(s) are by no means lacking in the confidence of their convictions. Opinions are very strongly expressed here. Some readers may find the writing to be nasty and arrogant. I believe that the author(s) show sufficient consideration of the point-of-view of the individuals they discuss but there is no denying that the attitude of the author(s) is essentially cynical.
- The book tries to cover so many issues that it can be a bit unstructured and lacking in flow. The book variously: attacks Larsson's credentials as a feminist; critiques the Millenium trilogy as literature; comments on the publication and review process of Larsson in particular and books in general; comments on the extraordinary personal conflicts between heirs since Larsson's death. This is a lot to chew on. The pastiche nature of the book is also probably not helped by the fact that there were 2 authors, even though Jute's "voice" appears to be dominant.
In summary I recommend this book as worth reading. It is well-written and thought provoking and will probably be particularly informative to people who are not familiar with how the world of publishing works. Although this book could be "better", e.g. some issues could be covered in greater depth rather than jumping from one issue to another, I found it to be extremely diverting reading. I certainly think it is worth buying but I can understand that there are probably a lot of readers who wouldn't quite get it.
— Alina Holgate