On reading bad literature

Last Sunday 12 December, Edward Docx published an article in The Observer in which he simply categorized Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson as “mesmerizingly bad”.

I recognise that Larsson’s great contribution to contemporary literature is the creation of a splendid character such as Lisbeth Salander. Troubled, brave and incredibly intelligent. At least in The Girl With A Dragon Tatoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. 

Then it all came crumbling down with The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest. Oh dear! WHAT happened there???  I mean, come on, Salander recovering from a shot in the head and being buried alive among other things, is able to hear, get up, lock the door as the ultra evil and heartless Zalachenko, who, by the way is also recovering from having an ax thrown into his skull, walks down the hospital corridor looking out to finish her up. Really? What is this? Nightmare on Elm Street Swedish style? Nah! I closed the book feeling laughed at and that was it for me.

While the rest of the word went crazy on Larsson’s final book of the Millenium Trilogy, I wondered what would have happened if Stieg Larsson were still alive. Was The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest the result of editors in a hurry to publish and make the most of the Larsson mania?

I do see a point in Docx’s article, having the Millenium 3 in my hands I felt I was reading bad bad literature. A book that was taking the Mickey at the detective-thriller novel, pushing the whodunnit recipe to the maximum and that at the end of the day was not worth my time. A friend of mine, well-known writer and columnist, to my surprise felt the same. She thought that Larsson’s final book went into the light without a careful editing and I wonder if that is at all fair for the author (especially for the one that can’t complain!).

I think we all should be exposed to bad literature, just a little bit. It allow us to judge, to have an opinion and helps us love our well written thrillers and novels (e.g Henning Mankell, Cormac McCarthy, etc etc etc).

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (who as Larsson, mutatis mutandi please!, never saw the huge success of his work) was an extraordinary reader who also had the great virtue of reading bad literature. “It is useful to also get bored with a book”- he said once.

I wonder if I should have kept on reading The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest….

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