I'm just a reader too, Margot. I do hope you will stick around---it's nice to have "just another reader" weighing in.
I haven't noticed that too many people here are actually "bashing" authors---we just all have our preferences. And can usually justify them. I'm always ambivalent about novels of the supernatural---one of the reasons I'm not sure about "So Cold the River." However, I have not yet stopped reading. :)
I haven't read "I'd Know You Anywhere," but now that you mention it, I probably will---I think Lippmann is an exceptionally gifted writer, and as you say, she is exploring issues with dark undercurrents. Like Ruth Rendell, she is painting a picture of contemporary society. But when you pick up a thriller---you want the suspense, and too much social commentary can slow things down.
BTW, the movie version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was surprisingly good---because Noomi Rapace is an absolutely ferocious Salander. I liked the novel with some reservations---the cat mutilation scene was upsetting and seemed completely gratutitous. I was not going to watch the movie until a neighbor told me there was no cat in the movie at all.
Quite a bit else may have been left out---the details of Salander's hacking abilities---but in essence, the film was true to the book. And Rapace made Salander unforgettable. I understand there is an American version in the works? Who needs it
I had decided to give Lippman another chance. I stopped reading her thrillers because she inserted to much social commentary. Are you saying, Caroline, that her outside-the-thriller novels have too much of that as well? Lippman can write. The novel I remember best was the one where her protag got involved with this rower. That was my kind of thriller.
I loved the movie too. I couldn't believe how spot on the actors were matched to the characters. Exactly as I imagined they would be. To me the movie concentrated more on Salander and the missing lady than all the other issues in the book. I have also seen The Girl who Played with Fire, and that was very good too.
There is probably as much author-praising as author-bashing being done by other authors. In any case, when you're writing, you tend to look for the way the story is handled, and frequently that means a much closer and more demanding reading. Many authors have said that (regrettably) they no longer enjoy their reading as much as they used to, because their critical eye has gone into overdrive.
The case of the Stieg Larsson books has to do with the fact that they are run-away bestsellers and therefore attract close scrutiny to what brought that about. Much of it, alas, is hype. The character of the girl, though, is wonderfully fresh and memorable and accounts for a good deal of the attention.
The really sad thing is that the exceptionally good mysteries are too rarely discussed, because the bestsellers get the spotlight.
In any case, when you're writing, you tend to look for the way the story is handled, and frequently that means a much closer and more demanding reading.
You've hit the nail, I.J. Novelists, poets, artists---we ALL scrutinize other novelists, poets, artists as carefully as we scrutinize ourselves. It almost becomes an exercise. We want to know how we measure up. Where we stand, and why.
It's to be hoped we can remain objective enough to give credit where it's due. And always, always, even when we are critical, respect the feelings of other artists, because we know how difficult it is to be one, whether or not we're acknowledged. There was a line in Lippman's "Life Sentences," where Cassandra recalls that her father told his writing students they would likely never be able to write a line as wonderful as Homer's "wine dark sea." But that was no reason not to TRY.
Of course in the case of Stieg Larsson---he's dead, so what difference does it make what anyone says. Just think how rich he would be if he'd lived. To be a posthumous best-seller? How ironic! Someone is getting fabulously rich off his books---but it isn't the author! So let's hope he really enjoyed writing them. And a good reason to remember how important that is.
And yes---if , IF you make the bestseller list, part of the price of fame IS more scrutiny. And there will ALWAYS be talented others who get swept under the rug because THEIR books won't rake in the BIG bucks. Why shouldn't they be allowed to critique? It's only natural.
I can really enjoy reading mysteries because I am NOT going into overdrive. Of course I will take note of good writing, of everything, but really I am just enjoying the swim. I read what I want. When I look at art....well, that's where I may go into critical/analytical overdrive, having to deal with....among other things... mainstream postmodernism! Conceptual art! And everybody and his brother deciding to become a painter. :)
It's almost as though she's trying to move away from the traditional mystery. "Life Sentences" seemed tyo me almost another version of 'Every Secret Thing," which was much better. She doesn't write the traditional "whodunit," except in the Tess Gallagher series.
Finally finished "So Cold the River." (Michael Koryta). If you like novels of the supernatural, by all means read it.
I guess my problem is that I can't quite suspend disbelief enough to buy the notion of a thirties-something film-maker manque with psychic tendencies who drinks some creepy bottled water and starts having visions and brings back an evil ghost. I wasn'g going to compare this book with "The Shining," but it's hard not to, because somehow Stephen King makes his child psychic, Danny, very believable---he's an innocent, and he barely talks except to his imaginry playmate. And the evil in "The Shining " is more diffuse---until it possesses the father, who is also a failed writer. Then HE becomes the threat, like the caretaker before him. I don't really have a problem accepting that there are people who do have "psychic" powers----just the nature of those abilities. A the core of "The Shining" was the disintegration of a dysfunctional family, and its ultimate salvation by the powerless-- who manage to survive against the odds and take back their lives instead of living in the past.
Koryta writes well---I have not read any of his detective fiction, but maybe I will. Now I know why I prefer murder mysteries.