My opinion is that Lizbeth Salender, the girl with the dragon tattoo who played with fire and kicked the hornet's nest, is THE most intriguing characters if crime fiction since Hannibal Lechter, and the the very short series by Steig Larsson one of the best crime series ever.

I tend to get hyperbolic about things that I like, so I would like to hear others' opinions.

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I totally agree with Caroline. Salander is absolutely unreal, but who are the real characters in literature?

Nick Carraway who watches the world go by in "The Great Gatsby?" Jake Barnes of "The Sun Also Rises" who was hurt in the War? Jack Reacher of the Lee Childs' books? Hannibal Lechter? Nope, none of the above. You have to look long and far to find "real" characters. Mark Twain sometimes? But probably not. Leads in literary novels? No, I don't think so.

Literature is entertainment, not portraits of real life. For all of his far-out causal incidents, I believe that Stephen King comes closer to creating real people than any modern writer.

Characters in TV dramas? They look real. It is only because its right there in front of us when done well with high production values that we willingly suspend our belief in the fantastic.

It may be why young readers today, accept witches, vampires, and fairies. They "know" its fiction and fantasy. We of an older generation think it is supposed to be real.

No writer can duplicate real life, he can only hope to come close and entertain in the process.

Not to chastise Melanie Newman from John McFetridge''s suggested piece at -- http://www.thefword.org.uk/reviews/2009/09/larrson_review
But would Ms. Newman have been so anti Lizbeth Salander if the character had been created by a female writer? Her piece reminds me of the whips and chains that the deceased John D. MacDonald has gotten for creating Travis McGee, a man gentle in his time when it came to women and for creating women before most women became award of their power.
Sure, storytelling is entertainment, but it can be something else for some people. We all have criteria we use to judge what we choose to spend our time with and no two people have the same criteria. I like Hemingway (the short stories mostly) but I don't like Lee Child's books (I met Lee Child, though, and he's a very nice guy).

Ms. Newman gave some detailed reasons why she felt the way she did about the book and the characters. My guess is, yes, had the book been written by a woman, Ms. Newman would have had the same reaons to feel the same way.

Now, these books have hit a nerve that seems to go far beyond any publicity or marketing campaighn could have managed, so there's something there, for sure. But it's not a bd thing to analyse it, especially for other writers, to try and find out what it is that people are reacting to.

And by the way, I agree that Stephen Kig has created some of the best modern American literary characters. His scenes of working-class life are some of the best ever and I still think many of the scenes in Hearts of Atlantis get to the heart of sixties campus life a lot better than many of the more famous books in similar settings. Too bad about the monsters, but he's true to himself. Stephen King never panders to what he thinks people will like.
I agree with you about everything but the mind-set of Ms. Newman. When people have an ax to grind, they are blind to all else. I followed her thinking, and I understand it, I just don't agree with it.
I didn't like her piece either. Mostly bullshit from my perspective.
Can't say I remember either Travis McGhee or the women in those novels as being anything like real people.

As for Salander, I think Caroline suggested (correctly) that she is a caricature. Mind you, I'm fond of caricature. Dickens did them wonderfully well. They are very effective. But he did not use caricatures for his protagonist. The protagonist is best when he/she is someone we can identify with. Clearly, women have trouble identifying with someone like Lisbeth. That's not to say the character isn't entertaining. Very much so. Precisely because she's a caricature.
Salander is absolutely unreal, but who are the real characters in literature?

Maybe I should amend my word choice; of course, no fictional character is "real." But there are characters who are more or less "realistic"---believable in the "verismo" style, you know---and those who are exaggerations. As I..J. puts it, "caricatures." Since caricatures are usually humorous (as in Dickens), I don't know that I'd call Salander a caricature because she is not in the least funny, but she's definitely exaggerated. That is, she might possess ONE of any of the distinctive qualities that Larsson bestowed on her---but ALL of them?

Of course, it is entertaining. Salander is the best character in the books, and the only reason why they were such a success. And the fact that she was a redhead just goes to prove my point---she's Pippi Longstocking, all fired up like a Manga superheroine. (I am not a Manga fan, really don't know much about it except that it's a recent craze among the young---at least Anime is---but aren't those girls all superhuman too)?

And there's this other thing that makes Salander appealing to many: she is an "empowered" female. She should be weak, but she gets back at anyone who crosses her---because she's brainy and knows exactly how to take her victims "by surprise," ----they are never expecting what she delivers. Well, OK, she had a bit of training. But it's "gratifying" to an audience to see someone who has been abused, whom others think of as a natural victim, turn the tables---and turn them totally, assimilating all the power unto her own small person.

As a matter of fact I think vampire stories have become increasingly popular with the young now not so much because of the sublimated eroticism (that was a Victorian thing---our century's sexuality is pretty much out in the open) but because of the POWER that vampires---especially contemporary vampires---possess. They are immortal, strong, and (in today's lexicon) beautiful (unlike the original Nosferatu)---everything teenagers would like to be.
Salander was a redhead before she died her hair - Armansky says so during one of the many monologues.
To elevate that stuff to Hannibal is like comparing a subsequent vampire to Dracula.
You cannot compare the two. You can however try and contrast them in many ways. Definately not comparable.
I like Lizbeth. I think her character is interesting.

But that's the task of a writer: To make characters interesting. Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn is peopled with great characters. Andrew Vachss recently completed Burke series, too, was similarly populated by outstandingly unique characters. Ditto Gischler's Gun Monkeys and Pistol Poets.

But the story needs to fuel the character's actions and what we find interesting about them then explains their actions. Tattoo was good, if plodding, and I enjoyed Fire; am looking forward to Nest. But as interesting as Lizbeth is, the story is strong, too.

I really can't think of a novel I've enjoyed where after I finished it I sat back and thought "That dude was boring!"
Tolstoy was toilsome and boring. Reading Anna Karenina was work, War and Peace was just that, a war within myself, to bring myself to read it, and peace of mind knowing that once I am done reading it, I can say I've read the revered and ubiquitous War and Peace.
This is off the topic, but I think I will start a discussion about who read "War and Peace" and what did they see that made it a classic?

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