Books Writing
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

When a Novel Grips You

I'm reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, and, like an obsessive lover, I can hardly keep my hands off it.   I steal moments during the day to read it, I read it at night and I wake up thinking about the book.

This kind of getting lost in a book doesn't happen often to me anymore.  As a writer, I'm constantly absorbing what the author I'm reading is doing as I read.  This makes it difficult to simply get lost in a book.  Instead, I'm analyzing: how did she make that scene so snappy?  Why did he put the backstory there? And so on.

One way to get around this is to read books completely unlike that which you are writing.  Bury yourself in a science fiction title if you're writing a mystery, for instance, or read an historical novel if you're writing science fiction.  Thus the tendency to compare and contrast is somewhat reduced. 

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a mystery, and while what I'm writing is completely different, that is not why I chose this book to read.  I can't even remember how I happened upon it, but I found it on Amazon and after reading the rave review there, I bought it on a whim.  For once, the Amazon reviews did not let me down.

The novel is a traditional closed-room (not even sure if that is the correct term) mystery, though in this case it is a closed-island mystery.  It is set in Sweden, and makes me long to go there, activating my Danish genes.  The characters are complicated and flawed and yet full of integrity and righteous indignation about injustices which translate to action. 

There are also reasons the book shouldn't work for me: long stretches of narrative, some of it inside our hero's head; scenes that go on forever with talking heads; that weird switch from third to first inside a character's head that drives me nuts.  But, for whatever reason, I love this book and I'm thrilled that the second in the series is due out in the states in July.

Sadly, Stieg Larsson died a few years ago or a heart attack when he was only in his early fifties. The good news is that he had turned in the manuscripts for three novels before his death.  He was a graphic designer (like a character in the book), a magazine publisher (like the hero of the book) and an expert and campaigner against right-wing extremism and racism.

So that's my report on my reading.  Now excuse me while I get back to it.

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