Wednesday, January 13, 2010


No more Thomas Hardy, I promise, but -- Victoriana update: I finally read The Tiger in the Well, (which Google would lead you to believe is about Tiger Woods' health or US high school wrestling, but is actually the third book in Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series, possibly the original fount of contemporary YA Victoriana (Ruby in the Smoke was first published in 1985). Seeing as the BBC was too lazy (or busy making everyone go WTF? about Doctor Who) to provide its annual Sally Lockhart adaptation, reader, I read it -- not without ghostly visions of Billie Piper and Matt Smith rather Who-ing up the whole thing. I suppose part of the pleasure of historical fiction is the sense of book as Tardis.

Likewise (or somehow connectedly -- my brain is still full of Xmas pudding so beware tenuous connections) the pleasure of catching up with characters as they grow up. Sally Lockhart, now a mother, a transformation that Pullman (one of those rare male authors who writes female subjectivities well -- better, I think, than male) carries off with aplomb. He even manages a short passage of third-person-slanted narration through Sally's toddler daughter Harriet. Hats off to him. Hats off, also, to Hilary McKay, who has returned to the beloved Casson family with what, fingers crossed, might be becoming a new Rose book. At the moment it's a years' worth of blog in Rose's inimitable voice. True to the theme of this post, it ends with a wonderful and seasonal post about snö (explanation for spelling forthcoming), and it's worth reading through the earlier posts (downloadable as PDFs) for Rose's frozen bedroom experience.

With the Victoriana pile dealt with (Tiger in the Well features little snow, sadly, but a hell of a lot of plot-relevant rain), the only literature snowy enough to meet the season is Scandinavian detective fiction which, legend has it, always begins with (or at least contains) the line: "There was snow." or "It was snowing." or "Snow had fallen." In Scandetectiviana, snow forms a major plot point as well as a mood message: there's always bodies stuck under the ice, or snow covering tracks (with Miss Smilla as the original, if not the best, case). So I was a little disappointed about the lack of snö (which is, of course, snow pronounced with a Muppet Show Swedish Chef accent) in the Swedish film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (of course Hollywood has optioned a remake, which is about as necessary as a remake of Let the Right One In, a film that neatly combined vampires [very Victorian] with snö). Altogether too summery, frankly, despite the rather sparkly winter opening, a witty moment involving a wood stove/MacBook juxtaposition, and proof that you can jog in the snow. I suppose to Swedes, snow is a fact of life, not a cinematic attraction.

I think it's also part of author Stieg Larsson's lighter take on the thriller: not that the Millennium Trilogy isn't replete with (knuckle-)cracking action and gory murders, but the central characters, journalist Mikael Blomqvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander, don't come with the prerequisite long dark snowfall of the soul for which the external weather is pathetic fallacy, as in Wallander (which I mainly like for the TV series' theme tune, Nostalgia by the fantabulous Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo). In fact, there was a surprising amount of laughter during the press screening. Larsson had the enviable gift (brought out by director Niels Arden Oplev) of injecting ironic humour into the human relationships that form around the grimmest of situations.

This relentlessly thrillerish trailer (walking away from explosions, lots of chase sequences and fast editing) doesn't really convey the warm, human nature of the books or film, but it does include Noomi Rapace, who plays Lisbeth Salander. Speculation that Kristen Stewart or Ellen Page could pull this role off seems ludicrous. What we need is Fairuza Balk!


WipedNWired said...

i love reading your reviews, especially seeing i haven't read the books you're reviewing. but this one needs more chili chocolate in it. and MY head is full of scrapping cats...

Delirium's Librarian said...

Good point! Snö and (Fairuza Balk) and chilli chocolate are an excellent combination! I had a blog post somewhere about chocolate review blogs and reading... I'll have to look it out for you ;) I think it included news of camel milk chocolate.

mat felix said...

The Balk would be so perfect for the remake!