Back in 2004, when pretty much everyone on the planet was reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, I made a conscious decision to not read the book. I didn't care that I would be left out of countless conversations surrounding the book, and I didn't mind that I was not a part of a universe-wide literary experience. I had no doubt in my mind: the novel couldn't possible be worth reading. My conviction was based on a very random selection of personal prejudice, pride and book-snobbery. I have made similar decisions regarding the Harry Potter series, as well as anything written by Paulo Coelho. If I hadn't already read Milan Kundera, I would have added him to the list as well. I know that these authors don't have all that much in common - some are critical as well as popular success stories, others not. To me, they are all suspicious because they have a cult following.
With The Da Vinci Code, I received confirmation regarding my doubts. My then-neighbour, a professor of Russian literature (whose opinion I would blindly trust any day), told me that he had had similar reservations, but he had read the book anyway. It was horrible, he said, and we went on to discuss the sad state of popular literature. Ever since, I have wondered what makes certain books popular, and if popularity can be a bad thing. Clearly, in my head at least, it is.
A week ago I got to talking about Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy with Chris's sister and her husband. I had read a couple of articles about Larsson, and of course, I knew that his books occupied number-one-spots in the Bestseller lists everywhere. I had also read positive reviews, but because of the intense, universal fan base, I had almost already decided not to read anything he had written. It hit me, in the midst of the conversation, that I hadn't had a chance to talk about a shared literary experience with anyone for a while. I realised that my dedication to reading obscure authors, graphic novels and Russian classics was hindering me from staying on the bandwagon of what other people read, and what they have to say about the world of literature today. Who was I to question the positive opinions of others? Why on earth would I let my prejudice run wild when people all over the world were falling in love with authors I, in my persistant snobbery, would avoid like the plague? All of a sudden, reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seemed like a great idea, and I was going to love it. I grabbed a copy on Wednesday, and finished reading the book last night. Now more than ever, I am left wondering what makes a book popular. I haven't got an answer.
Reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reminded me of drinking a cup of tea at a gas station: luke-warm water and a Lipton tea bag served in a coffee cup. I read the book quickly, partly because it is an easy book to read, partly because I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. Everything in the book seemed awfully hollow. I didn't feel anything, apart from disgust toward the crimes that the plot dealt with. I left the book with very little interest toward the main characters and what might happen to them in the future. I have no idea why the book has been such a success. I can't help but wonder if I am the only one who just doesn't get it. The years I have spent considering myself a bit of a book snob never left me feeling quite as alienated as I feel now. I almost feel I would have been better off not reading the book.
I don't really have a conclusion for this post. I feel bad because I really wanted to like the book and prove my instincts wrong. Can 27 million sold copies of the Millennium Trilogy mean that I have just got this all wrong? Did I miss something? Could my lack of experience with crime fiction be an issue here? Or maybe I hadn't managed to get rid of my prejudice after all. Am I just a pretentious ass? And haven't I heard somewhere that the sequels are better than the first book, anyway?
Tank top: H&M (I've had it for probably five years)
Skirt: second hand, bought at UFF this summer
Shoes: Fly London, bought at Aleksi 13 two summers ago
Tulip pendant: present from Chris
Earrings: present from Tuuli
Belt: Salvation Army, bought this spring