Bill who?

So I finally read Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Yeah, call me Mr. Cutting Edge. I have no time to read — I’m too busy running a bookstore. Go figure.

So how was it? Pretty good stuff, thanks mainly to its two very interesting lead characters. Just as Peter Hoeg gives us a look at the underside of life in Denmark, Larsson’s journalist-eye view of Swedish society is bracing and sometimes startling. The accumulation of plot twists becomes preposterous towards the end, but that’s nothing unusual in this genre. I look forward to reading the next two books when I take some time off in August. I’ve also scored a copy of the DVD for the bookstore collection, and I’ll want to see that soon as well.

What I didn’t expect from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the number of times it would ring my nostalgia bells. Like a lot of people, I grew up with Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking stories, but I also sought out her other books: Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, the Bullerby kids, and above all the dark-toned children’s fantasy The Brothers Lionheart, which for my money puts the entire Narnia series completely in the shade. Astrid Lindgren (pictured above) was a prolific writer, and her other works deserve to be as well known as the Pippi books.

I’m hoping the success of Steig Larsson’s trilogy brings on a revival of Lindgren’s very enjoyable series about the boy detective Kalle Blomkvist. Larsson’s protagonist is an investigative journalist named Mikael Blomkvist, who is frequently teased with the name Kalle by his enemies. That added an unexpected note to my enjoyment of the story.

Lindgren wrote three Kalle Blomkvist novels in the late Forties and early Fifties. They were translated into English, but Kalle never quite caught hold the way Pippi did, and the books are long out of print. They aren’t hard to find, though, and prices are usually pretty reasonable.

The only problem is that somebody thought Kalle Blomkvist’s name was too hard to pronounce for American readers, and so the boy detective was given the unfortunate moniker Bill Bergson, which lies on the page like a serving of old lutefisk.

But I’ll settle for a revival under the Bergson name, so long as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo inspires renewed appreciation for the creator of the girl with the outrageous pigtails.

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