Category Archives: Stieg Larsson

Javin’s Top 5 GLBTQ Books

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Javin has been a member of the book club for some time. As someone whose taste is quite different from the rest of the members’, we haven’t read many of his recommendations. Hence, this is an opportunity for him to tell us about his favorite books.

Javin’s Top Five GLBTQ Books

1. Harry Potter Series

I simply just love this series. Although it is not famous for its LGBT theme, I think it handles the LGBT issues very well. While many feel that the book is homophobic as the Dumbledore’s story line appears tragic, I think it displays that love is Dumbledore’s Achilles’ heels and that he has allowed his love to blind him. However, my favourite LGBT character is not Dumbledore but the other gay guy – Sirius Black. Seriously, this guy sacrifices so much for his love towards his best friend (?) James and eventually, projects this love towards Harry. While it is somewhat creepy, making him a pedophile, it is still love.

Hunger Games2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Yup, I know some of you may think that this is not a LGBT book and wonder why this is on the list. The movies will try to pin themselves as the next twilight but the readers of this books will know that Katniss Everdeen is a raging lesbian, trying to survive in an oppressive post-apocalytic universe by associating with and marrying out of convenient to Peeta. Katniss is independent, manipulative and resourceful like any butch you’d find. And in the book, you have a sense that she is neither in love with Peeta nor Gale. Only reason for her union with Peeta is for publicity, not love. The only time you sense that she loves someone is her sister, probably her projection of what her love could be, to be with another woman and willing to do all to sacrifice for this person.

deadlocked3. The South Vampire Mysteries (aka True Blood Series)

Seriously guys, it is no surprise to be in love with a Vampire series for any gay man. Firstly, vampires suck. Secondly, they are eternally youthful, beautiful, sexually aggressive and relentless, strong and fair…etc (everything that makes every gay man drools). Last but not least, they die on a stick. Of course, the sun will burn them too but that is more for the beauty regime than anything. Ok I digress. However, anyone who has read this book will know that all vampires are bisexual. Of course, the books are popular because it is a fun read and a mixture of genre, from murder mystery to vampires folklore to comedy. What’s amazing about this book is that it sometimes contains 2 finales in a single title, making it a real page turner. Why are we not reading this book?

4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Just for the fact that we had so much fun discussing it and what it really means, makes this a real trick for me. [For our book club notes on the book, click here.]

girldragon5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The fact that I recommended this book for the book club discussion does mean I really like it. It may be a disappointment to some that I see reading books as means of escapism/ entertainment and not really to draw some deep thoughts on the author’s ideology or philosophy. This book is fun, a real page turner and dark with a serious social justice theme behind a seemingly Hollywood story telling structure. Why must story telling be boring even if the theme is a serious one? I like the book for the fact that the author has the reader in mind when writing and it is not an exercise to express their narcissism. [For our discussion on the book, click here.]

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Filed under Charlaine Harris, J. K. Rowling, Maurice Sendak, Stieg Larsson, Suzanne Collins, Top 5

35th Discussion: Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (21 Jun)

The book club is extremely fortunate to have one of the awesomest host, Raj, to provide us with Swedish snacks to go with the Swedish novel: Ikea meatballs, Swedish potato chips and a roe-pate baguette. Thanks, Raj!

We started by saying we all liked the book because it is a pageturner and realistic.

We talked much about Salander as a character. Javin noted that although she is not a “perfect victim” as described by her guardian Bjurman–she fights back against her aggressors–she is a victim of the society she lives in; she can fight a person but not against the system. Raj explicated that there is no reasoning behind Salander; she is all id. She does what she wants; she’s amoral. While Aaron suggests that she is unethical; invades on others’ privacy; hurts people as much as Martin hurting the girls–Salander is not that different from Martin–; protects herself at all cost, even by risking Bloomkvist who needs to seek treatment for his shock at the brink of death, the rest still felt that her ends justify the means and her unethicality is forgiven because she’s cool.

On the other hand, Bloomkvist, Raj stated, is charming and has a code of ethnical conduct. Aaron brought up that despite all his positive traits, he makes a lousy parent–parenthood as a main theme in the book–as his daughter shares similar traits with Harriet, and he notices them himself, and yet he doesn’t salvage the situation.

If Bloomkvist were a stand-in for the journalist-novelist, as Gavin said, then there is a certain chauvinism about the book: all women who sleeps with Bloomkvist/Larsson falls in love with him. His chauvinism is especially apparent when the women blur into each other: Cecelia looks like Anita who looks like Harriet who is like Bloomkvist’s daughter.

But chauvinism seem to co-exist with a strong feminist message: women rule. Salander saves Bloomkvist in the end and she takes control of the situation from Frode the lawyer while Harriet runs the company.

While the book is feminist, Bloomkvist, though liberal, seems to try but fail to accept gay people and as a result, there are some homophobic stereotypes. For one, the art director–of course the gay guy has to be a designer–is said to be an “exhibitionist gay celebrity” and described to be flighty and unable to hold his own. A second homophobic stereotype is that Salander’s bisexuality itself is in question: she only sleeps with women because men are jerks; but if she has to choose, she’d still choose a man as evident that she chooses Bloomkvist. The description of the novel on her bisexuality itself seems homophobic in the sense, Raj and Gavin stated, that it claims sex with men to be carnal acts while sex with women is emotional: this binary is of course a negative stereotype.

Another point that may support the homophobia argument is that although a wide range of sexual acts is depicted (such as Bloomkvist’s and Berger’s open relationship; and pedophiliac and incestuous Bloomkvist sleeping with Salander who, he notes, can be his daughter and has a prepubescent body), it is the homo sex/anal sex that is demonized. The strongest evidence comes from Martin-Bloomkvist almost-sex scene. The threat of homo sex between the men is associated with death. Another example is that Salander is raped anally and she seeks her revenge by raping her rapist anally. There are many ways which Larsson could have depicted her pain and suffering–there are many ways of S&M–but yet he chooses the kind of sex that is associated with gay men. The third example is when Salander insinuates that Bloomkvist will be raped in jail. All these images of homo sex are negative.

Despite that, we still saw the novel as a powerful one as it brings new things to the detective genre: a Nazi history that is little known of Sweden (Isaac’s point); a journalistic style (Javin); and a Girl, Interrupted character as a detective (Raj).

As a closing thought, we mulled over the change of the Swedish title Men Who Hate Women to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Aaron thought the change in title signals the change from a sociological investigative novel into a novel of individuality, perhaps catering to North American readers. Isaac said that the image of the dragon is masculine, which contrasts with “girl,” breaking down stereotypes. Dragon tattoo, Raj claimed, has a mythic power, just like Salander, but the change of title has also to do with marketing: who wants to buy a book with the title MWHW?  The Swedish, naturally.

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Filed under Bisexuality, Class, Crime, Family, Love, Queer, S/M, Stieg Larsson, Sweden