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Monday, December 26, 2011

Review of STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress by guest Matt Posner

PLUS A Giveaway!

Today, I welcome author Matt Posner, author of the School of the Ages series, to Cookie's Book Club with his review of STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress by Andre Jute and Andrew McCoy.

Stieg Larsson: Man, Myth, and Mistress by Andre Jute and Andrew McCoy was my introduction to an entertaining, tough-minded, and courageous man with a world of fascinating life experiences. No, not Stieg, though this might be said of him also, perhaps -- but I mean Andre Jute. Clearly, Andre Jute is not one to steer away from a conflict where truth and integrity are concerned. He was certainly not afraid to take on legions of Stieg Larsson fans in this book. The cliche that truth is a harsh mistress is demonstrated in this volume, which I read in its Kindle edition shortly after finishing Larsson's three books. I read them with great relish, appreciating the quirks and peculiarities of Larsson's style (digressions into Swedish history, Lizbeth Salander's grocery lists) and driven by the fascinatingly suspenseful narrative, and then I came across Jute and McCoy's analytical book and thought it was just the thing to help me appreciate the adventures of Lizbeth and Mikael even more.

Did I come to appreciate Larsson's books more? Yes, but I am an unusual fellow in that regard, I don't mind reading a strong critique of a book I like. That critique deepens my understanding so that I will enjoy additional readings of my beloved book all the more for having additional information to think about when I reread. This is just as well, because while Andre Jute avows a liking for Larsson's writing, he tears it apart, also, identifying flaws in the logic of the characters' actions, in the narrative structure, imposing shrewd and uncompromising judgments of the style and plotting, rejecting whole-heartedly a big segment of the third novel as ridiculous, and, finally, calling into question prior critical assessments. I felt all the more the fool for not seeing these things on my own, but I was impressed by the intelligence shown by the analysis.

Jute spends a lot of time questioning the common assumption that Stieg Larsson has written a feminist book -- a book about female empowerment. While he does not dispute that Larsson intended to serve the women of Sweden by exposing their personal and institutional mistreatment, Jute is not happy with the characterization of Lizbeth Salander as a feminist icon, seeing this as more the product of influence from Larsson's life partner, his girlfriend Eva Gabrielsson.

A substantial part of Man, Myth, and Mistress is about Stieg Larsson the man, and here, Andrew McCoy takes the lead. An expert on East Africa, South America, and the Caribbean, with a strong military background, he functions as an investigative journalist, picking apart Larsson's public biography piece by piece and casting doubts upon the public persona the Swede built for himself. Larsson's personal history of adventure and intrigue, viewed through the lens of this book, appears to be a lot of ludicrous puffery, largely undocumented and evidently untrue. McCoy is able, for example, to demonstrate that Larsson's claim of having trained a female commando unit in Ethiopia violates both fact and common sense. Other of the Swede's assertions prove equally difficult for the authors to tolerate.

"By the time one reaches Larsson's claim to have been involved in the coup in Grenada, and his boosters' wide-eyed iteration of this next patently obvious lie...you just sigh in exasperation," Jute told me in a personal interview. "But whether one sighs in exasperation or boggles at the mindless greed of educated and informed people who could repeat these lies to sell a few more books and newspapers, in proper literary criticism the points are proven one by one."

The writing team doesn't stop with Larsson's life story, but moves on to analyze the public discourse that has happened since his death, the quarreling over the estate between Larssen's blood relations and Gabrielsson, refusing to allow Gabrielsson to come off as saintly, and as self-evidently wronged, the way she has presented herself to be. I don't have a dog in that fight, to coin a phrase, and I have no basis for judging who is right or wrong in the family squabble, but I know that the media like a conflict-filled story and are known to take sides, and it seems like most have taken Gabrielsson's side -- except for Jute and McCoy.

Journalistically, this latter part is of undoubted historical value, and worthy of being written and read, especially by those who have followed the case closely. It was of less interest to me, however. I would have been thrilled beyond measure to have had twice as much critique of the books, to have had Andre Jute's razor-sharp wit and blistering common-sense perspective stay close to the actual novels systematically, chapter after chapter. His response to Larsson as a writer fascinated and moved me, and the unquestionable orneriness of his style gave me continual satisfaction. I wouldn't want to be on the other side of a public debate with a man this tough-minded and brilliantly analytical.

So, five stars for Stieg Larsson: Man, Myth, and Mistress. If you are an open-minded reader of Larsson, six stars...
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About the Reviewer

Matt Posner is the author of the School of the Ages series of books about a magic school in New York City. He is also a prolific contributor to charity anthologies, a Kindle All-Star, and a special education English teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Matt's books are available at amazon.com. Learn more and read Matt's indie writer interviews at http://schooloftheages.webs.com.
School of the Ages, Volume 1: The Ghost in the Crystal

School of the Ages, Volume 2: Level Three's Dream
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Books by and featuring Matt Posner

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STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress was launched on 20 December 2010. It has spent the entire year at the top of a variety of Amazon bestseller lists in three countries. For example, in the US:
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > World Literature > Scandinavian
#4 in Books > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Scandinavian
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Enter the giveaway!

There are 8 ways to enter below. Note that none of these are mandatory, so you can pick and choose how you will enter the contest. Enter once, or enter multiple times. There are two Twitter options, each worth one entry, which can be done once per day until the end of the contest. The contest will be open for 7 days. It is possible to earn up to 20 entries! The winners will be selected randomly once the contest has closed. Good luck!

WIN a copy of
STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress
by Andre Jute and Andrew McCoy

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Andre Jute said...

Thank you for a wonderful review, Matt and Sue.

The problem with doing a job as thorough as Matt has done is that it is a closed circle. There really is nothing more to say, so that no conversation arises.

It's a perversity of really good writing that in its presence people go quiet.

Cookie’s Mom said...

Yes, Matt pretty much said it all and very eloquently. This is a very thorough review.

Totally agree with you Matt on this statement of yours: "I wouldn't want to be on the other side of a public debate with a man this tough-minded and brilliantly analytical." Andre is someone you want in your corner looking out!

Mickey said...

Nice review! I'd like to read this because I'm finishing up the Millennium series right now :o) thanks!

Mickey @ imabookshark
Michelle Reed

Unknown said...

I have the Stieg Larsson series sittng on my TBR shelf, but have not yet read it. I would love to read this book as a companion to the series. I love critiques that diametrically oppose critical opinion.

Thanks for the giveaway & have a Happy New Year!

elizabeth @ bookattict . com

Darlene said...

This series is actually on my TBR list. I haven't read them yet, but my in-laws are huge fans of the series and recommended them to me. They would probably enjoy reading this book!

Thanks for the giveaway!

darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

Cookie’s Mom said...

Congratulations to the winners, Eg, Beth and Elizabeth!

Thanks to all for entering the contest. Stay tuned for more reviews, interviews and giveaways.

Thanks to Andre Jute and CoolMain Press for supplying the books in this giveaway!

Unknown said...

I just stumbled across this review and I have to agree with it wholeheartedly. Though I must confess that I am a little biased since I was given the privilege of being an early beta reader for the book, which gave me a fascinating insight into the things I missed while reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Cookie’s Mom said...

Thank-you for your comment Karl. Lucky you, getting your hands on this book ahead of the crowd!

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