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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Life as a Language Lab

For what seems like the 10th time I have begun reading Stieg Larsson’s Los Hombres que No Amaban al las Mujeres which in English is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was able to find a slim volume of the book which makes it much easier to haul around with me as the other editions are as thick as a brick. I will make every effort to finally read this damn thing now as I have already seen the movie dubbed into Spanish. Everyone I know has read the book so I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  I read (or rather I reread) the first 80 pages yesterday and I thought I would give my thoughts on it thus far as a way to motivate me to finish the book.

He has a couple of nice anti-heroes in the novel with the punk rock chick and the incorruptible journalist. After living in Seattle I’m just not that impressed with anyone sporting a bunch of tattoos and piercings and just looking at the Salander character in the movie made me retch. That whole look is about the farthest thing from cool or individual in my view and I think that the average dork in Levi Dockers with a cell phone attached to his belt probably has more original ideas than these ultra-hipsters. From the dust jacket it appears that the author was one of those Docker-wearing dorks who was obviously impressed by the ‘tat crowd.

The Mikael Blomkvist is another projection of the author of the perfect male. I suppose that creating these ideals for ourselves is one very important aspect of fiction. Mikael is a talented and committed journalist and somewhat of a sex machine—at least that is what is described early on in the novel.

The story begins on a rather complicated note and becomes progressively messier and more involved.  It’s impossible for me to comment much on the author’s style as I am reading the book in translation. Not only am I not reading the book in the original Swedish but I am reading it in Spanish, my distant second language. Linguistically—at least from the point of view of a student of Spanish—the book is rather easy to read (in 80 pages I have only looked up six words).  I will be able to comment more on the style after I have more time to read.

A really interesting point brought up in the book is Mikael’s view of economic reporting which should be read by every reporter in the USA. He says that no political reporter worth her salt would take the gloves off when writing about a politician yet most economic reporters treat our richest entrepreneurs as if they were rock stars.  In the parlance of the new far, far right in America they call these folks “job creators” in their hagiographies. Kings and queens also created a few jobs, they also created a lot of servants yet America’s Right lumps all of our rich into the category of “job creators,” as if we should all fucking faint from the gratitude we owe them. It’s pretty sickening for me but I was raised in a fairly classless America.  

As I have said many times before, my reading habits are completely different now that I read almost exclusively in Spanish and French. I am more interested in feeding my reading obligation of at least 50 pages a day than I am towards reading the highest quality literature. I don’t mean this as a dig at anything that I have read; I’m just saying that what I read now is often determined on what I am able to read with my present skill level in these languages.  I would say that my Spanish is excellent yet I still find certain books to be linguistically out of my league. I just purchased a copy of the novel El Paraíso en la Otra Esquina by Mario Vargas Llosa. Perhaps I wasn’t concentrating hard enough but it just wasn’t sinking in when I read the first dozen pages or so. When this happens I shelve the book and return to it later when I have gained more skill in the language.

For French class the past two weeks I have been reading articles from the style section of Le Figaro that are loaded with hip new expressions in French that only a native speaker would know. I figure that this is the best way to take advantage of my private tutor, so at least from time to time I like to delve into the most modern French. Of course I have a long way to go in increasing my day-to-day vocabulary but I think that I am on a good course to raise my level of French to a very functional level.   

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