Monday, September 6, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Laramie Project

Jim's review can be found here.

Since a co-worker asked me three times if I'd read this series, I was expecting to be floored by how amazing it was. Having read Jim's review, I'm inclined to agree more with his assessment than my co-worker's. It's a solid book with enough twists and turns to keep itself interesting and just the right balance of detective work and gruesome violence so that you are kept alert AND entertained. If you can pardon the sarcasm (more directed to the connection of violence and entertainment), I understand that in fiction, brutality can be used to make a point, but I'm still a little put out with myself and my culture for reveling in grotesquerie. It's why I've been avoiding a lot of fiction for most of this summer.

Anyway, I don't feel a need to do a plot overview or anything. The two things I enjoyed most about reading the book were Salander's character and the ethical dilemmas and philosophical natures of the various people. Especially with the conclusion of the Vanger case, Larsson very baldly states the conflict of ethics and humanitarian impulses that Blomkvist wrestles with. His gray areas are highlighted well against the boldness of Salander's black and white pragmatism, a contrast which I did think Larsson pulled off exceptionally well.

Otherwise, again, the author has a kind of cool backstory with how he dropped off the manuscripts and died under mysterious circumstances bare months later, but it's definitely not an instant classic. Worth a read, but not much more.

The Laramie Project was written and performed in 2000 by a theatrical group who wished to give a microphone to the gallimaufry of unheard voices from the Matthew Shepard murder in Laramie, Wyoming. It's an interesting concept, and I think that the way they approached it worked well, at least in text. It does seem like it would be difficult to follow from an audience perspective, but this isn't a performance critique blog, so that's a story for another day.

Over the course of two years, ten members of the Tectonic Theater Group travelled to Laramie six times and had 200 interviews with people from all different flavors of society. I don't know if any names have been changed, but all of the dialogue is from those interviews. It's purely narrative, beginning with the story of the kidnapping and torture of the twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard in one of the more shocking hate crimes of our time. He left a bar with two other young men under false pretenses, and was beaten, robbed, and tied to a fence out in the country where he was left to die. A cyclist found him eighteen hours later in critical condition and immediately went for help. The rest of the play deals with the aftermath, from arrests to arraignments to the funeral and Reverend Phelps to the faint but steady beacons of hope that arose in response to Shepard's death.

The details of the story can be told in very little time, so I think that is not so much the value of this play. Rather, it is worth reading because the entire community of Laramie and to a certain extent, the rest of the nation, were rocked by the horror of the crime, and Kaufman&c. do an excellent job of laying bare all of the patchwork of perceptions, musings, and pain that was experienced by so many different people. It's the story of one man, but also of many. There is no action, there are no fancy gimmicks, but it arrives at the heart in a far more intimate and unsettling way.

I admit that I do not support gay rights. I have friends who are questioning, bi, or homosexual, and I don't hate them, I simply disagree with them. However, I think that this form of hatred specifically and all violence generally are ugly and difficult things that we should not bury but should use as a springboard for growth and a better future. The Black-Eyed Peas might tell me to catch amnesia and be happy, but I prefer the Biblical perspective that it is better to live in a house of mourning and take pain to heart for the sake of wisdom. For that reason and because the play does a stellar job of unveiling all of the facets of the event, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who has a few hours and a willingness to be humbled.


Christopher said...

gallimaufry: +10

Christy said...

Thanks. :) I rarely have to look up words, but since I ran across this one recently in C.S. Lewis and then again in Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, I figured I needed to use it to cement it in my head.

Christopher said...

I heard someone call this "That Elizabeth Salamander book"