Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Girl Who Pushed My Patience

If you're one of the handful who haven't been swept away by Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo blockbuster trilogy, I'm about to save you a chunk of time. That's because-- while the first two books were pretty good--the final one didn't quite live up to the high expectations set by its predecessors.

And so, to spare you the agony of sifting through almost 600 pages to find out what finally happens to the trilogy's heroine, Lisbeth Salander, allow me, if you will, to offer this brief but effective summary of:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Under armed guard in the intensive care ward of a Swedish hospital, Lisbeth Salandar was in critical condition. The brilliant computer hacker was fighting for her life after being shot in the head by her deranged father. Fuzzy thoughts filtered through her bullet-ridden brain. "If I survive, will I be charged with attempting to kill the man who attempted to kill me after I first attempted to kill him 20 years ago" she wondered. "And where can I get a decent cup of coffee?'"
Back at the office of Millennium Magazine, Salander's former lover, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, was worried too. Over a cup of coffee, he shared his concerns with his colleague Svensson. Or was this Eriksson? Jonasson maybe? Fredriksson? Who the hell knew, all their names sounded alike. "I feel oddly compelled to help prove her innocence," he mused while pouring himself another cup of coffee. "She may appear tough, but deep down she's quite vulnerable. We must unravel this cover up involving Sapo, Sweden's secret police." He absentmindedly stirred his coffee. "But how?"
Meanwhile, at a coffee shop on Sodertaljsonn Street, a surveillance team from Sapo was watching Blomkvist's every move. Confident that the trouble-making journalist wouldn't be returning home for awhile, Pieresson finished his coffee, then broke into Blomkvist's apartment and planted a kilo of cocaine behind the coffee machine. Exhilarated over setting up Blomkvist for a drug bust, Pieresson suddenly found himself famished. As he left the apartment, he returned to the coffee shop for a meatball sandwich. And another coffee.

Back at the hospital, Dr. Jacobsson pondered the condition of his infamous patient while nursing a cup of coffee. He felt oddly compelled to help this tough, yet vulnerable young woman. As he sipped his coffee, the buzz of the call button snapped him back to attention and he saw that it was his tough, yet vulnerable young patient.
She was requesting more pain meds. A laptop. And coffee.
Upon Salandar's miraculous recovery, she was discharged and made to stand trial for trying to kill her father who had tried to kill her for previously trying to kill him for trying to kill her mother. But thanks to Blomkvist's undying loyalty to the tough, yet vulnerable young woman--despite the fact that she now despised him because he had slept with Berger..or had it been Bergsson? Berjkssun? Birjksson? Whatever.
Sweden's corrupt government was finally exposed, the secrets of Sapo revealed, and Salandar exonerated.

And everybody went home and had a cup of coffee.
The end.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story

You've heard the joke about the elderly person who reads the obituaries to catch up on his friends and acquaintances. Well, I read them too, but for the photos. Those haunting, grainy, black and white pictures that accompany heartbroken prose. Each photo draws me in, nips at my curiosity and often tugs at my heart.

Obituary photos usually feature the deceased in their prime. Eleanor may have been 91 when she died, but her image captures a saucy young woman wearing a pearl choker and fashionable bob circa 1939. She had laughing eyes and full, bright lips that were, no doubt, painted fire-engine red. And, I'm guessing, toenails that matched.

William, whose obituary is featured two columns over, passed away at 87, but his photo depicts a cocky young lad with a square jaw and determined grin. He wears a dapper fedora tilted at an angle and, although you can't tell from the photo, I'm sure he flaunted a tweed jacket flung over his shoulder.

I'm intrigued by the vigor and vitality expressed in these faces. They look like women I'd befriend, men I'd date. Each picture puts a life behind each name and suddenly, each death feels a little more personal. Even though their passing warrants but a brief, formulaic mention, their image makes me ponder the loss of someone who was once very real.
Love stories and heroic deeds. Travel adventures and business ventures. Maybe this person was a lifelong resident of their community, now missed by neighbors who once enjoyed weekly potluck dinners. Perhaps mention will be made of their brave fight against cancer or AIDS. Sometimes family history is included and I learn that their parents emigrated from Italy and started the bakery I frequent on Main Street.

I might discover that they met their spouse on a blind date while attending my Alma mater decades before I was born. Maybe they returned to school after raising a family and got their degree alongside students half their age.
Dates on an obituary merely suggest an aged, wizened person whose time had come. But photos remind me otherwise. This was a parent, friend, co-worker, lover, jokester, athlete, activist. Someone once loved whose absence others now mourn.

And with their lively, vibrant, half-inch face on newsprint beaming before me, I too feel a twinge of sadness for the passing of someone I never knew.
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