The Farce Side
Discovering the strange relationship between two apparently dissimilar novels
by Lawrence Douglas
$15.95 List Price
In Sweden, according to Lars Arffssen's recent novel, "Nordic Dullness Syndrome" affects millions. The country's mores are hard to parse: While "semi-consensual intercourse with a drowsy woman" constitutes a despicable crime, its citizens conduct adulterous affairs so nonchalantly that the husband is often sitting in the same room, distracted by his iPad. The book's delirious plotlines extend to an IKEA-like company's shadowy past, but the central mystery gets announced early on: "Why would anyone want to decapitate an unpublished author of Swedish thrillers?"
Arffssen's The Girl with the Sturgeon Tattoo, if you haven't guessed, is a shameless spoof of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson's dynamic duo, lithe and lethal waif-hacker Lisbeth Salander and investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist, has been repurposed as Lizzy Salamander and Mikael Blomberg, an out-of-shape blogger whom beautiful women find irresistible. Arffssen takes potshots at everything Swedish, from ABBA and IKEA to Scandinavian-noir éminence grise Henning Mankell. The compulsive description of hardware makes for gloriously clotted prose: "From her black handbag next to the bed she removed her Ericsson Xperia X10 2.1 smartphone with 720p HD video recording and checked her calendar." In the loopiest sequence, Arffssen channels the POV of a female reindeer.
Another mystery percolates under the daffiness. On Facebook, Lizzy Salamander lists her favorite reads: works on string theory and statistical physics, an Oliver Sacks title, and something called The Vices, by Lawrence Douglas. The