Sometimes an author’s life story grows and morphs to become almost as fascinating and singular asthe tales he or she writes. Just think of Poe or Proust. Well, that’s exactly what’s happened with Stieg Larsson — the creative mind behind the incredibly successful The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Stieg, who died, sadly, just before the series was published, has been captured in print by his companion of many years, Eva Gabrielsson. Not surprisingly, like most writers, he was driven and unconventional.
He was rejected by the Columbia School of Journalism and never graduated from college. But heended up working for the graphics department of The New York Times and satisfied his need for the printed word by editing a struggling political magazine during his free time. A compulsive writer (and who among us isn’t?) and a fan of mysteries, he liked to relax by entering the fictional world he created around Lisbeth Salander, the remarkable heroine of his remarkable series. From Eva’s book about Stieg, I learned that Lisbeth was inspired and rooted in a classic children’s book character called Pippi Longstocking. Clever and lovable, Pippi is also very independent and resourceful — and she remains a beloved fictional heroine to this day.
Amazing, isn’t it, that an old-fashioned character created for kids in another era entirely could have inspired an irreverent, damaged, puckish punk hipster computer hacker who wears black leather and loves solving unsolvable mathematical puzzles and driving the people around her crazy? It just goes to prove, once again, that we never know where inspiration will spring from or where it will take us. But in his long evenings after work, Stieg pursued his muse with willful persistence and wit –and he was rewarded with the gift of an unforgettably unique character.
By day, he made a living and shepherded a tiny political magazine that served as a kind of printed gadfly on the political scene. And by night, he created an intensely real, flawed, and sympathetic character who used her tremendous talents to defend herself yet also right the wrongs in a tough, unforgiving world. She was a sort of anti-super hero — and through her, I’m sure Stieg was able to give voice to many of his aspirations. What wonderfully rewarding work — and how inspiring. Write on!