Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Confusing Fiction and Fiction

One of my son's friends gave me a book for Christmas. It is called "Outwitting Squirrels - 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels" by Bill Adler Jr. While presented as fact, this work, as its title clearly indicates, is pure fiction - perhaps even science fiction.

I have been sitting in our family room, leafing through this work of fantasy, and watching our resident Sciurus Sciuridae destroy my latest attempt at squirrel-proof bird feeding. At the same time I am also reading "The Girl Who Played With Fire" by Stieg Larsson.
One of these two tomes (according to Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times)

"boasts an intricate, puzzlelike story line... gory, harrowing and operatically over the top... [with characters who] insinuate themselves in the reader's mind through their oddball individuality, their professional competence and, surprisingly, their emotional vulnerability."

The other one is a best-selling Swedish mystery.

Sometimes my mind looses track of who's who and what's what, and the story lines bleed into each other. Right now, for example, in one of the books the small, gray, furry heroine is under suspicion for the execution style murder of a couple that were investigating illegal trafficking in rodent-thwarting computer software.

The similarities between Lisbeth Salander ("The Girl") and the tree rats described in Adler's writings and witnessed by me in our front yard are frightening.

Both are "endowed with Mr. Spock's intense braininess and Scarlett O'Hara's spunky instinct for survival".

Both, in their own way, are cute.

Both have sex like rabbits. (Something that just seems natural in the squirrel's case, and helps to keep the plot moving in Lisbeth's)

But most importantly, both exhibit the amazing ability to focus like a laser beam on the problem at hand - food or criminals - even when they are in the most precarious situation - hanging by one leg from an icy tree branch or bound to a bed by leather straps.

"Outwitting Squirrels" is an updated second edition of a work that originally went to press in 1987.

"The Girl Who Played With Fire" is the middle book of a trilogy. Stieg Larsson died shortly after handing the trio of novels into his publisher. There are rumors of a partially written fourth book with detailed instructions for its completion that may be on the laptop of his former girlfriend.

Other gossip, that starts right here, says that Bill Adler Jr. has been called in to finish the story. It will be called "The Squirrel With The Sunflower Seed Tattoo."

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