Gone Girl, Interrupted


For the most part, I loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. More than loved. I idolized it. I didn’t just read it, I devoured it. And I appreciated it on two levels: As a rapt reader simply sucked in by brilliant story telling. And as a critic, in awe of the plotting, the wit, the ingenuity, the air tight logic of it all.

The character of Amy (the “Gone Girl” of the title) is a patient planner—indeed, patience, along with brilliance, is her great strength. She plays the long game. 

So, clearly, does Flynn. The fact that for the first half of the book, we read Nick’s first person voice but still don’t know if he’s the killer—imagine the discipline to pull off such a feat!
The fact that our first impressions of Amy are all manufactured—that we meet two Amys, the spunky, but deflated “cool girl” of her diary’s creation and the righteously angry sociopath of the novel’s second half—is pure genius. (The fact that, until she completely went off the rails, I mostly liked the second Amy—even knowing that she was trying to frame her husband for murder—is also attributable to Flynn’s gifts.)

I have many questions for Flynn: How did you map out the plot, the voices? Did you use post-it notes? A computer program? How long did it take to plan? How elaborate was the schematics of it all?

But my biggest question for Flynn: Why do you hate women?

Because Amy is not just a garden variety sociopath. She is a manipulative black widow, who lures men into her web. She is a liar, a castrator (figuratively speaking), and a murderer (literally speaking). And then, in the end of the book, she traps her husband Nick with her womb.

I swear, I almost could’ve lived with Amy being a murderer and a devious sociopath because, hey, she wasn’t representing all women (although the title to this book is notably Gone Girl—not Amy’s Gone).

But in fiction, as well as in politics, once the womb gets involved, then things start getting tricky. One of the oldest misogynist cautionary tales is of women trapping men, ruining them with pregnancy. Using their womanhood, their very ability to give life against men.

Now, if Nick had actually had sex with Amy at the end of the novel all bets might’ve been off. You spooge you lose, you might say. But they didn’t have sex. She froze his sperm. Not because Amy had any maternal instincts of her own (another misogynist trope) but because she knew one day that sperm might come in handy. Indeed it did. (Nick, by contrast, was desperate to become a dad. It was his heart’s deepest wish.)

The thing that sucked? I actually loved the real Amy’s thoughts on the “cool girl” (a variation on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that we see in film) and how she is a fantasy, a projection of the male imagination. Basically Amy accuses women of being accomplices in this fantasy—pretending not to care if he comes home late and drunk, pretending to like both chili dogs, video games AND hot sex, pretending to be laid back and okay that he’s a slob who forgets anniversaries—all because it’s some idealized female stereotype that both men and women choose to perpetuate.

I thought there was a kind of genius to that: That both Nick and Amy were steeped in deception: Nick’s compulsive need to be a good guy and Amy’s compulsive need to please him.

THAT’S a book I could’ve read: About the false self we create and how it can collapse on us. In many ways, that’s the book Gone Girl is. (Flynn also writes, brilliantly, about how a generation saturated in pop culture has a hard time being in touch with the authentic self: How is Nick supposed to react when Amy goes missing? Wait, how do the guilty guys on Law and Order always behave?)

But why is the phrase “psycho bitch” uttered so many damn times in this book? If Nick’s biggest fear is becoming his misogynistic father, why give Nick a pretty great damn reason to BE A misogynist? When Nick calls Amy a cunt, when Nick wants to kill her, how can we actually blame him? (Yes, Nick cheated on Amy. But cheating is hardly the same as framing for murder and murdering. And don’t forget, Flynn gives us ample evidence that Amy has been falsely accusing and framing people her whole life.)

So what the hell is Gillian Flynn driving at here?

I’m left with these questions: How’d you write such a wickedly entertaining book, Gillian Flynn? And what the hell is your damage, girl?

4 thoughts on “Gone Girl, Interrupted

  1. Like you I loved the book. Didn't have the same visceral reaction of course. And I think there's a flaw at the end. The guy she kills has a wealthy powerful mother as I recall and she isn't mentioned. That would have been inconvienient but its a quibble. How do you think Reese will do with the role? I think it would be a better hbo mini series than conventional feature.

  2. Actually, the mother does show up at the police station and is even interviewed for TV. She is dismissed in part because she seems hysterical (she IS hysterical) and in part because the cops are so eager to put the embarrassment of the case behind them.

    As for Reese, is that casting confirmed? It's a good, but perhaps obvious choice in light of her Tracy Flick persona. I think someone a little less brittle and more earthy (a Carey Mulligan type) might've done better. But Reese is always good. We'll see.

  3. I just think the mother had enough clout that she wouldn't be dismissed out of hand but part of the books point is how one interpretation of a ccomplex story takes over the popular media eclipsing all others no matter how valid it may be.

  4. I confess that about 1/3 of the way through I just HAD to know the ending. That took the wind out of my reading sails but it allowed me to go back and finish it with a more critical eye. I thought the character and the situation was just too over the top for me to suspend my disbelief.

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