What’s Frightening About Gone Girl

By posted at 3:00 pm on September 5, 2013 1

Don’t Cry author Mary Gaitskill reviews Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful thriller, Gone Girl, for the pages of Bookforum. What she finds is that the book isn’t really frightening because of its plot per se, but rather because its two main characters “do not resemble actual people so much as grotesquely smiling masks driven by forces of extreme artifice, and it’s exactly that extreme artificial quality that’s frightening to the point of sickening.” For what it’s worth, Edan Lepucki, Michael Bourne, Ed Park, Janet Potter, and Jennifer duBois each named Flynn’s book in their most recent Year in Reading pieces.

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One Response to “What’s Frightening About Gone Girl”

  1. Maureen Murphy
    at 3:28 pm on September 5, 2013

    Hadn’t read the book, but will need to after reading Mary Gaitskill’s very thought-provoking review. Some musings:

    In an odd way, could the book be a ‘backtracking” to a certain type of golden age mystery? The emphasis on superlative plotting (which Gaitskill notes) with characters that are more waxwork dummy than human.

    The Idea of being repelled by an author’s vision reminds me of my different reactions to two movies with “horrific” elements. I hated Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and remember deciding to walk out after one scene when a police officer is threatened with being burned alive by one of a gang of thieves. It was not so much the violence, but my sense that the director’s “eye” was dwelling on the suffering of the character is a sadistic manner, with no deeper intent than entertaining himself. Really turned me off.

    In contrast, one of the most stone bizarre and creepy movies that I ever saw was “Baxter,” a 1989 French horror film directed by Jérôme Boivin. The title character is a murderous bull terrier who tells the story of his search for a proper master in voice-over narration. Blackly comic (as an example, Baxter muses idly about killing children and birds), it raises questions that stayed with me for a long time, particularly about the high cost of slavish obedience to a sociopath (Baxter’s young owner). I still felt a sense of humanity in Boivin, that I found missing in Tarantino, who seemed to have pasted together his horrific scene from film scraps he swept from the floor of the video stores he had worked in.

    I found it funny that not two comments in, someone surmised that Ms. Gaitskill was “jealous.” I could not disagree more. I go the impression this was a very open and honest review. There is nothing wrong with being repelled by a vision.

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