Gone Girl with Me, Myself, and I

I couldn’t avoid reading GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. For one thing, the title is very close to that of my last book, LITTLE GIRL GONE. Everywhere I looked – in magazines, in blogs and on Twitter – there was GONE GIRL and always there was lots of chatter associated with it.

I bought the e-book, and once friends knew I was reading it, I was besieged by emails asking for my reaction.

 

There was a time when I thought how cool it would be to get free books in the mail and be paid to read them and give an opinion. But I discovered I don’t have the knack for reviewing. So what follows isn’t a book review. It’s a conversation between Me and Myself with an occasional interruption from I – who’s a wise ass, knows me well and which buttons to push.

 

Me: Did you enjoy GONE GIRL?

 

Myself: Not exactly.

 

Me: But you read it in a day and a half. You and your hero had take-out dinners two nights running because of GONE GIRL.

 

(I: And you felt guilty, didn’t you?)

 

Myself: Yes, I read it fast. It’s compulsive. Like Spider Solitaire and some jigsaw puzzles, like a Whitman’s Sampler box. But I didn’t exactly enjoy it.

 

Me: You sound conflicted.

 

(I: You’re often conflicted, aren’t you?)

 

Myself: The plotting was fun, the many twists and surprises, the kind of snowball effect of one disastrous turn after another. But I so disliked the characters.

 

Me: What about the sister? Everyone likes Go.

 

Myself: I didn’t dislike her. I didn’t care about her one way or another because she was so thinly developed. She drops out of the story for whole chapters and is only brought in when the “hero”, Nick, needs someone to talk to. And how ‘bout Amy’s parents? What were they: elegant intellectuals or bounty hunters?

 

(I: You’re jealous of Gillian Flynn?)

 

Myself: Of course, I am. I’d like to be the author of a mega best seller. But more than envying her that, I admire the way she put this book together. With a couple of really minor quibbles, the plotting was astonishing. I wish I knew her personally. I’d like to see the notebooks and charts she must have created to keep everything straight.

 

Me: What didn’t you like about the characters?

 

Myself: In some ways I felt like I’d met Amy and Nick many times before in other works of contemporary fiction, on television and the pages of “Vanity Fair.” They’re the kind of hip, thoughtless, “thing” obsessed characters who look fabulous on the outside but don’t have much going on in their heads and hearts. They have backstories but not complex enough to make them pop for me. I would never want to know them…

 

(I: And they would never want to know you.)

 

Myself: No, they wouldn’t! Amy would despise me and most of the people I love. She was so constantly, one-note judgmental about everyone and everything, I found it really hard to be in her viewpoint. I read the second half of the book much faster than the first.

 

Me: When you’re reading, is it important to like a character in a book?

 

Myself: Not for me. I’ve read a lot of books about people I didn’t much like but I found them interesting and could usually empathize with them on some level. Right now I’m reading BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel and the viewpoint character in that is really reprehensible in many ways, but I’ve read about a million and a half novels and I’ve never cared more for a character than I do for Thomas Cromwell. I know him so well. I know why he is the way he is and I get why he does what he does.

 

And by the way: Amy, who was so snotty about her superiority, couldn’t even use “lay” and “lie” correctly.

 

(I: Now who’s being superficial? Thomas Cromwell got people decapitated and stretched and hanged and gutted and you prefer him to Amazing Amy?)

 

Myself: The thing is that I understand TC because who he is and was and how he thinks, the way he deceives and rationalizes, the clear way he sometimes sees the truth of who he is and then looks the other way, all of this makes him not only real but utterly and identifiably part of the human family. Amy makes no sense to me. She was objectified by her parents, turned into a character in a book. That’s really all I know about her and it’s not enough.

 

Me: Is it fair to compare GONE GIRL with WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES? Gillian Flynn and Hilary Mantel?

 

(I: No, it’s not fair and you shouldn’t have done it.)

 

Me: I take it you wouldn’t recommend GONE GIRL.

 

Myself: Not to my 100 year old Aunty Kath. But, hey, it’s a really entertaining, fast moving, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny read. It might leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, but that’s why God invented toothpaste. Like I said: the plotting is great and the characters may be mean and vengeful but at least they’re never boring.

 

And in the world of readers there’s fame and awards enough for all three of these books.

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