15 August, 2014

Retrospect — Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

[Reviews from HexWhyZed are not in any way timely or culturally pertinent, just the impressions from a dimly-lit island in the distance and the flotsam jettisoned along its shores. They may also contain spoilersyou have been warned.]

For all of humanity's polarizing inclinations, we frequently fail to realize that others are Not Like Us—that they don't share our experiences or internal chemistry or preconceived notions, so when someone reacts to a situation in a way contrary to our presumptions of normalcy, suspicion often percolates before empathy.

This is the initial propulsion of Gone Girl, the story of a wife gone missing, her husband's inappropriate behavior as Sisyphean catastrophe, the internal realities we keep consistently to ourselves despite protestations of love and hate.

Wife Amy and husband Nick have moved to his hometown in Missouri from their former lives as glittering NYC professionals, having both lost their jobs and, increasingly, their marriage. The story unfolds as alternating journal entries, first from him, then from her, then back to him. The Collector by John Fowles comes to mind, apart from the his-and-hers confessionals—the atmosphere is ominous, hovering, off-kilter from the start.

The premise is an echo of my favorite Patricia Highsmith, A Suspension of Mercy, in which a man whose wife goes missing starts to act intentionally as though he's murdered her, though he well knows he's done no such thing. Flynn's husband, however, is s a cad simply because he is so emotionally stifled and fucked up; he doesn't know how else to be. He can't express what he feels so he expresses nothing, or he erupts in incredibly "off" behavior: smiling at grim moments, lies streaming almost unbidden from his lips, selfie-posing with neighborhood attention whores.

It is this urgency of opposing needs—to confront, to escape—that render this story's most compelling forms. The sociopathy at its core reflects an age of blistering entitlement that traps all souls who dare challenge its authority. Guilt or innocence, good vs. evil—they don't much matter in the end for those already so wounded by the glancing shards of intimacy.

There is also the haunting of another Fowles novel, his masterpiece of a mindfuck, The Magus, in strands that creep into the narrative to weave new patterns that alter perceptions that came before, and once we think we've got it figured out, a new pattern emerges or one of the threads is pulled, left unravelled in piles on on the floor.

It could be the answer is left in the remaining tapestry, but it might also huddle beneath the discards, as do so many of our elusive and aborted selves. That is what Gone Girl is ultimately about—selves built up and broken, shifting to the tides of those in our lives or casting back all of our unspeakables, so many fish dead in the water.

No comments:

Post a Comment