Begone Gone Girl

19 Nov
Zoe Heller [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Zoe Heller [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Having read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl ,which I found to be a serviceable crime story, I saw no need to see the film. But also having been aware of Zoe Heller’s (via a long ago conversation) delightful and sharp tongued explications of the things that continue to float down the roaring cultural shit stream (reinforced in her cameo in The Fifty Year Argument), I read her NYRB’s vivisection of the David Flincher helmed cinematic offering of Gone Girl.

It did not disappoint. Here’s MS Zeller’s conclusion, rendered with Samurai precision:

But a person would have to be in an unusual state of cultural innocence to find any of the film’s ideas remotely startling. The tropes in which it deals—marriage is the only war in which you sleep with the enemy, love is the tender trap, and so on—will be wearily familiar to anyone who has ever seen Married…with Children or heard a Henny Youngman joke.

Here’s a sample from my early 2000’s chat with Zoe Heller about her then recent novel
What Was She Thinking? :

ZH… I thought I was doing something rather daring—

RB: [laughs]

ZH:—and interesting and that would freak people out. No one has been remotely freaked. In fact, obviously my readership is a great deal more sophisticated and relaxed about these things than I thought.

RB: What is daring about it, do you think?

ZH: I’m being slightly facetious. I thought when I finished the book, “Oh dear, particularly in America it will immediately be seized upon.” Let’s get this in proportion. I didn’t think it would be some huge cultural phenomenon. But to the extent that it was seized upon at all, that people would think it was some kind of apologia for sex with little boys. And clearly I hadn’t intended it to be that. I remember watching an old Oprah, with Bernhard Schlink, who wrote The Reader, which is not a book I liked very much but the really interesting thing about this program was that he was confronted with this great army of women who only wanted to talk about the fact of this older woman having sex with a young boy and whether that was legitimate or not. And he was very confused. He had toured across Europe having conversations about this allegory he had written about Nazi Germany and never before encountered people who were just fixated on the moral or ethical question of whether you could have sex with younger people. So I thought that people would think it [my book] too soft in understanding a boy and a kind of hazy area of being 15 and sexually active. Certainly this country does have a kind of—and not just this country, my own country—the West has a history of both exploiting junior sexuality and at the same time being fantastically puritanical and mimsy about it.

Currently reading The Bg Seven by Jim Harrison (Grove/Atlantic)

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