Mary Gaitskill takes down bestseller 'Gone Girl' -- a year late
By By Elisabeth Donnelly
Sep 04, 2013 | 12:53 PM
The dark and twisty hit novel "Gone Girl" is taken to task by the best practitioner of dark literary arts, Mary Gaitskill, in this fall's Bookforum -- puzzlingly, about 15 months after the book's publication.
Writer Mary Gaitskill is among the best practitioners of the arts of writing about women, sexuality, and the darkness that lies within the human heart, something perfected in her work, which includes "Bad Behavior" "Two Girls, Fat and Thin," and "Don't Cry."
Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" was published in June of 2012, and fantastic word of mouth helped it become a huge bestseller. The book has many fans -- but not Gaitskill, who found it "as irritating as imagined, populated by snarky-cute, pop-culturally twisted voices coming out of characters who seem constructed entirely of 'referents' and 'signifiers.'"
Some reactions on Twitter were positive.
"I love GONE GIRL, but I also kind of love that Mary Gaitskill hates it with such lucid passion," tweeted writer Robin Wasserman.
For Gaitskill, the central couple of Amy (the "Gone Girl" herself) and her grieving, potentially-a-suspect husband Nick, are not 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." She finds something similar in "Gone Girl" to the maniacal competition among women in a film like "Bridesmaids," and in that way the book is "pure black comedy. But it is also a maniacal power fantasy that panders to female anger and fear."
It's a lacerating review; Gaitskill's sharpest critique may come in the review's first paragraph. She writes, "By the time the train ride was over, I felt I was reading something truly sick and dark -- and in case you didn't know, I'm supposedly sick and dark."
Some on Twitter found it too lacerating. "God can you imagine recommending anything to Mary Gaitskill, what a total nightmare," wrote Jen Vafidis.
"As usual with such pieces, far more revealing of the author than insightful about the novel," wrote Ellen Clair Lamb.
"Gone Girl" is slated to be adapted as a film directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the married couple at the center of the story. Gaitskill's breakthrough into pop cultural consciousness came with the film "Secretary," a loose adaptation of a story in her collection "Bad Behavior."
Editor Jason Pinter used film to frame a satirical critique on Twitter: "Mary Gaitskill reviews Star Wars: I don't like science fiction and none of the characters have realistic names."
Bestselling author Harlan Coben was on the same page, tweeting, "When you preface your essay w the hoary chestnut, 'I rarely read mysteries.... 'Sigh."