Monday, September 16, 2013

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

It's a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.

Wife goes missing, all the evidence points to the husband.  Initiate the predictable flow of personalities, motives, and plot lines you'd expect.  The husband-narrator who won't admit to the reader that he didn't do it; the perfect wife, writing in her diary, about their almost-perfect relationship with hints of doom and gloom on the horizon.  The mistress, the detectives, the parents of the missing wife, the media, etc. etc. etc. etc.

We've all heard this story a million times.

Except not.  Flynn has done something remarkable; she has taken an over-told story and turned it into a page-turner thriller that presents compelling questions about: 1) personal identity in a society over-saturated with personalities/narratives, 2) the role of mass media in criminal investigations, 3) relationships, and 4) narratives and counter-narratives. (to name a few).

Flynn also does an excellent job of causing the reader to root for the wrong ending, multiple times.  Given that there is a major twist after the first part, it's remarkable that she nonetheless can trick the reader again later.

To shift focus to the thing of most interest to this reader, Flynn gives us a lot to think about re: media intervention in criminal cases.  Our constitution enshrines two rights that butt heads: our right to a fair and impartial trial and our right to a free press.  These rights crash into each other when we have a trial by media(fire): the media tells the narrative that sells, this is not always the narrative compelled by the (admissible) evidence.  Why should we care?  Because, when the media is telling everyone that a defendant is guilty, trifling things, like reading someone his Miranda rights, seem like an unnecessary interference in the guilty-verdict-machine.

Gone Girl, then, serves as a reminder that trial by media is an extremely broken process.  The media loves guilt-narratives, and hates defendants' rights narratives.  The presentation of the guilt narratives is destructive of how we feel about the criminal justice system.  I distinctly remember my aunt's response after Casey Anthony verdict: "I just don't understand how, with all that evidence, that jury could have found her not guilty."  However, she had not watched any of the trial at all.  (I also have not, but I do not purport to have an opinion as to her guilt).  I digress only to note that Gone Girl does not shy away from these questions, but embraces them and uses them to move the plot.

And that is only one thread, of many, that Flynn effectively gets across.  Definitely worth a read.

Hat tip to Brittany's and Billy's respective reviews.

13 comments:

Shannon Baker said...

It sounds like an interesting series. I will check it out

literary publicist

billy said...

true story: one time in professional responsibility i was totally zoned out (in the front row, like i always was...PRE was a joke) and got called on. clearly not paying attention, i asked the prof to repeat the question. so he says "is that just something that we have to live with in this day and age or is that something we should fight against." trying to recover, i boldly said "yeah, you know, with this day and age, technology and the internet and such, that's just something we have to live with." immediately my friends in the class started gchatting me asking me if i knew what the hell i had supported. obviously i didn't. apparently i said i was totally down with the media releasing private information (like the address) of someone who was merely a suspect in a crime. ha! everyone assured me that i was obviously clueless so no one thought i actually believed that

R.M. Fiedler said...

Two timely articles:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/16/reddit-bans-search-for-navy-yard-gunman/

http://jezebel.com/a-town-destroyed-for-what-two-people-did-dispatch-fr-1298509440

R.M. Fiedler said...

And, can someone tell me what I need to do to post for realsies links?

Christopher said...

Learn some basic html?

Christopher said...

Like this you goon

Brent Waggoner said...

HTM what now?

R.M. Fiedler said...

I'm going to start a blog: FiftyHTMLsProject: Ordinary People Trying 50 HTMLs

Christopher said...

Maybe you should try FiftyFailsProject instead.

R.M. Fiedler said...

Fifty Fails Project

Brittany said...

I thought this was going to be an exciting conversation about books, not R.M's ineptitude. I really don't need the internet for that you know, we basically live together, so I get to see it live.

Brittany said...

I thought this was going to be an exciting conversation about books, not R.M's ineptitude. I really don't need the internet for that you know, we basically live together, so I get to see it live.

Micaella Lopez said...

This book kept your attention the whole way through, but the ending was anti-climatic. I was disappointed in the last chapter or so because you could definitely see just where it was headed.

Mica
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