Gone Girl

Book cover, Gone GirlGone Girl
Gillian Flynn

Spoilers abound, so be warned.

And Triggers. Domestic Violence, Rape, Murder. BS fucking rape culture and victim blaming. I just can’t even.

When this book came out, I remember people raving about it.  Raving. Bestseller, on all the must-read lists, personally recommended to me. So finally, I read it.

And I hated it. Hated. It.

From the first page, when Nick is creepily talking about the shape of his wife Amy’ skull, I knew this was not going to be a book for me. First of all, did I mention that it really creepy? Second, it was crystal clear to me that Nick was not going to be responsible for his wife’s disappearance. It was way too obvious.  Of course, part of me was still hoping it was him. (To me, the twist-that-wasn’t would have been a better, scarier, more realistic literary point). As the book points out, when a woman is killed, her partner becomes the prime suspect. That’s for a good reason – forty percent of murdered women are killed by a partner.

Then I was hoping against hope that Amy’s creepy, stalker ex had her tied up in his lake house. Again, this is a horrible thing to be wishing, but at least it would fit in a bit more with actual patterns of abuse. Yes, this is kinda what happens in the end, but not before we hate Amy for being a sociopathic liar who deserves whatever happens to her.

She is painted as a woman who never deserved Nick in the first place, who drove him to cheat, who expected too much of her husband because he expected to listen to her when she talked. I mean, what guy has time for that when he’s busy imagining her bones?

She manipulates people, tells horrible lies, falsely accuses a nice, geeky guy of raping her, then pretends to be the perfect Cool Girl to snag the lovely clefted-chin Nick. Yeah, Nick’s no saint, but can you blame him for wanting her to return from  wherever she’s hiding out so he can kill her? Dear reader, admit it, you hoped that when he wrapped his hands around her throat he’d have the ability to see it through.

No no no no no.  No.

I can hear people now: “But it’s just a book! Stop taking it so seriously!” I will take this shit seriously because it deserves to be. It’s another story celebrated and held up to be edgy! and suspenseful! The reviews on goodreads are nearly uniformly positive. Those that aren’t tend to focus on the characters becoming increasingly unbelievable as the book goes on, without delving into why they are so unbelievable. It’s because this shit doesn’t happen. (Yes, I know it’s a book. No, I’m not saying women never abuse men.)

Count me among those not interested in reading books that glorify this type of BS.

Further reading:
Bureau of Justice report on Intimate Partner Violence 1993 – 2010 (non-fatal incidents)
Another Bureau of Justice report on Intimate Partner Violence (fatal and non-fatal incidents)
No Safe Place: Violence Against Women
Shakesville: Domestic Violence Awareness Month; Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
and for Liss on all topics: More

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Out

outOut
Natsuo Kirino

My first 1 star read of the year!

I’m all for stretching my reading horizons, which is why I decided to read Out for Curiosity Killed the Bookworm’s Made in Japan event. Our lovely host features a fair amount of crime fiction on her blog, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Out  apparently also won “Japan’s Top Mystery Award,” according to its cover.

I don’t really get the mystery here – it reads more like a straightforward crime novel to me. The characters might be confused about who is after them, but the reader never is.

If this book is any indication, crime novels are not my thing. Especially creepy gory graphic rapist crime novels. Thanks but no thanks.

I kept reading because I hoped it would get better, and because I could, for awhile, justify that Mr. Sadistic’s snuff fantasies were recognized to be NOT OKAY. And then the end came. And then I just wanted to throw the book across the room. But I didn’t, because I don’t generally throw books, no matter how bad they are. (I did throw a Philippa Gregory book once, but I made sure it landed in the laundry hamper, amply cushioned by my dirty socks.)

Sunset Park, according to a White Dude

Sunset Park, a novel by Paul Auster. Blurry picture on cover shows a young blond boy wearing a black sweater, tossing something unseen into the air.
Sunset Park

Sunset Park 
Paul Auster

I was so disappointed in this book. I picked it up because I used to live in the neighborhood south of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I would ride my bike up 5th Avenue to the best taco place in the city, Tacos Matamoros. Then I’d go to La Gran Via Bakery and get myself a delicious coconut macaroon that was so good, a friend declared it must be made with baby jesus parts. Afterwards, I’d walk to the park known for having some of the best views in Brooklyn.

The most delicious macaroon, ever.

And yes, Paul Auster, sometimes I’d walk around gorgeous Greenwood cemetery, looking at the graves of the famous and not-so-famous.

In Paul Auster’s idea of Sunset Park, the vibrant, diverse community becomes nothing more than a sordid backdrop for four white privileged twenty somethings to play out their anarchist dreams while squatting in an abandoned and dilapidated house.

The plot – as much as there is one – revolves around Miles Heller. Miles is battling some serious physic wounds from a teenage trauma. Wounds are a major theme here, made most clear by a young Miles engaging in a thoroughly mature critique of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Despite Miles’s hurt, or maybe sometimes because of it, people are drawn to Miles. Everyone loves him. Including seventeen year old Miami schoolgirl, Pilar. It’s because Miles is running from rape charges that he ends up in Brooklyn. It’s no big deal – everyone agrees, Miles is so great. Just let him have his Pilar. (Ew.)

If you can get past these issues, the book has some good qualities. The descriptions of Miles’s relationships with his parents are particularly realistic. They show people bumbling along, making mistakes, but ultimately forging lasting bonds.

I wish that the rest of the novel could have lived up to the better parts. Le sigh. Oh well – another author I can say I’ve read, and not have to mess with again, at least for a while.

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I mean, as much as I’m a fan of “literary” fiction and the classics, I still like a good vampire & witches story every now and then. And this one started off strong.

Diana Bishop is descended from a long line of powerful witches, but she’s rejected her magic when it didn’t save her parents from a horrible, violent death. Now she’s turned to academia. She’s researching alchemy, which means she’s poring over old must books in gorgeous libraries. Turns out one of these books holds some kind of secret regarding witches, vampires, and demons. Now every magical creature wants to get its hands on it, but it’s protected by some sort of spell. When Harnkess is describing the details of the ancient texts, it’s like magic (ha). You know that she’s done these things, and she has a love for the written word. As a book lover myself, I was totally drawn in.

Unfortunately, Harkness seems to want to describe everything she loves. I do not need a wine lesson every 50 pages just because you’re an expert on it. Vampires, demons, and witches do not need to form a supernatural yoga club just because you like yoga. It’s just a bit much.

Also, Diana, hunter goddess witch extraordinaire – how many times do you have to be swept up and rescued? It’s like she’s a wilting violet one moment and an unstoppable force of nature the next. It doesn’t make for a very believable character.

Speaking of unbelievable characters, wow, Matthew Clairmont. Wow. I cannot believe that a 1,500 year old vampire has not learned to keep control over his emotions. He’s about to rip people’s throats out because they tease him about his fashion choices (okay, maybe I exaggerate a tiny bit).

Don’t get me started on the cheesy romance aspect. Just don’t.

Bottom line: discover something else.

Lord Help Us

The Help
Kathyrn Stockett

Le sigh. What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said already? My book club decided to read this as our next selection. It’s not the type of book I usually read – I don’t like reading the same book as everyone else on the subway.  In this case, it wasn’t just my book snobbery getting in the way. This looked like your classic white-protagonist-swoops-in-and-saves-the-poor-black-folks narrative. But the majority of the group was excited to read it, especially with the movie coming out.

 
It was exactly what I expected. Skeeter, a recent college grad, daughter of a wealthy cotton farmer, with a trust fund ready to help her snare a husband, is the one who brings “dignity” to the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi. 
 
Skeeter’s complete cluelessness about the world is what crystallized this book’s problems for me. She thinks that she can drive to the black neighborhood in her Cadillac, hang out for hours, and not be noticed. She thinks she can keep her position editing the Junior League newsletter after she makes enemies with nearly everyone else in the League. She thinks that Stuart, her sometimes-boyfriend and son of the segregationist state senator, is still going to want to marry her after she tells him about her book project. AND YET. Skeeter is the one with a direct line to a senior editor at a New York Publishing House.  Skeeter puts the maids’ stories down, and works so hard editing them so they can be published. Skeeter is the one who provides a way for two young black boys to attend college. Skeeter is the one who convinces the Jackson Journal to hire Aibileen to write the Miss Myrna cleaning column after Skeeter runs off to New York. Skeeter manages to accomplish so much, despite her bumbling, one wonders how she manages.

I suppose that this could be looked on as a commentary on just how disadvantaged African Americans were during the Jim Crow era. On how much institutionalized racism kept people in poverty. It could start a discussion about how oppression still continues to keep a hierarchical society firmly in place. That’s not how the book read, though. It read as though I was supposed to identify with Skeeter, and realize – “Hey, if I lived in that time, I’d be a “good” person, too!” Of course, if everyone actually behaved that way, then the world would have looked (and would look right now) much, much different.
The best thing I can say about this experience was I was spared buying it or trying to get it from the library, as a friend lent it to me.
 
For a much more complete look at this book’s problems: