Excerpt and reaction: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


“That night at the Brooklyn party, I was playing the girl who was in style, the girl a man like Nick wants: the Cool Girl. Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

“Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men — friends, coworkers, strangers — giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much — no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be a woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version — maybe he’s vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t even complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: ‘I like strong women.’ If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because ‘I like strong women’ is code for ‘I hate strong women.’)

“I waited patiently — years — for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to love cosmos, organize scrapbook parties, and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy.

“But it never happened. Instead, women across the nation colluded in our degradation! Pretty soon, Cool Girl became the standard girl. Men believed she existed — she wasn’t just a dreamgirl one in a million. Every girl is supposed to be this girl, and if you weren’t, there was something wrong with you.” — from Gone Girl

I’ve always been suspicious of hype — and this book has a lot attached to it! It’s in practically all the “must-read” lists this year and with good reason. I picked it up because I was curious and I’m sooo glad I did! This is one of those books that marry high-brow literary-ness with low-brow storytelling. It’s taut, spare in prose, but still richly detailed, both in plot points and “navel gazing” psychological ruminations. Didn’t have high hopes for this when I started reading it, but it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read all year… OK, admittedly, it wasn’t a great year in books for me. But still.

The London Daily Mail called this “… a book you’ll be begging other people to read just so you can discuss it with them” and I can’t wait for friends to read this so we can all just freak out over the story — and I did a lot of freaking out and what WTF-ing while reading this, believe me!

Note: Hmm, it occurred to me that I’ve read a few outstanding books in 2012, so it’s a bit rash to call this “the best book I’ve read all year”… So post has been amended to: “one of the best books I’ve read all year.”

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My name is Terrie. I write for a living and blog for pleasure. Some days, I get up in the morning and know precisely what kind of day it is. At other times, I get knocked over for a loop. People seem to like confiding in me. When I was younger, I thought I knew everything and can tell you what you need to do if you ask me. Now that I'm older, I realize I don't know anything. That's been my motivation for the blog and for writing. To figure out the unknown and unknowable.

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