Hit­ting the heights

With a fin­ger on the pulse of pop­u­lar cul­ture, an au­thor makes her way onto the best­seller lists and the sil­ver screen.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By AMY DRISCOLL

for the En­ter­tain­ment Weekly mag­a­zine who was laid off in 2008, is now perched atop the literary pile.

Last month at the Key West Literary Sem­i­nar in Mi­ami, she found her­self amid longestab­lished au­thors that are now eas­ily her peers, such writ­ers as Judy Blume, Sara Paret­sky, Carl Hi­aasen, Laura Lipp­man. As fans lined up to talk to her – she good-na­turedly agreed to a quick video thank­ing a book club for read­ing her book – some­one thrust a copy of the most re­cent EW into her hands.

On the cover? Gone Girl, the movie. Her movie.

“It’s in­sane. It re­ally is,” she says with a be­mused smile. “I was a very shy and awk­ward kid. Painfully shy. I al­ways wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t ex­actly boom­ing with self-con­fi­dence.

“This weekend is one of those times where I wish I could go back and say, ‘You’re go­ing to meet Judy Blume, and you’re go­ing to talk about her books with her. And Joyce Carol Oates. It’s gonna be OK, kid. Like, it’s go­ing to be all right.’”

It’s been more than all right. Gone Girl hit a sweet spot in pub­lish­ing, a sus­pense novel with such art­fully crafted twists and turns that a New York Times re­viewer com­pared the au­thor to leg­endary psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller writer Pa­tri­cia High­smith.

Flynn’s pop cul­ture roots are never far from her writ­ing – and that may be why she’s been so suc­cess­ful. The ba­sis for Gone Girl isn’t unique. It’s about a mar­riage that goes hor­ri­bly, pub­licly wrong.

But Flynn brings a fresh eye to the con­cept through the use of re­venge, se­crets and a crit­i­cal look at the personas we con­struct for each other and our­selves. By com­bin­ing our mod­ern-day, re­al­ity-show cul­ture with a uni­ver­sal theme of re­la­tion­ships, she puts her fin­ger on some­thing that res­onates.

“There’s some­thing to talk about for ev­ery­one. The gen­der roles we play, the do­mes­tic roles we play.

“There’s the push and pull be­tween hus­bands and wives and how do mar­riages go wrong. I think peo­ple are fas­ci­nated by that,” she says. “You know, peo­ple who are in good mar­riages fear that, be­cause they have seen good mar­riages go bad.”

She has not, de­spite re­ports to the con­trary, com­pletely rewrit­ten the end­ing for the film, she says.

“You have to dis­man­tle a book in or­der to put it back to­gether as a movie. And it was fun to take all the dif­fer­ent puz­zle pieces and fig­ure out what’s go­ing to make it in the new puz­zle and what can be left be­hind.”

And though she notes she has done a lot of rewrit­ing for the script, “they hired me be­cause they liked the book so ... re­ports have been greatly ex­ag­ger­ated that ev­ery­thing is com­pletely dif­fer­ent.”

Flynn knows a lot about the ways pop­u­lar cul­ture is in­creas­ingly cre­at­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing our world. That viewpoint is solidly on dis­play in Gone Girl.

“We’re so sat­u­rated that ... we re­peat things to each other, the chat­ter be­comes very sim­i­lar. We use movie ref­er­ences. I re­mem­ber the first time I saw the Mona Lisa in per­son and I was like, meh. Be­cause you’d seen it – it’s been big jig­saw puzzles. It’s been on posters. Like, I waited in line for this? And there are so many things like that, that you’ve seen so many times.”

But she’s also quick to recog­nise the strength of what she calls the “de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion” of cul­ture that al­lows us to feel OK com­bin­ing the pop­u­lar with the clas­sic.

When she for­got her book for this trip, for ex­am­ple, she bought two at the air­port: Rachel Kush­ner’s The Flamethrow­ers and Charles Dick­ens’ A Tale Of Two Cities.

“It’s some­what of a psy­chotic mix,” she jokes.

“But there’s been a nice de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion – peo­ple will not only read this high­brow thing. You can ac­knowl­edge that more main­stream things are worth­while.”

Re­al­ity TV has fur­ther pumped up the emo­tional con­tent of the in­ter­nal scripts we’re now car­ry­ing around, she says.

“I see young girls where they’ve clearly watched too much of that, and they go to this place, like whaaa! And you’re like, dude, I just said your hair needed brush­ing or what­ever. And I do think it comes from watch­ing other peo­ple act for the cam­eras, and we’re do­ing it for our­selves in real life.”

That kind of over-act­ing in real life is “some­thing to be fought. I think it’s worth fight­ing.

Liv­ing a gen­uine life, in which you are hav­ing your own re­sponses in­stead of some­one else’s, is a worth­while pur­suit.” – The Mi­ami Her­ald/McClatchyTri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Game girl: Gil­lian Flynn is sit­ting pretty with Gone Girl seem­ingly per­ma­nently on best­seller lists around the globe and the movie based on the book com­ing out this year. — aP

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