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2.06.2013

Gillian Flynn on What little girls are made of ...


"Livia" by Frederick Sommer


"I Was Not A Nice Little Girl"

I was not a nice little girl. My favorite summertime hobby was stunning ants and feeding them to spiders. My preferred indoor diversion was a game called Mean Aunt Rosie, in which I pretended to be a witchy caregiver and my cousins tried to escape me. Our most basic prop was one of those pink, plastic toy phones most little girls owned in the ’80s. (Pretty girls love to talk on the phone!) Alas, it was always snatched from their fingers before they could call for help. (Mwahaha) In down time, I also enjoyed watching soft-core porn on scrambled cable channels. (Boob, bottom, static, static, boob!) And if one of my dolls started getting an attitude, I’d cut off her hair.

My point is not that I was an odd kid (although looking at this on paper now, I worry). Or that I was a bad kid (here’s where I tell you — for the sake of my loving parents — that I had enjoyed happy wonder years back in good old Kansas City). But these childhood rites of passage — the rough-housing, the precocious sexuality, the first bloom of power plays — really don’t make it into the oral history of most women. Men speak fondly of those strange bursts of childhood aggression, their disastrous immature sexuality. They have a vocabulary for sex and violence that women just don’t. Even as adults. I don’t recall any women talking with real pleasure about masturbating or orgasms until Sex and the City offered its clever, cutie-pie spin, presenting the phrases to us in a pre-approved package with a polka-dot bow. And we still don’t discuss our own violence. We devour the news about Susan Smith or Andrea Yates — women who drowned their children — but we demand these stories be rendered palatable. We want somber asides on postpartum depression or a story about the Man Who Made Her Do It. But there’s an ignored resonance. I think women like to read about murderous mothers and lost little girls because it’s our only mainstream outlet to even begin discussing female violence on a personal level. Female violence is a specific brand of ferocity. It’s invasive. A girlfight is all teeth and hair, spit and nails — a much more fearsome thing to watch than two dudes clobbering each other. And the mental violence is positively gory. Women entwine. Some of the most disturbing, sick relationships I’ve witnessed are between long-time friends, and especially mothers and daughters. Innuendo, backspin, false encouragement, punishing withdrawal, sexual jealousy, garden-variety jealousy — watching women go to work on each other is a horrific bit of pageantry that can stretch on for years.

Libraries are filled with stories on generations of brutal men, trapped in a cycle of aggression. I wanted to write about the violence of women.

So I did. I wrote a dark, dark book. A book with a narrator who drinks too much, screws too much, and has a long history of slicing words into herself. With a mother who’s the definition of toxic, and a thirteen-year-old half-sister with a finely honed bartering system for drugs, sex, control. In a small, disturbed town, in which two little girls are murdered. It’s not a particularly flattering portrait of women, which is fine by me. Isn’t it time to acknowledge the ugly side? I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains. Not ill-tempered women who scheme about landing good men and better shoes (as if we had nothing more interesting to war over), not chilly WASP mothers (emotionally distant isn’t necessarily evil), not soapy vixens (merely bitchy doesn’t qualify either). I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women. Don’t tell me you don’t know some. The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves — to the point of almost parodic encouragement — we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side. Dark sides are important. They should be nurtured like nasty black orchids. So Sharp Objects is my creepy little bouquet.

Cont'd:   There are no good women in Sharp Objects ...

Sharp Objects is appropriately creepy, satisfyingly dark and, of course, ends with an unimaginable twist.  I also recommend her newest novel, Gone Girl which explores sociopathic relationships.   Dark Places is my least favorite, and I am having difficulty sticking with the story.  All three of Flynn's books have been optioned for movie rights.  So if you don't catch them in print - you will inevitably see them in film.

xxx

Gillian Flynn

15 comments:

SL said...

Our great minds...thinkin' alike! I just opened the box from Amazon with this book and "Gone" in it last night. And yes, I admit to being an old dog that is having trouble making the switch to ebooks.

goatman said...


Next I will poke myself in the eye!

soubriquet said...

Ummm, he says, in a scared sort of way.

goatman said...


More an avoidance tactic. . .

red dirt girl said...

Oh that's great, SL! Now I will have someone to talk 'books' with ...!! Let me know when you finish the first one. I purchased mine as audio-books. No e-books for me. (Famous last words I'm sure :)

xxx

red dirt girl said...

goatman !! Better to carve the word 'poke' into your bare skin with an x-acto knife than poke your eye ... at least that's the mindset of the protagonist of Sharp Objects.

Look. February is my least favorite month of the year. It happens to be my 'darkest' month depression wise. So, in case you haven't noticed, I am posting accordingly: the darker the better; the more tortured the better; I'm looking for poems, stories, images (Don't you think Livia looks creepy ??!!) that reflect my state of mind.

Hang in there. Soub is visiting in March and promises to bring sunshine and rainbows.

Until then, batten those hatches etc etc

xxx

red dirt girl said...

You should be scared, Soub. Verrry scared ...!

xxx

(and you might want to lock up all your sharp objects)

Lee said...

Those eyes....they're so haunting!

Adullamite said...

Stupid cow. All she has to do is look at human nature instead of women's magazines. Read history luv! Tsk!

bulletholes said...

I'm tempted to suggest this book to couple gals...but I'm scared to death to.

goatman said...

Seems like you would take in thoughts and images which would brighten your mood rather than accentuate the depression. How do you know how much is generated by yourself and how much is from the outside influences you subject yourself to?
Of course I am not a real shrink but just play one when prompted, so this view is worth just what you paid for it.

red dirt girl said...

I know it seems counter-intuitive Goatman - and in the past I have posted perky, cheerful posts in February in hopes that if I fake it, I will make it. Didn't work. Now I'm thinking that if I can continue to find stories (fictional or not) that are darker and more twisted than mine, then heck - I'm not in such a bad place after all.

Though Soub DID tell me to stay away from Sylvia Plath .... And I was just getting ready to post Tulips by her ...!

xxx

red dirt girl said...

Cowboy - I'd leave the book on their doorstep and run away !!!

Though seriously, I think Gillian makes a very valid point - women can be BAD. VERRRY BAD. And I don't mean it in some cutesy coy sexual way. I mean as in - SCARY.

And as women we need to confront the BAD female inside of us all. All that repression can't be good for the psyche.

xxx

goatman said...


A bigger hammer . . . might work.

red dirt girl said...

ya' think ???

xxx