Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dockside Reading

I know it's been two weeks since school let out but it has taken me that long to get my "you-know-what" together. Sigh. I have no excuse, really. Isn't "The heat makes me sluggish" the middle-age equivalent to "The dog ate my homework?" Anyway, I have very few plans this summer beyond gorging on summer fruit and reading on the dock. Melding the two is the only thing I plan to do with enthusiasm.

To that end, I have already read two exceptional books: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - which was delightful and reminded me of the excellent novel The Prestige - and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn There's not a lot I can tell you about Gone Girl without ruining its dark surprises, but I can tell you that it's an ingenious and viperish thriller — and that no matter how smart or blase you think you are when it comes to reading thrillers, it's going to bite you. The novel concerns a missing wife named Amy and a husband named Nick who's either (best-case scenario) a big, fat phony or (worst) a full-on psychopath. I don't read a ton of thrillers but this book had me hooked from the first page. I read the entire thing on a rain soaked Tuesday and am the better for it, I tell you!

Told from alternating points of view, we get to know Amy, via chatty journals she kept before her disappearance. She narrates the arc of her relationship with Nick, which begins with lovestruck flirting in Manhattan and a giddy marriage in Brooklyn. It's when Nick gets downsized from his job as a magazine writer and insists they move to his hometown of St. Louis that things reaaally get interesting.
That said, the chapters of the novel that involve Nick, mostly unfold like a television procedural from the police investigation which unfold shortly after he rushes home one day looking for Amy and instead finds her blood on the floor, to the ultimate media frenzy that sweeps us up in its wake. What I loved was how Flynn doesn't paint Nick as the most sympathetic narrator: he lies, he whines and he ends up revealing himself as somewhat of an ass as he story unfolds. How refreshing! But what saves him are his moments of honesty. He does incredibly stupid stuff, given the circumstances and has - in his own words - a face you want to punch. It's the second half of the book, though, that is the real stunner. Just about halfway, Flynn pulls the rug out from under you and does it in such a way that you cannot believe that you've been reading the same book!

I really am going to shut up now before I spoil what is, seriously, the best book of the summer.

Better than this Fifty Shades of Grey which I tried to read - I really did! - but made me want to quit the earth about halfway through. I have decided that there is a reason that I am immune to this book and that's because I have engaged with a better, more entertaining version of it called Mad Men. Because isn't Christian Grey really just Don Draper in disguise? 

Don Draper by Christina Saint MarcheReplace the chain-smoking, bourbon-drinking and workaholic tendencies with helicopters, chilled white wine and effed-up e-mails and Tada! you've got Fifty shades of Grey. It's hard to engage with a handsome embodiment of the American Dream in book form when you can look at Don in re-reuns every Sunday night on AMC, non? Double crap! This is not a book for me.

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