Tag Archives: gillian flynn

Nerdies for Favorite Things of 2009

Hope you all are enjoying the holidays. Me, I’m having so much fun with family, I need more gigabytes in my brain to store all the memories being made.

I get grateful this time of year for 1) making it this far and 2) all the wonderful experiences I had in the last 12 months. So, between all the eating and social gatherings, I present to you my Nerdy Awards for favorite things this year.

Most Valuable Preposition: Up. Apparently, the best way to make sure a movie is good is by putting this two-letter word in the title. Up and Up in the Air tie for best movie I saw this year. Both are perfect blends of comedy and poignancy, light and dark, entertainment and explorations of what makes us human.

Best Reasons for Staying Home Wednesday Nights: Glee, Modern Family and Cougar Town. Wednesday nights are always a party in my house, as I sing along to Glee then laugh my face off with Family and Cougar. You’ve probably heard plenty about the first two but may not know that Cougar‘s cast, led by the game Courteney Cox, has really gelled into one hilarious ensemble.

Most Unique New Voices in Crime Fiction: Chet the Jet from Spencer Quinn’s Dog on It, Pietro Brwna from Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper, and Stella Hardesty in Sophie Littlefield‘s A Bad Day for Sorry. The field is crowded with cops and detectives but this year, I met fresh new characters starting with Chet, a dog who narrates the adventures he has while solving crimes with his human partner, Bernie. Brwna is a hit man turned jaded medical intern who uses a deadly weapon I’ve never seen used before. And Littlefield introduced us to a 50-year-old, slightly overweight woman who helps abused women keep their partners in line partly by using S&M restraints. These books are all first in a series so discover them now before the next installments come out (Chet’s new case, Thereby Hangs a Tail, arrives January 5).

Best Noir Debut: Richard Lange‘s This Wicked World. This is Lange’s first novel but it reads like he’s been writing them forever. Worthy of a place on my shelf among the genre’s greats.

Best Avoidance of Sophomore Slump: Gillian Flynn with Dark Places. Her debut, Sharp Objects, was so stunning, I wondered if her second novel would measure up. I was thrilled, then, to find Flynn delving even more deeply into the female psyche’s dark, twisted side in Places. Few writers can write about damaged, prickly women and make them so mesmerizing.

Fattest Books I Finished in Shortest Time: I got lost in Kate Morton’s gothic, 560-page The Forbidden Garden for 3 days, while my eyeballs were glued to the 512 pages in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire for 34 hours, finishing it in almost one sitting, minus a few hours of sleep.

Most Soul-Shaking Book: Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. This non-fiction tale of a star football-player-turned-soldier gunned down by friendly fire in Afghanistan ripped me apart and made me re-evaluate how I live my life. A searing read I won’t forget anytime soon.

Funniest Person I Least Expected to Be: Brian Williams on 30 Rock. The veteran NBC Nightly News anchor made me laugh hard when he unexpectedly showed up on Rock, telling Tina Fey he wanted to audition for her show within the show by doing a stand-up act. The punchline wasn’t funny at all but Williams’s hammy, goombah delivery was very much so.

Favorite Movie Trend: Women 45 and over kicking ass at the box office. Sandra Bullock had two big hits (The Proposal, The Blind Side), Meryl Streep had three movies (Julie & Julia, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, It’s Complicated), one of which may win her a third Oscar. And Sigourney Weaver returns as sci-fi queen in Avatar. I hope this trend continues so I can stop watching actors get older while their female co-stars get closer to infancy every year.

Best Performance by Any Actor, Male or Female: Mo’Nique in Precious. Not so much a performance as a terrifying inhabitation of a nightmarish character.

Most Memorable Movie Quote: I just met you and I love you.” —Dug the talking dog in Up.

What were some of your favorite things this year?

Gillian Flynn’s Creepy DARK PLACES

dark-placesWhen I received my copy of Gillian Flynn‘s Dark Places (out today), I yelped with joy because I’d been waiting three years for the follow-up to her superb, Dagger-winning Sharp Objects. My reaction is ironic because there’s no joy in this story—it’s a vicious tale of mass murder and the aftereffects on the lone survivor. But, to paraphrase Tina Fey, you want to go to there because of Flynn’s exceptional prose.

The story concerns Libby Day, who at age 7 survived the slaughter of her family in the so-called “Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She then testified that her 15-year-old brother Ben committed the murders. Twenty-five years later, Ben is serving a life sentence and Libby is drifting aimlessly, running out of money from strangers who’ve been sending sympathy checks since she was little. As her trust fund manager explains, she’s now a has-been because there are new victims every day.

Fortuitously, Libby is contacted by the Kill Club, a group of true-crime aficionados who believe her brother is innocent and that Libby should review the case and recant her previous testimony, which they think was coached by a child psychologist. They offer to pay Libby to interview Ben and other people involved with the case and report back any new findings. Libby at first agrees to the scheme strictly for the cash but soon starts to question what she really saw that night. She’s ultimately forced to confront the terrifying Darkplace which she’s managed to block out most of her life.

Yes, all this sounds pitch black but Flynn’s prose is so exquisite, she makes you want to go with Libby to that Darkplace, perhaps even lead the way, wielding a flickering flashlight. Flynn’s descriptions instantly paint vivid pictures and you envy her literary skill even as you sometimes recoil from the image. She talks about a man who’s such a cheat, he steals fake money from the bank when playing Monopoly with his kids. She describes a house so dilapidated, it’s “a home past the expiration date.” A girl who looks “sexy-sleepy…like you woke her up from a dream she had about you.” And then there’s this personification of a residential neighborhood: “The houses reminded me of hopeful, homely girls on a Friday night, hopping bars in spangly tops, packs of them where you assumed at least one might be pretty, but none were, and never would be. And here was Magda’s house, the ugliest girl with the most accessories, frantically piled on.”

It’s fitting that even the house is a misfit because Flynn’s characters are mostly anti-heroes, nasty bitches and oily bastards. But her razor-sharp prose will cut through any preconceived notions you might have about such people and convince you their point of view should at least be counted. Libby might be pissed at the world, lacking in social skills and a serious klepto, but Flynn still manages to make her relatable without asking for an ounce of pity. It’s as if the author reaches into your brain and adjusts it by giving it a slight twist, counter-clockwise. All of a sudden, you see things differently, like maybe you’ve got some blackness in you, too. But instead of hiding it, Flynn suggests you embrace it like the klepto Libby clutching her stolen knickknacks.

Nerd verdict: Embrace the Dark side