Gillian Flynn Admits, "I Was Not a Nice Little Girl"

"My favorite summertime hobby was stunning ants and feeding them to spiders," reveals Gillian Flynn, author of the mega-bestselling thrillers Sharp Objects, Dark Places, and Gone Girl.

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. (Mwaahahaa.)

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.

In Sharp Objects, I wrote a dark, dark book.

 

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RIFers! Do you agree with Gillian Flynn’s take on female violence? Does it have a “specific brand of ferocity?” Let’s talk about it in the comments!

  • techeditor

    Well, I’m glad you got tnat out of your system. Please don’t write a book about this. I’ve never been and am not violent. I expect in your maturity that you aren’t, either.

    • dawnmomofreed

      thank you, you saved me a read, my tastes inn books have changes since ‘I had my son, much to Stephen Kings dismay im sure :)

  • P King

    If you have not read her books, you should. She is delightfully talented in taking a spot light and shining it on our darkest moments. I love, love her edgy writing. I’ve read all 3 of her books, but Sharp Objects was my favorite, with Dark Things a close second. The characters are not nice cleaned up versions, they are real in a despicable- flawed way. She is a master storyteller.

    • http://www.readitforward.com/ Kira, editor @ Read It Forward

      I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thank you for sharing such a great review of Flynn’s writing.

  • Hippiechick2

    I just got the book and am saving it until this Saturday when I leave for Texas. I only have a two hour flight but her books are so captivating that I can’t put them down. It wouldn’t surprise me if I finished the book before I departed the plane.