Monday, January 18, 2016

the end of everything

----------------- [excerpt, Gone Girl] ----------------------- The whole mall was quiet; Mikey's voice echoed, our footsteps echoed, Stucks's drunken giggle echoed.  We would not be a surprise attack, if attack was what we had in mind.

When we reached the central promenade of the mall, the whole area ballooned:  four stories high, escalators and elevators crisscrossing in the black.  We all gathered near a dried-up fountain and waited for someone to take the lead.

"So, guys," Rand said doubtfully, "what's the plan here?  You all know this place, and I don't.  We need to figure out how to systematically--"

We heard a loud metal rattle right behind us, a security gate going up. 

"Hey, there's one!" Stucks yelled.  He trained his flashlight on a man in a billowing rain slicker, shooting out from the entry of a Claire's, running full speed away from us.

"Stop him!" Joe yelled, and began running after him, thick tennis shoes slapping against the ceramic tile, Mikey right behind him, flashlight trained on the stranger, the two brothers calling gruffly -- hold up there, hey, guy, we just have a question

The man didn't even give a backward glance.  I said hold on, motherfucker!  The runner remained silent amid the yelling, but he picked up speed and shot down the mall corridor, in and out of the flashlight's glow, his slicker flapping behind him like a cape. 

Then the guy turned acrobatic:  leaping over a trash can, shimmying off the edge of a fountain, and finally slipping under a metal security gate to the Gap and disappearing.

------------------------------ [end, excerpt 1]


The 2008 economic crash and ongoing recession is part of the backdrop of the story in Gillian Flynn's novel, Gone Girl.  At one point Nick contemplates the idea that he has brought his wife Amy "to the end of everything."

Sometimes, if you're reading it, you think, "Come on!" -- Every single description -- of anything -- has this darkness and negativity and glomping gloom, just dripping from it.  You feel like, "Come on!  Don't these people like anything??!?"

Well, that's the ambience of the story:  it's the way the writer is writing it.  That's what she's "going for" ...  Her descriptions of Midwestern towns and countryside are stark -- drear.


------------------------- [excerpt 2] ------------------ ... "We checked out that house in your neighborhood that was broken into, looks like people camped out there, so we've got lab there.  And we found another house on the edge of your complex, had some squatters."

"I mean, that's what worries me," I said.  "Guys are camped out everywhere.  This whole town is overrun with pissed-off, unemployed people."

Carthage was, until a year ago, a company town and that company was the sprawling Riverway Mall, a tiny city unto itself that once employed four thousand locals -- one-fifth the population.  It was built in 1985, a destination mall meant to attract shoppers from all over the Middle West.  I still remember the opening day....

For a quarter century, the Riverway Mall was a given.  Then the recession hit, washed away the Riverway, store by store, until the whole mall finally went bust.  It is now two million square feet of echo. ------------------------------ [end, excerpt 2] -------------------------


---------------------- [excerpt 3] ----------------- I reached Hannibal in twenty minutes, drove past the glorious Gilded Age courthouse that now held only a chicken-wing place in its basement, and headed past a series of shuttered businesses -- ruined community banks and defunct movie houses -- toward the river. 

I parked in a lot right on the Mississippi, smack in front of the Mark Twain riverboat.  Parking was free.  (I never failed to thrill to the novelty, the generosity of free parking.)  Banners of the white-maned man hung listlessly from lamp poles, posters curled up in the heat. 

It was a blow-dryer-hot day, but even so, Hannibal seemed disturbingly quiet.  As I walked along the few blocks of souvenir stores -- quilts and antiques and taffy -- I saw more for-sale signs. 

Becky Thatcher's house was closed for renovations, to be paid for with money that had yet to be raised. For ten bucks, you could graffiti your name on Tom Sawyer's whitewashed fence, but there were few takers.

I sat in the doorstep of a vacant storefront.  It occurred to me that I had brought Amy to the end of everything.  We were literally experiencing the end of a way of life, a phrase I'd applied only to New Guinea tribesmen and Appalachian glassblowers. 

The recession had ended the mall. 

Computers had ended the Blue Book plant. 

Carthage had gone bust;

its sister city Hannibal was losing ground to brighter, louder, cartoonier tourist spots. 

My beloved Mississippi River was being eaten in reverse by Asian carp flip-flopping their way up toward Lake Michigan. 

Amazing Amy was done. 

It was the end of my career,

the end of hers,

the end of my father,

the end of my mom. 

The end of our marriage. 

The end of Amy.

The ghost wheeze of the steamboat horn blew out from the river.  I had sweated through the back of my shirt.  I made myself stand up.


{excerpts from Gone Girl, a novel by Gillian Flynn.  2012, Random House}


No comments:

Post a Comment