I am pleased to report that after Saturday’s horridness I received a very kind donation from a reader who had heard my poem ‘Spike’ the other weekend. Hence I have now signed up to the garden bin scheme whereby I can get rid of all my prunings: and the guy who didn’t show up and subsequently declined the opportunity to help me out by taking prunings I had made myself, can have this raspberry:
I’m writing this quickly because I know you don’t have much time, ha ha – no, actually it’s because for once I have a Very Busy Day as I’m off to philosophise shortly, after which I will be meeting organisationally and left-unitarianly, following which I must whiz back and finish the painting before heading to an Artbeat meeting. All jolly good fun, unlike the book I have been reading which will be returned unfinished to the library.
It’s by the author of Gone Girl. Dark Places is Gillian Flynn’s latest offering, and the title about sums it up. ‘What’s the worst thing human beings can do to each other?’ would be a good subtitle, since she seems relentlessly to plumb* the depths of human behaviour. From chapter to chapter the book goes lower and lower like Dante exploring the Inferno, but with no catharsis at the end. And it seems to me that this is what a lot of modern crime fiction lacks: by going for gritty realism we lack the redemptive outcome of, say, a King Lear or a Julius Caesar – plays which, in their way, also explore the worst that human beings can do to each other.
The effect of this is not only depressing but also debilitating. There’s nothing to offset the remorseless dystopia of the world of Dark Places; a world where a family is massacred supposedly by the elder son, on the evidence of the youngest daughter. The story switches – in what seems to be an obligatory format these days – between the time of the murders (1985) and the recent past, and by the time we’d found out about each member of this family; a son supposedly into devil worship and definitely into drugs; a drunk and barely-coping mother and a father aptly named Runner who only turns up when he needs money and ends up living in an oil drum – I’d had more than enough. I no longer cared who killed these people; all I knew was, I needed something more positive to read before I, too was killed by dint of losing the will to live. ‘Goodnight, Mr Tom’ proved a good antidote, fortunately, and Gillian Flynn is now waiting – like some poor refugee under a UKIP government – to be returned whence she came.
Incidentally, I can’t cope with American names. How is it somebody can be called Runner? What sort of a name is that?
I must be off now. See you on the other side!
*note the unsplit infinitive