Don’t Cry author Mary Gaitskill reviews Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful thriller, Gone Girl, for the pages of Bookforum. What she finds is that the book isn’t really frightening because of its plot per se, but rather because its two main characters “do not resemble actual people so much as grotesquely smiling masks driven by forces of extreme artifice, and it’s exactly that extreme artificial quality that’s frightening to the point of sickening.” For what it’s worth, Edan Lepucki, Michael Bourne, Ed Park, Janet Potter, and Jennifer duBois each named Flynn’s book in their most recent Year in Reading pieces.
Out this week: The Nix by Nathan Hill; Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe; The Legend of Jesse Smoke by Robert Bausch; and Sex and Death, a new story anthology including pieces by Kevin Barry, Wells Tower and Yiyun Li. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
The hysterical website Old Jews Telling Jokes has been revived from its year-long hibernation, and two of its newest gems are worth viewing: “A Stutter” and “Three German Shepherds.” Meanwhile, the show’s Off-Broadway adaptation is scheduled to open May 20th, and its producer has a great write-up about how the show’s evolved.
The CIA was known for unorthodox espionage techniques during the Cold War, but using Doctor Zhivago to undermine the U.S.S.R. is one of the strangest. The CIA helped print and distribute the banned book because it would make Soviets wonder “what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”
Can’t wait for Haruki Murakami’s new novel? You’re in luck: Slate just published an exclusive excerpt from the book. Sample quote: “No matter how quiet and conformist a person’s life seems, there’s always a time in the past when they reached an impasse. A time when they went a little crazy. I guess people need that sort of stage in their lives.” (You could also read Ben Dooley’s review of 1Q84.)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time author Mark Haddon will see his debut effort as a playwright hit the stage next month. The Independent tries to get the scoop. “So now we have this game of chess, in which you ask me what my new play is about, and I choose not to tell you what it’s about.”