Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book 39: Gillian Flynn's book is the same-old/same-old, which is to say it cynically exploits its readers in more ways than one.

The Grownup, I imagine, is the kind of story Gillian Flynn could write in her sleep, so I'm going to mostly talk about things around the book rather than about it.

The book itself is a thriller marketed as a horror story; a sort-of-prostitute who works a scam as a fortune teller gets a client who lives in a creepy house and thinks the house is haunted, so the fortune-teller decides to scam the rich client by promising to cleanse the house, but then starts to believe the house is really haunted.

It's a short book, and I read it in about an hour, which isn't surprising because it's actually a short story, but more on that below.  About halfway through the book, I got kind of annoyed because it hit on literally every single cliche of haunted house stories, right up to the main character googling some stuff and finding out about a murdered family that lived in the house before.

I stuck it out, though, and there's a reason all that stuff is in there, a reason that is only somewhat satisfying. If you've read (or more likely seen) Gone Girl then you know Flynn can write a story that takes all the trappings of a basic genre story and elevates them to a grand guignol, and she does that here, too. It's not bad; it's not great. It seemed like maybe it could've used a bit more development but then, if it had been longer it probably would have dragged enough to make me give up on it. Read it if you get it free and are on a long bus ride or something. I wouldn't spend money for it. There's nothing new in this book -- and that's part of the problem.

Which brings us to: The Other Stuff I want to say about the book. It's another library find; we went to our regular, nearby library today because it's Mr Bunches second favorite place (if you ask him, he'll tell you that his first is Toys R Us.)  While Mr F was getting a drink from the bubbler, I was looking at the new books and saw The Grownup. I picked it up and on the back cover in big print it said YOU LIKE GHOST STORIES? So I checked it out and because it was a new release read it before the book I'd actually reserved in advance for pickup.  So again, wandering around a library ends up being a pretty interesting thing to do. (Especially this week, as I picked up three other books I wouldn't have otherwise, plus I got to read a kids' book with Mr F about why the Golden Gate Bridge is orange.)

Short version: The parts were painted orange, a guy liked it and got other
people to like it, so now it's orange and it needs constant repainting to keep
it orange. Still a pretty good book for a kid; it's a fun way of teaching
history. Dave Eggers really knows his stuff.
On to the other stuff. The Grownup was originally a short story featured in a different book; a couple years back George R R Martin got 21 writers to contribute short stories, and he released an anthology of them called "Rogues." I only learned that because at the end of the book Flynn thanks Martin, saying he asked her to write a story and she did.  In Rogues the story was called What Do You Do? (a play on the main character and how she's always thinking about how she could explain her job to people).

Rogues sells for $14.99 on Amazon (the Kindle version.)  Flynn's hardcover book of this story only goes for $9.99 (marked down to $6.98 right now.)

WHY WOULD PEOPLE PAY $9.99 FOR A STORY THEY COULD GET FOR APPROXIMATELY 66 CENTS? (Rogues has 21 stories for $14, which is about $0.66 per story). And how can publishers justify rooking people like that? Gillian Flynn is worth $12,000,000 and surely doesn't need more money.  And while publishing her books and selling them would, even if Flynn took no money from the sale, still help a bunch of other people keep their jobs and make a living, it seems like a ripoff to take a story you've already sold and just sell it again for $9.99.  (Keep in mind too that Amazon offers "Kindle Singles," which feature brand-name authors selling short stories for a couple of bucks. That makes charging ten bucks for a short story even more outrageous.)(To be fair, I looked it up and the single goes for $2.99 on a Kindle.)

I posed the question, I'll answer it: to cash in, of course.

Rogues was published on June 17, 2014.

Gone Girl was released to theaters October 3, 2014.

The Grownup was published as its own book a year later, most likely when Flynn got the rights back to it. Flynn hasn't had anything published since Gone Girl, and a TV series she was supposed to write with David Fincher (the Gone Girl director) was canceled by HBO.

It's not entirely clear why she hasn't written anything since Gone Girl (published in 2012). Shortly after Gone Girl (the book) was released she signed a contract to publish two more novels (one a YA book). She was also already under contract to write another one for her publisher (Random House) before that extension.

Of the three full-length books she's published, only Gone Girl appears to have been a hit: it sold over 2,000,000 copies, while an article at the time said all her books combined sold 2,600,000. Her other two books were optioned for films around the same time Gone Girl was.  One, Dark Places was released only about 6 months after Gone Girl.  It made $208,000 in the US. Shortly after that is when Sharp Objects (the other book) was changed from a theatrical film to a TV series on HBO. In February of this year, sites began reporting it was coming soon. But IMDB says it will premiere in 2017, and Wikipedia (as noted above) says the entire project was scrapped.

The bloom seems to be off Flynn's rose, or however that saying goes. 2014 and Gone Girl was a long time ago now, and her last book was four years ago. Flynn's marketing savvy showed in a Mail Online story in 2015 peddling a rags-to-riches story of a reporter laid off from a magazine job who, rather than sink into depression, sat down to write a hit book, a story that ignores the fact that she wrote two earlier books while still working at the magazine. In that story she mentioned working on a remake of an obscure 1980s TV show. That interview appeared to be set up specifically to hype The Grownup, and I was unable to find anything anywhere about an actual new book coming out.

So The Grownup is just back catalog; it's basically the same thing as the B-side albums and obscure recordings that get put out by big bands at the height of their popularity, or the older, cheaper, cruddier movies that get re-released when an actor hits it big. It's a pure cash grab by an author whose peak popularity was a half-decade ago. It doesn't seem to be a release designed to get Flynn back in the news to hype a new novel. It's just taking a short story she wrote a few years back and repackaging it to make even more money off of it. It was released in November 2015, actually, and was described as "stocking filler" in one article about it.

Like I said, the story is fine; it's a bit more clever than many of the type, and moves along. But there's no getting around that it was already released as a book and was simply thrust back out on the market to make a bit more money for an author who appears to have little interest in writing anything new.

The Grownup as a product is, like its heroine and the story itself, a cynical, cheap, con-artist ploy to separate the gullible from their money.  If you're at all interested in reading it, I'd say go buy Rogues and at least get 20 other stories, diluting Flynn's profits from this one.

Not that it matters because yes, of course Flynn has sold The Grownup movie rights for 'six figures'. 

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