We are captives of voices and secrets.
You know the appropriate voice and setting that will capture you – first comes a flow of language that evokes your sympathy and curiosity or maybe just your fascination, and the language comes wrapped in a pitch that varies from murmur to declaration, remorseful thoughtfulness to certitude. The propulsive hum of surprising facts one after another and the conclusions, oh the secrets, doled out to you alone in some private place, a silent room, a car moving over back roads, into the absolute privacy of ear buds firmly secured.
Others’ secrets divulged to us – this is akin to walking into an abandoned house alone. You stand in the doorless entrance and listen, alert to movement and the sounds of anyone else hiding, waiting. You do not know what you will find in the kitchen or in the back, or up the dim stairs and into the dusty rooms above you…but you want to know. You step into the house and its charged stillness.
You have been given the privilege of being trusted. You have been given the honor of a wide gaze into the concealed thoughts and actions of another. You open yourself to stories that may or may not be true, whose purpose may be other than confessional.
Think about meeting a stranger. You remember the expectant hush you feel. Who is this person? Now stretch the time you will spend together.
You are traveling alone. In a tight cabin or airline gate or rail car, someone sits down next to you, a pleasant, polite individual who preserves a shy smile. An easy word leads to two and then an exchange and then a conversation. You trade stories. Your companion’s stories are magnetic; they reveal provocative secrets. They describe deeds you have never done (but you may have dreamed of doing them). You do not want to break through the boundaries of the power their delivery exerts. You ask more questions. More stories appear. Hours vanish. Your destination is upon you. You will never see this person again. You want more, but there is also an intuitive part of you that is stepping away, its animal scent picking up something weird, off, dangerous, but you ignore its low growls and look over. “What happened next?” you say.
I will not tell you which one is the sociopath and which merely the narcissist; when I write their names, ignore the order in which I list them: Nick Dunne and his wife, Amy Elliot Dunne. They take turns speaking to me. They tell me everything; their lies are unusually enthralling because they are so carefully, convincingly spun before they confess the truth. Mask gives way to mask. If one of them, especially, were alive, I would not ride in the car with that person. To avoid a conversation, I would cross the street and hope I had not been seen.
Nick and Amy are the creations of Gillian Flynn and alternately tell their stories in first person narration in the audio version of Gone Girl. The actors who speak her lines and who thus embody her characters are so good that they dissolve into their stories. For long stretches of time I let go of the artifice of their voices beckoning from the car speakers. They are perfect representatives of the seductive power of the intimate voice and of secrets told only to me alone, and if you wish to you.
Come, step deeper into the cool rooms of that remote and empty house. The owners always leave parts of themselves behind and exposed. What will you discover?
What was that sound? What happens next?
The cover image is a still shot from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 movie Strangers On A Train.