Tag Archives: book

Finding “Gone Girl” in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

The Bar from the movie “Gone Girl.”

The bar, the courthouse, the house on the Mississippi river where “I could step right in the sucker, an easy three-foot drop, and be on my way to Tennessee.”  For authors such as Gillian Flynn in her huge fiction bestseller Gone Girl, the setting of a novel plays as crucial a role as the characters themselves.  It creates atmosphere, foreshadows what is to come, and sets the pace.  But when director David Fincher and his location scouts set out to make a movie based on the novel, it was a challenge to find real world places to match those of Flynn’s imagination. They found them in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The movie, released today, has received some pretty great reviews. So, between the book and the movie, I’m betting that plenty of Gone Girl fans will be looking for her in Cape Girardeau, a lovely river town in southeast Missouri, where the movie was filmed.


In case you’ve missed it all, in Gone Girl, Amy Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike) disappears from the North Carthage, Missouri, home she shares with her philandering husband Nick (Ben Affleck) on their fifth anniversary, leading him to be investigated for her (maybe) murder. “If there are married couples here, maybe you should change seats” rather than sit together, said Ann Tenenbaum, the chairman of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, when the film premiered in New York. “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.’ David Fincher will personally escort us there.” As the story progresses, we learn that this is one crazy couple and we find that the narrator isn’t necessarily giving us the straight story. (To see a fun discussion among readers of the book, see Book Journey‘s spoiler page.) The realistic setting adds to the tension.

"Gone Girl" director David Fincher said that the view from the Common Pleas Courthouse stairs overlooking the river is what sold him on Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as North Carthage in his movie.
“Gone Girl” director David Fincher said that the view from the Common Pleas Courthouse stairs overlooking the river is what sold him on Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as North Carthage in his movie.

Stacy Dohogne Lane of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau told me, “North Carthage doesn’t actually exist, though there is a Carthage, Missouri.  The Mississippi River plays such a big part in the book that they wanted to capture a true Missouri river town. Steve Mapel, the film’s location scout, came to Cape Girardeau in the Spring of 2013 and spent quite a bit of time here doing a very intensive search for specific locations.  We had such a good time sitting around our conference table with Steve…he’d say ‘I’m looking for a place that has x, y and z’ and we’d all brainstorm a variety of places that fit within those parameters.”  David Fincher has said that the view from the Common Pleas Courthouse stairs overlooking the river is what sold him on Cape Girardeau as North Carthage.  Gillian Flynn later told Fincher that Cape Girardeau was the place she had in mind while she was writing the book, and he joked in an article that he wish she’d told him that sooner and saved him some time.

Alas, Gone Girl fans probably won’t find Ben Affleck or Rosmund Pike on the streets of Cape Girardeau but the river town makes a great weekend getaway (about two hours from St. Louis).  Beyond Cape Girardeau’s movie role as North Carthage, you’ll find intriguing historic and outdoor sites, antiques and shopping, and it makes a great spot for a girls getaway weekend with wineries, spas and more.

Are You a Travel Snob? Take this quiz and find out.

Camel trekking in Morocco? Ten points!

During one of our recent “What is the world coming to?” discussions spurred by politics and other recent disasters, a friend handed me a book by David Brooks called Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. In it, Brooks, who is a columnist for the New York Times, examines a social group that he has labeled bourgeois bohemians, or Bobos. He says a Bobo is a mix of bourgeois establishment square and bohemian artist intellectual.  Like an anthropologist studying an exotic tribe, Brooks looks at Bobo business culture, social, intellectual and spiritual life.  It’s a fun read because he seems like good-natured guy who admits he’s part of this group and doesn’t hesitate to point out its idiosyncrasies in a very humorous way.

What really caught my eye is his description of Bobo travel habits. I have to admit, to some extent, he’s describing me, many of the people I know, and almost all of the people you read about in travel magazines and and on travel blogs.  Tell me if this sounds familiar:

“There are a certain number of sophisticated travelers who wear their past destinations Unknown-9like little merit badges.”  According to Brooks, these aren’t people who simply name drop about the super luxe hotels and resorts where they stay.  “Their main joy in life comes from dropping whopping hints that everywhere you are just going they went to long ago when it still meant something.”  They’re masters of insufferable questions like “Didn’t the atabeg of Damascus stop there in 1139?” And, says Brooks, “They don’t say, ‘I know such-and-such a language.’  They say, ‘I have a little Portuguese” or ‘I have a few of the romance languages, of course,’ in that faux offhand manner that makes you want to stick the person’s head in a vise and squeeze it until the eyes pop out.”

But, we’re all travel snobs to some extent. For example, I was accused of travel snobbery when I said I didn’t really have a great desire to visit the Wisconsin Dells for vacation.  I also make snide comments about the oddly dressed tourists who pile off cruise ships and tour buses. But it’s a matter of degree. I definitely rate myself lower on the food chain of travel snootiness than the guy who rues the day electrification came to Belize, though I have told people I remember when the streets weren’t paved on Ambergris Caye.

The Quiz

Where do you rate on the travel snob-o-meter? With the help of Brooks analysis,  I’ve developed the following quiz so you can rate yourself. Give yourself 10 points if you answer yes to the following: 1. Have you ever one-upped someone in a travel conversation?

2. Do you avoid places that are “touristy” even though you’re dying to see them?

3. Do you wear outdoorsy travel gear acquired at places such as Eddie Bauer or REI even when you’re not on an expedition? Five extra points if your togs have lots of pockets.

4. Have you ever said you have a language instead of I speak a language? Or, another of  my favorites, do you use a “French” pronunciation for a word when it isn’t a French word?

5. Do you label yourself as “serious” about a travel or sporting pursuit, i.e. a “serious hiker,” or “serious kayaker?” Says Brooks, “The most accomplished are so serious they never have any fun at all.”

6. Do you seek out locales where simple peasants live in abundance farming or creating folk art?

7. Do you frequently mention using alternative modes of transportation, such as camels or tuk-tuks?

8. What’s that you say? You don’t travel because there’s no place that’s better than right where you are? If you say yes, you’re a reverse travel snob. Bam! 10 points.

Finally, does your idea of a great vacation involve pain and exertion– for example biking across a state larger than Rhode Island, or kayaking around Lake Superior or canoeing length of the Amazon? If your answer is yes, award yourself 20 points. “At the tippy top of the leisure status system are those vacations that involve endless amounts of agony and pain,” says Brooks.

Here’s how you stack up.  10 points: not a travel snob, but a little dull. 20-50 points: emerging snob, you just need to add on a few more miles, perhaps while trekking in Nepal. 60-80 points: You’re a snooty pants, and I’m sure those pants are made by Patagonia. And you’re probably a Bobo, too. 90-100 points: You’re an insufferable travel snob. We’d all like to go where you’ve been, but we don’t want you to tell us about it, so go kayak around Lac Superieur.