August 18th, 2004

Bad Behavior

is a 1988 collection of short stories by Mary Gaitskill. I haven't finished all the stories, and I don't think I will, because I don't like them very much. They are mostly about unhappy people getting by on the scummy edges of the New York culture community.

Here's how the first story opens: "Joey felt that his romance with Daisy might ruin his life, but that didn't stop him. He liked the idea in fact."

I like the way she puts her sentences together, she has some sense of drama, and her stories are more than just slices of life. But she seems to go for the flat existential what-did-that-mean? endings as a rule.

I knew that the movie "Secretary" was based on her short story of the same name. Both deal with a kinky sado-masochistic relationship between a lawyer and his secretary. But the movie and the short story are a study in contrasts. The script writer put a great deal of Hollywood glam onto the story, including a big dose of whimsy and the provision of a happily-ever-after ending.

She has two interesting stories involving prostitution, "Trying To Be" and "Something Nice." They have an eerie reality about them, but they are sooooo depressing. In the interview I cite below, she indicates that she had engaged in such activity herself. That must be where the reality comes from. Both of these stories involve men who start off as customers but who try to take the relationship toward something more authentic.

In the OWL discussion group, there was a recent argument about whether prostitution was a good way to make a living. These two stories don't seem exaggerated in their detail, but they paint a sad picture.

Here is the quote from the NY Times on the cover of the book:

"Wise beyond her years, utterly unsentimental, Gaitskill is...glorious."

Now, "unsentimental" is okay, but "glorious"?

Rhyme of the day:

I tunnelled through some stories
But I couldn't find the glory.

Interview with Mary Gaitskill: