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Mary Gaitskill

Related: sadomasochism in fiction - Secretary (2002)

Despite her well-known S/M themes, Gaitskill does not appear to consider the Marquis de Sade himself an influence, or at least not a literary one: "I don't think much of Sade as a writer, although I enjoyed beating off to him as a child." [Sept 2006]

Bad Behavior (1988) - Mary Gaitskill
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Mary Gaitskill was born in 1954 in Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of a teacher and a social worker. She had what she describes as a difficult adolescence, running away from home at sixteen to become a stripper. In 1981 Gaitskill graduated from the University of Michigan, where she won an award for her collection of short fiction The Woman Who Knew Judo and Other Stories.

Bad Behavior (1988) - Mary Gaitskill

    Fierce, raw tales of love and sex and obsession--not since Ethan Canin's Emperor of the Air has there been such excitement surrounding a debut short-story collection. First time in paperback. --Ingram

    "Bad Behavior" is a collection of nine short stories by Mary Gaitskill, most of which take place in Manhattan or Chicago. The first one, "Daisy's Valentine", is about a man named Joey who falls for his coworker, Daisy. "Daisy's Valentine" sets the pattern for most of Gaitskill's stories, all of which typically leave the reader a little confused and frustrated about the unresolved situations and abrupt endings in this book.

    "A Romantic Weekend" is anything but. It starts as a planned S&M weekend between two somewhat strangers. However, it becomes a big disappointment for both parties when they realize that neither had the same fantasy, that they're ultimately incompatible.

    "Something Nice", about a 59-year-old married man who falls for one of the prostitutes he meets at a brothel, is another pointless story with no major conflict or plot to satisfy me.

    The remaining six short stories are as follows: "An Affair, Edited" -- a successful man reminisces about an old flame when he sees her a few times on the street; "Connection" -- two women become friends through a mutual ex-lover (In "Connection", the main character, Susan, reflects on how human relationships are "intense, inexplicable, and ultimately incomplete", which perfectly describes this book.); "Trying To Be" -- a prostitute becomes "friends" with one of her lawyer clients; "Secretary" -- a young secretary is sexually harassed by her lawyer boss (this one was later made into a movie that aired at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and will be released in limited areas this September); "Other Factors" -- after being invited to a party, a woman recalls various relationships she's had with the other partygoers; and "Heaven" -- a middle-aged woman reminisces about her family and children. "Heaven" is probably one of the few decent stories in this book. By this time, I was used to Gaitskill's writing style and welcomed the randomness of it. Great ending to the book, by the way.

    In a few of the stories, however, it was hard to connect with the characters; they were generally either drug addicts or prostitutes--just scum of the Earth. However, I thought Gaitskill's writing was very good. I didn't like how the stories just dropped or seemed to go nowhere, but her style made the book worth reading. I'll probably never re-read this one, but I doubt I'll forget it entirely.

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