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Veronica
 
by
Mary Gaitskill
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Veronica

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  3,181 ratings  ·  465 reviews
The extraordinary new novel from the acclaimed author of Bad Behavior and Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Veronica is about flesh and spirit, vanity, mortality, and mortal affection. Set mostly in Paris and Manhattan in the desperately glittering 1980s, it has the timeless depth and moral power of a fairy tale.

As a teenager on the streets of San Francisco, Alison is discovered by...more
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Published February 12th 2010 by Paw Prints (first published October 11th 2005)
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Kalisa
Veronica by Mary Gaitskill came very highly recommended. It was on a lot of "best of" lists and I'd actually had it on my list of "To Read" for a while. This was a book that I couldn't finish and that is a real dilemma for me. When I'm not enjoying a book at all, I never know whether to quit or keep going. If I don't like it early on, I feel like I owe it to at least give it a chance, and keep reading. Eventually I'm half-way through and even if I still don't like it, I'm like, "Well, I'm half-w...more
Krok Zero
I bet I'd be really inspired by this novel if I were a fiction writer. Mary Gaitskill sees the world through no eyes but her own, and she communicates that worldview with an unyielding series of remarkably inventive metaphors and physical descriptions, interspersed with prose-poem reveries in which Gaitskill abandons standard literary psychology to focus entirely on texture. Heady stuff, and my inner creative-writing student is all fired up by it, galvanized. But alas, I am not a writer of ficti...more
Holly
In Veronica, Alison, an aging model, whose body is wracked with pain and disease, looks back on her life in snapshots, as if she is flipping through a portfolio of memories. In her prime, Alison was beautiful and flawed. She related to the world with vanity, but also with a vague sadness and misunderstanding. She tells her stories as if her life is over in her 40s, which I guess for Alison, it is. The most telling of the flashbacks involve the title character, Veronica. Alison dislikes her and b...more
Maia
I'm a true, dedicated, devoted fan of Mary Gaitskill--I will scout the 'Net for anything with her byline on it. Her words thrill me, her descriptions astound me, her observations leave me breathless. I've read every one of her stories several times. And even though I knew from the set-go that her first novel, Fat and Thin, isn't very good in terms of novel-writing (I actually think it fails), I still wanted to really, really like this book.

Unlike Fat and Thin (which nearly everyone agrees did no...more
Cornelia
I read Veronica over the course of roughly 1.5 days (sleep, work, play also took up some time). It was addictive and mesmerizing and delirious and stunning and beautiful and expansive and breathless and depressing and hard and devastating and wonderful. Not everyone will love it and I've no trouble seeing why. Still, it really hit the spot for me.

The structure is linear but with lots of flashbacks and sometimes the transition from present to past is so smooth that you don't realize you were in t...more
Daisy
After I finished Two Girls, Fat and Thin, I immediately went to the library to check this one out. Like in the previous novel, the story focuses on the friendship between two women. One is a model. The other is a middle-aged woman diagnosed with AIDS in the epidemic of the 80s.

It's hard not to see how Gaitskill is trying to highlight the similarities in the female experience. The ideas of beauty, youth, ugliness and love are not only totally upended, but sometimes exposed as something not even...more
Agnes Mack
I only read this book because Ineeded a book that started with the letter V for my alphabet challenge. The reviews on Amazon were extremely mixed, people seemed to really either love or hate this book. I can understand, as I definitely loved this book.

The story is told from the point of view of a woman in her 40s who was once very beautiful - a model in fact. She went through her teens and twenties traveling back and forth from Paris and San Francisco and had little to do with her middle class,...more
Caitlin Constantine
As far as the story itself, I thought it was lackluster and a bit pretentious. I appreciated what Gaitskill was trying to do, that she was trying to explore notions of superficiality and depth when it comes to personal interactions. I also liked that she gave her two main characters, these women who are by turns pitiful and infuriatingly self-destructive, a sense of dignity even though they were behaving in ways I found really sad and upsetting. But for the most part, I thought she was striving...more
Emily
Aug 24, 2011 Emily is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up Mary Gaitskill's 2006 novel Veronica as part of my ongoing disgust project, and indeed it is a rich depository of fascinating uses of disgust. Yet I find I can't bear to write simply about the disgust in the book, without addressing its greater appeal. I consciously avoid pronouncements about the Canon, which books are Great and which merely Good, or anything of the kind—and yet, I am beset by a strong desire that Veronica be studied, written about, appreciated, revisited. It is not...more
Pamela
I found this book so powerful that I couldn't write about it right away. I've had an ambivalent relationship to other work by Gaitskill (I'd only read her stories, not her other novel). I'm fascinated by it but sometimes repelled. The people and the situations often seemed ugly to the point that I wondered if an unconscious sadism wasn't at work. Then I'd wonder if that was only my squeamishness speaking. I also sometimes had trouble picturing her characters, who can be so contradictory that the...more
Elaine
Hmmm. I keep thinking there was a lot more in the book than I got out of it. I think Anne and I will have to chat. I did enjoy the book as it went on. I found Gaitskill's evocation of Alison's "musical" view of life early on somewhat overdone. I did think she did a fabulous job of showing how the bright & shiny gets old & cranky. And Veronica, and her relationships, was a fantastic, complex but very real individual. Sometimes I think I read too fast . . . .
Nick
Worst book I ever read. Depressing and pitiful.
Jack
I mean, I fight my middle age at every turn. But some days you're just cranky about things - younger writers, younger people. Younger subjects. Mary Gaitskill can bring out the crank in anyone. Or maybe just anyone my age. She is a terrific writer, and an adept wordsmith. And I sorta hated this book, and knew I should like it more.

Our heroine, Alison, is a terminally jaded young woman - her mother left her father, she's been a model and lived in Europe and failed at everything and seen it all....more
Ciara
Dec 10, 2008 Ciara rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mary gaitskill fans, former models, HIV/AIDS advocates, people who partied in the 80s
let's see if i remember this properly: the titular veronica is a friend of the narrator. the narrator is a character herself. she got into modeling as a teenager & was very successful. she had a lot of jet-set excitement, dabbling in drugs & various rock stars, but beauty fades, especially when you spend the 80s on a non-stop coke binge. eventually she moves back to new jersey & takes a dead-end clerical job, where she meets veronica, a co-worker. veronica is a good ten years older t...more
Alisa Ridout
Poetry prose is Veronica. Mary Gaitskill doesn’t write. She transcends. Raw, real, severe, cerebral, Gaitskill’s style haunts my world long after I’m done reading it for the morning. I’m running ahead of my reading schedule, which is good. I’m exactly halfway through the 257 page novel. These last few days I have stopped moving ahead in the story to revisit noteworthy passages. Upon dissection, it became evident to me how perplexing and magnificent the poetic quality of Mary Gaitskill’s words tr...more
Karl S.T.
If you want to read something fast and exciting, don’t try to read this book. I’m conscious to say anything bad about the novel that might put-off a suspecting reader, because I love this book. Alison and Veronica meet in the year of the glamorous 80’s era in New York. Alison is a young model trying to escape the wreck of her blossoming career and Veronica – the eccentric, critic, fashionable middle-aged office worker- her friend. Over the next twenty-years their friendship blooms and encompasse...more
Erica
Generally I'm not super into books dealing with the fraught life of models, the abuse and the drugs and the body image issues - all adds up to "don't become a model, and then I don't have to read about it." And "Veronica" had moments that I didn't care about. The narrator made bad decisions, that I wouldn't have made, and couldn't identify with, and they messed up her life. Don't sleep with coke addled modeling agents thirty years your senior. Don't run away from home for no reason. etc.

But som...more
N.
My favorite part of the book was the running motif of how in the tenth frame Veronica could look more beautiful every time. What I love about Gaitksill's writing is how stark it feels, how unsentimental it is, how no one is let off the hook for their thoughts and motivations. I mean, she really goes in there and gives every thought someone has, every ugly, unvarnished though and observation. So when I read Two Girls: Fat and Thin and Veronica I know I'm reading something kind of special and brav...more
Diane
Veronica, published in 2005, is an uneven, “undisciplined” (as one reviewer put it) novel with a first-person narrator, Alison, who is a former model in her late 40s now sick with Hepatitis C and scraping by on a meager office-cleaning job. The novel is unusual, with a stream-of-consciousness style that moves the narrative disorientingly back and forth in time as Alison looks back on her exciting, debauched, youth and her unlikely friendship with an older woman, Veronica, who died of AIDS. Altho...more
Peter Landau
VERONICA is many things, but what struck me first was its rebuttal to the trite truism that we have only the moment we live in, that all else is illusionary and the present is where life is found. The past, even the future but less so, inhabit every page of this wonderful novel by Mary Gaitskill, like Al Jaffee's fold-up back cover of Mad magazine creating the full image only from parts. That's the picture, everything at once, forever churning through our consciousness. If time is the fourth dim...more
Bronwen
Alison is an aging former model, going about her day of running errands and washing windows for a friend, observing the pain and change in her body from Hepatitis C and from a miss-set and improperly healed broken arm.

She remembers her early days as a drug-blurred 15 year old model in Paris and her return to New York. Mostly, she remembers her unlikely friendship with Veronica, a woman who loved opera, old movies, and her manipulative bisexual partner Duncan. Alison relives Veronica’s death from...more
Kevin
This is one of those cases where I wish we could have half-stars. I'd give Veronica 3 and a half. There were parts that I thought were really lucid and great and other times where it unexpectedly dragged. I was sort of puzzled by it actually. I googled around trying to see what others thought when I finished it last year. It's a worthwhile read but I do think Bad Behavior is still my favorite.
Also of note, I saw her speak with George Saunders earlier this year and she was really stiff and preten...more
Rachel Wallace
3 Stars

I kept teetering back and forth, at times I loved this book and other times I just wanted to to stop reading. This is one of those character-driven, prose-intensive books. The actual plot could have played out in about 3 chapters but the rest of the book was crammed with over blown descriptions and pretentious, nonsensical metaphors. It felt like it was trying too hard. In addition, most of the scenes involving anything sexually related could only be described as 'creepy.' I feel pretty...more
Justin
The writing is spectacular. Gaitskill just sucks you into this tale of people that are beautiful on the surface and horribly ugly underneath. I give it four stars, instead of the full 5, because there was just a little something missing in the narrator. The language is detailed and insightful, and there are moments in which I really understand what the character is feeling, but at the end of it, I still felt like the character was a bit ... incomplete. Still, a worthwhile read.
Sylvie
Jan 30, 2008 Sylvie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like literary fiction
It's slow moving in parts. If you want an existential novel about aids, modeling, sex, music, and regret, then this is the book for you. Gaitskill has a really unique way of describing what people are saying with their bodies, particularly their eyes. She has a slightly sober, cynical way of looking at the world, which can get a little sad to read through, but it's an interesting, eloquent, well written, demanding book.
Chelsea Cain
I could read this book again and again, just to bask in the language. The writer/psychiatrist Oliver Sacks talks about a patient he had, an artist who could look at the world and see red. Not the way that you and I can. For her, red would separate from the landscape and all the other colors would drop away. She could glance at a field and instantly see a single red flower in a meadow of green. The rest of us could see that flower too, if we looked for it, if it was pointed out, but most of our b...more
Lucy
it reminded me a lot of like being killed (book #30), but it was a lot easier to read and to like the characters. it's a portrait of a woman reflecting on her destructive lifestyle as a model when she was younger and her friendship with an older, unglamorous woman with hiv. what i liked was the way the book captured allison and her friend and sisters' different coping mechanisms for life.
Frances Coles
It took me a while to get in to this one. But I have now read it 3 times. There's a very elemental quality about the book, and not only when she is writing about, say, hugging trees. When she describes people, you really feel like she is describing their animal selves. And the book is, truly, about life and death - who we are at our most basic level, who we are as creatures. (I'm not articulating this very well right now, I know; my son is home as I write this and is bugging me to go out to the...more
Alana
A difficult book that makes up for lack of plot with extreme descriptive language. The narrator, Allison, is an ex-fashion model dealing with age, sickness, mortality, and lost opportunities. The book is a seamless time travel between Allison's current life and her past (in the 1980's), often moving through time in the same sentence. It is a well-crafted book that turns back on its own previous references in very creative ways. Sadly, I found the book too dense to read quickly, and some of the r...more
Cynthia
This book needs to be read in one or two sittings to really appreciate the stream of consciousness style. Coming back to it in so many short spurts took away from it. That being said, I enjoyed it- she uses a constellation of perceptions approach to describe many years in a one day setting. A bleak story with a glimmer of redemption.
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Mary Gaitskill is an American author of essays, short stories and novels. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories (1993 and 2006), and The O. Henry Prize Stories (1998). She married writer Peter Trachtenberg in 2001. As of 2005, she lived in New York City; Gaitskill has previously lived in Toronto, San Francisco, and Marin County, CA, as...more
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Bad Behavior Because They Wanted To Two Girls, Fat and Thin Don't Cry Best New American Voices 2009

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“Of course there’s something there; unfortunately, there’s always something ‘there.’ Something you will one day be sorry you saw.” 14 likes
“What are you thinking?” She asks.
-That you are beautiful. That not everyone could see it. I almost became the kind of person who could not.”
10 likes
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