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Bad Behavior

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  4,211 ratings  ·  378 reviews
Powerful stories of dislocation, longing and desire which depict a disenchanted and rebellious urban fringe generation that is groping for human connection. (Or, more simply put, the angst of people-who-wear-black.)
Paperback, 203 pages
Published 1988 by Poseidon Press
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So, lately I’ve been in a bit of an aggressive, combative mood... like I’ve been picking fights, or hoping that someone will instigate an argument so I can verbally “cut a bitch.” I’ve even gone so far as to go out in public* with the hope that someone will be rude to me, so I’ll have an excuse to lash out. I know I probably sound like a lunatic, and maybe I am. I probably need to be in Rageaholics Anonymous ( or at the very least, I should be sedated. An ...more
While walking back from the laundrymat (because this is a thing New Yorkers do, we walk our laundry home after doing it (it being laundry, not "it", I'm not the sort of person who does base things like that). I don't know why I'm saying that, maybe just to feel like I could be part of the social-world (twenty some odd years too late, maybe, that these stories take place) I started thinking about writing a review for this book. The walk isn't very long so I didn't think much about it. I thought o ...more
After reading entirely too many phalocentric books recently I’ve decided to commence my “I am woman HEAR ME ROAR” summer and read only female writers for the next three months.

I’m on my sixth female writer and so far I’ve encountered “Why roar when the man will take credit for it anyway?”, “What’s the point of roaring when no one pays attention to me anyway?”, “I’d roar if the men would do something for me”, “Ro..., wait never mind.” and “All men want is open legs and closed mouths”. I’m still
Paul Bryant
Mary Gaitskill is a bad writer. This is from page 176:

'Have I upset you?' asked Deana.
'No, no.' Connie looked up. 'I understand what you're saying,
but that wasn't the case with Alice. I never acted vulnerable
around her. And actually I don't really agree with you. I may
have done that to you because I responded to you sexually, but in general, I don't.'
Deana shrugged. 'Well, I only know what I've seen. I'm just
trying to come up with an answer for you because you seem so
distressed.' She stood and c
Jenny Napolitano
May 17, 2007 Jenny Napolitano rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to remain my friend
I know I'm late in coming around on the Mary Gaitskill bandwagon. But it's so much better to come late than to not come at all. (No pun intended.) I started reading this book having only read one of her stories before ("Secretary," obviously), but knowing that she dealt with the territory I've begun writing about lately. It was difficult, because I stopped writing the story I'd been working on for months after starting this - because I felt at the time I couldn't ever write a sweet/erotic/charac ...more
This collection of stories is difficult to pin down effectively enough to give a rating to. I finally settled at four stars because the writing is so jaw-droppingly good overall. Although some of the characters and stories are deeply disturbing, they jump off the page and the writing never acquires the 'this is going to shock you' feel that you might anticipate. The stories do shock you, but Gaitskill allows the characters and their dingy, drug-filled, sexually unfulfilled, disenchanted lives an ...more
I have always preferred wine over beer. And then I had sour beer, and I fell in love. I skipped dating, the awkwardness of that first sex, and went straight to love. I have always preferred the novel over short stories. And then I read Mary Gaitskill’s “Bad Behavior,” and I fell in love. Gaitskill turns me on. But, not like you think. She is deliberate, and masterful in her use of language, often her sentences were dizzying in their effect upon me. Several times I found myself jarred from my rea ...more
Oct 07, 2015 Alex rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to look naughty but not really be naughty
Shelves: smut, 2013
I found this book on a list of the ten sexiest books of all time, and I should have known as soon as I saw Tropic of Cancer that the author was confusing "sexy" with "containing sex", but this contains the story that spawned the movie "Secretary"! Which I don't know if you've seen that but it's sexy.

These are not, in any case, sexy stories. They're vignettes about relationships, set in sexy contexts. So the story about the lady who hooks on the side turns out to be more about one of her relation
I'd only read "A Romantic Weekend" before this collection, which disturbed me and which I still feel is a straight-up horror story. I was expecting Mary Gaitskill's writing to smack of that experienced-but-not-very-self-aware vibe one sometimes gets from girls who feel smug because they've "lived on the edge" or whatever, e.g. "Oh, I've SEEN some things. I've been to DARK places". Gaitskill's clearly too smart for that, though: her stories never hint at judgment in one direction or another, neit ...more
Clare Marie
I can't figure out why I'm not enjoying this book more. Its characters are just what I love in an indulgent read: privileged young New Yorkers with coke habits, Soho lofts and ennui. And I don't want to say it's that it doesn't feel original and instead seems rehashed, like I've read the same story but better...because I have a feeling she was on the forefront of giving voice to these loft-having, coke-snorting urbanites...but it just doesn't have the freshness I was hoping for. I'm only about f ...more
Aug 12, 2009 Maia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maia by: Kristin L. Hart
Shelves: 80s-90s
The first Mary Gaitskill stories--including the famous 'Secretary' of the James Saper infamous movie of same name--and in many ways, her very bets writing. IMHO, Gaitskill has few rivals in modern American short story writing. Not only is she fearless (even ruthless) in her examination of life, human nature and existence itself, but her mastery of the form, her choice of words, her collection of sentences, is simply stunning.

Years ago, I was lucky enough to have her as a visiting professor in co
I find myself landing squarely on the fence for this collection - there were three stories I really admired ("Daisy's Valentine", "Secretary", and "Heaven"), a couple I actively disliked ("Something Nice", "An Affair, Edited"), the others left me largely unmoved. This was primarily due to the general anomie and lack of affect that hangs over so many of Gaitskill's characters like a toxic miasma. It's not that people like this don't exist - the combination of narcissism and ennui that Gaitskill p ...more
Jen Knox
I have to say that I am shocked to have enjoyed this collection as much as I did. Because I have read Gaitskill's other works, often twice, I did not expect as much from her older work. This book, however, had a certain raw honesty that grabs a reader by the neck and shakes gently, teasingly, and never squeezes too hard. Broaching the, urm, unpleasantness of prostitution and aimless sexual relationships, Gaitskill drops the small realizations felt by characters who are drowning in the muck, but ...more
God, how I love the story "Heaven" in Mary Gaitskill's collection Bad Behavior. I re-read it last night, twice, about five years after first discovery. Re-reading some favorite short stories lately, it's been funny to realize the gaps between how I remember them and how they really are. I recalled "Heaven" as a short story that mostly describes a middle-aged mom at a barbecue, sitting in a plastic chair with meat- and food-juices dripping down her face, remembering the lives of her grown-up chil ...more
I thought this book was profound, intriguing, and original in the choice of subject matter. Her characters are frail, vulnerable, and make bad decisions which threaten to swallow them whole at a later point in time. You feel the isolation of Gaitskill's characters, both from other people and from their true selves, in a cold and unforgiving urban environment. In "Trying to Be", Stephanie becomes a prostitute out of contempt for boring office work. Despite her attempts to neatly separate her work ...more
Chrissi Sepe
All the stories in this collection are related by a common theme of people longing for connection with either semi-strangers or with someone from their past who doesn't care to ever see them again. Every character has been let down by life. Gaitskill's forte is creating extremely believable characters and writing about people's private lives the way they really are, not according to their social facade. She writes in a simple, raw, sometimes gritty, style, but there are deep meanings underneath. ...more
Erica Harmon
I picked this up on a whim, and it ended up being one of those collections of short stories I just couldn't stop thinking about. The blurb on the back made it sound like a bunch of perverse, self absorbed adults muddling through life, and maybe it was, but I think the reason it resonated with me was that it really captured/capitalized on a voyeurism that I don't usually indulge. Head cases abound, and while I never "saw" myself in the characters, there were sublime moments when I just understood ...more
Jamilla Rice
If this book was indeed the source of inspiration for "Girls", I know that I was correct in my decision not to watch the show. This collection of short stories was well-written, incredibly so, but the content and the lack of "there" there, the emptiness of it all, was disconcerting to me. I am sure that was what Gaitskill was trying to capture--the lack of foundation or the semblance of security that we feel that we have in our lives, yet life finds a way to constantly put you in your place, let ...more
Dec 13, 2008 Annabel rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Annabel by: my list
Sure, well-written I suppose, but unpleasant subject matter and hard-to-like characters made this a tough read regardless.
I'm not big on short stories and I found this demonstrated why: content became repetitive as we kept harking back to the same themes and the author's axe was ground on a minimal variety of topics.
It gave me the same uncomfortableness that a novel like "The Corrections" did, but with much less sense of the absurd and any levity that could come from that.

In summary, 'WHAMPP WHA
Jun 21, 2015 Zan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zan by: Lyra
it had been a long time since he'd felt his life was in danger of further ruin, and it was fun to think it was still possible


-new york's never as disgusting as you want it to be. gaitskill can't write a street scene without mentioning the windswept trash. she would also never use a word as quaint as 'windswept.' bloomberg ruined everything.

-this is the genre of fiction where everyone's depressed and nothing matters; anti-confluential. you'd find it insulting to your intelligen
Sad stories of longing, exclusion, and outsider-ness. Men and women are hopelessly separate, self-involved, friends are jealous and critical, mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives, all are trapped in their individual stories, unable or unwilling to try and understand the other. These broken people are somewhat reminiscent of the characters of Flannery O’Connor, but the descriptive bits miss O’Connor’s knack for brevity and punch, and the stories lack O’Connor’s painful ratcheting of Chri ...more
Practically perfect in every way. Will write more abt it soon. Eeeeasily one of the best ss collections I've had the pleasure of reading and Gaitskill has earned my trust. I loved everysingleone of these stories and that rarely happens for me re: collections. Esp. loved "Daisy's Valentine," "Trying To Be," "Secretary" and "Heaven." And also, all of the others. Aces.
Mary Gaitskill's stories and novels terrify me - I think few writers have been able to portray modern loneliness and urban isolation the way that she's done. Crushing. And brilliant.
I'm not usually a short story reader, but I loved this collection. It's full of interesting relationships and simple, beautiful prose. I'd read this again and I rarely reread.
4 stars for the writing, but the parade of hookers and nasty men gets tired at the halfway point.
Gaitskill's at her best when she's writing about middle class strivers, or flipping the tables on men who realize that the prostitutes they've been patting on the head have more cultural capital than they do. But again, there's something very limited in reducing every damned thing in a person's life to sexual dynamics, and some of these stories become as tedious and repetitive as the tricks within.
Allan MacDonell
I’ve spent an entirety of less than thirty days in New York City, the central location of the transgressions in Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior, but I am intimately acquainted with each and every feckless hero and heroine. One of Gaitskill’s uncanny strengths is in pinpointing and personalizing the defining frailties that flitter around the outskirts and hunker down at the center of every living wounded personality. The kids and middle-aged adolescents acting out in Bad Behavior are in the moment ...more
A friend looking at my manuscript said I should definitely read Romantic Weekend, so I went out that day to pick it up.

While I definitely credit her with mastery of her writing and creating atmosphere, dialogue, unique and interesting characters and great storytelling... I was saddened by her depiction of S&M relationships. I think she captures what some of them might be about but she seems to misapprehend what they *can* be for people.

It was different from the Penthouse Forum-esque stuff I
Mary Gaitskill is a talented writer and this collection of short stories was written when she was 23 years old - an impressive feat, indeed.
It was published in the late 1980's and I finally got around to reading it (at the suggestion of a trusted bibliophile) in 2012.
Overall, I appreciate it as literary art but I am not a fan of this style. I was however, most intrigued by the story SECRETARY, upon which the 2002 film, Secretary was based.
And while I enjoyed the written story, the movie is ver
Mary Gaitskill sat down with me on my first day off this week—my birthday, coincidentally. Together we curled up in my favorite corner of my brown suede couch, settling in for what I assumed would be a nice, relaxing morning of sharing and communion (ok, I suppose the sharing would be a little one sided in this instance). Somehow I had come up with preconceived notions that Gaitskill’s book Bad Behavior, a collection of nine short stories published together in 1988 (also coincidentally the year ...more
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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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“At times she had thought that this was the only kind of connection you could have with people—intense, inexplicable and ultimately incomplete.” 17 likes
“She was delicately morbid in all her gestures, sensitive, arrogant, vulnerable to flattery. She veered between extravagant outbursts of opinion and sudden, uncertain halts, during which she seemed to look to him for approval. She was in love with the idea of intelligence, and she overestimated her own. Her sense of the world, though she presented it aggressively, could be, he sensed, snatched out from under her with little or no trouble. She said, “I hope you are a savage.” 8 likes
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