Andy's Reviews > Because They Wanted To

Because They Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill
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Jan 11, 08


Mary Gaitskill is probably best known among the general public as the author of the short story the movie Secretary is based on, to the extent that hers is a familiar name beyond circles of serious readers. While I did enjoy the film, its whitewashing of Gaitskill's story is symptomatic of her undervaluation as a literary artist ("Secretary" the short story ends with a mutual spurning, rather than an increasingly less equivocal human connection among S&M partners). Her work is often almost unrecognizably raw among writers of comparable skill and vision -- the title story of this collection deals with a runaway teenaged girl who leaves the children she is babysitting when it begins to appear that their mother will not return. These aren't stories that lend themselves to Hollywood endings, at least not as Gaitskill has written them. Her work might just hit too close to home. Yet she writes with such clear-headed sympathy for her characters, and presents their most complex emotional states with such accuracy, that the insight her writing provides is matched by the aesthetic pleasure readers will discover in her taut, biting prose. We turn away at our own risk.
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