Caitlin Constantine's Reviews > Veronica

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
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Apr 25, 2009

liked it
Read in April, 2009

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 too much to be deep and thoughtful and literary. I don't really care for that in college-level creative writing classes, and I don't think I particularly care for it with National Book Award Winners. I mean, be deep and thoughtful and literary, but don't let me see you strain to attain those qualities. I don't want to see your effort. (BTW, this isn't the first Gaitskill I've read, but I don't recall the earlier stuff I've read of hers being quite so strained.)

Where this book really shines, though, is in the writing. One of Gaitskill's conceits was to describe some sort of sensory experience using an adjective that appeals to a different sense, like the phrase "sequined music," for instance. It's a visual descriptor coupled with an auditory noun, yet it worked. I could just imagine the kind of glammed-out pop-rock her character was listening to. Perhaps it might have generated a different genre for you, but that's okay - the point is, it instantly brought something to mind, and it did so using unconventional word choices. As someone who has seriously taken up writing in the past few months - I'm talking several hours a day - my appreciation for a writer who can come up with ways to convey ideas and emotions without resorting to facile cliches is infinite.

So I was really torn with this book. I enjoyed reading it, but again, primarily for the craftsmanship of the language. As far as the story itself, though, I felt it left a lot to be desired.
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