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Veronica

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  5,302 ratings  ·  668 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
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Pantheon
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Average rating 3.39  · 
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 ·  5,302 ratings  ·  668 reviews


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Joe Valdez
The Year of Women--in which I'm devoting 2021 to reading female authors only--continues with Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. I've read Bad Behavior, a collection of nine short stories by the author that threw me across the room. Some of her disassociated New Yorkers looking for connections in all sorts of places occupy rent controlled apartments in my head and have refused to leave. I had high hopes for this novel, published in 2005 and dealing with a female friendship in 1980s Manhattan, but th ...more
Steven Godin
"What stood out, most loudly and violently were images of beauty so intense they were almost warped; some of these images were human. The fashion model seemed suddenly at the centre of the cultural world, inextricably wound in with art, music and cinema. These human images snagged my imagination, which twisted and turned reactively, picking and chewing over them, foolishly trying to get nourishment from them - for I wanted to be part of this vibrant and powerful world".

Mary Gaitskill's 'Veronica
...more
Kalisa Hyman
Mar 29, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
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
Jul 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-2010
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
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Cornelia
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
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
Jack
Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Debbie
If you are looking for a dark, gritty book - look no further. Even though the story bounces from past to present in every chapter, once you get used to the writing style and can focus on the plot - watch out. The plot is intense, upsetting and wonderfully gloomy, all warped together. Lots to take in. For the most part it was an OK read. I enjoyed the darkness while catching the small glimpses of light. I did not enjoy the extra wordiness which constantly litters the narrative. I skimmed through ...more
Caitlin Constantine
Apr 21, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Pamela
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Emily
Aug 09, 2011 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
Chelsea Cain
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Mindy
When this was good it was really good. Then the author almost seemed to lose herself in the metaphors. This story takes place in the 80’s and 90’s. The dark side of the glamour and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Many parts are so brilliantly rendered and then others where you’re left scratching your head. All in all I’m glad I read it.
Maia
Aug 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 80s-90s
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
Peter Landau
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Janet
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I never read a better description about what music meant in a period than Veronica. Found myself writing whole passages in my notebook. Deserved the National book award.
Annie
Dec 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016, dnf
Ugh. Read 107 pages, had to quit. The writing and storyline are not cohesive and none of the characters are engaging.
Eveline Chao
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting book narrated by an aging former model. Love the author's ideas about dynamics between men and women, what people need and take from each other, and beauty vs. ugliness and how the two are intertwined and heighten each other. Find myself still thinking a lot about the book a week later.

I've been going my whole adult life thinking I've read Mary Gaitskill before because I hear her mentioned so much, but when I started reading this I realized I hadn't, because her language is s
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sofía  g
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t have the ambition to be an important person or a star. My ambition was to live like music. I didn’t think of it that way, but that’s what I wanted; it seemed like that’s what everybody wanted. I remember people walking around like they were wrapped in an invisible gauze of songs, one running into the next—songs about sex, pain, injustice, love, triumph, each song bursting with ideal characters popped out and fell back as the person walked down the street or rode the bus.


+ Nan Goldin, P
...more
Peter Knox
May 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, book-club, 2016
I approached this book wanting to like it (as Mary Gaitskill seems a fascinating person and writer), but much of the book was a struggle for me.

She writes beautifully, in a poetic-lens prose, of the narrator's childhood, modeling stint in Paris, and returning in NYC, interspersed with her unusual friendship to Veronica and how it shaped both their lives.

But the stream of conscious, shifting timelines, thoughts, and lack of driving plot took away from my reading experience. While there were often
...more
Macey
Aug 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I almost didn't finish this book. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I'd spent so much time just to get half way.
I felt like I fell down the rabbit hole with Alice, only Alice was an extremely unlikable character.
Too many metaphors that made no sense to me or probably anyone but the author.
Music plays a big part. Didn't understand how. The timeline goes from paragraph to paragraph skipping 20 years or more at a time. Sometimes every other sentence.
The main character, not V
...more
Jessica
I'm a big fan of Gaitskill's but this novel was a disappointment. It was really odd (usually I like odd). I'd say it improved in the last third, but prior to that, it was way too hectic & jerky & claustrophobic (all at the same time)for me. Or something like that. ...more
Elizabeth
Apr 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
I really did not like this author or book. I struggled to read the first few chapters and found it very offensive. Others may not object to the language or content, but I did. I guess I'm finally old enough to put down a book I don't like! ...more
Nick
Apr 02, 2008 added it
Shelves: book-club
Worst book I ever read. Depressing and pitiful.
Alisa Ridout
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Anastasia
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book for the writing alone. It's musical in the way certain bodies are muscial, even if the notes are wrong. It's more than stream of consciousness, it's stream of unconsiousness, revilement, love, hate, music, poetry, debauchery, lust, loss.

I did not really like the narrator character yet I couldn't put it down. I had no sympathy for her. Yet I envied her in a way. She was miserable and yet she didn't need to be. She didn't need to live the life she lived. She threw opportunities a
...more
Daisy
Jun 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
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
Wes
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, x2, x3
There are few novels where the reader could describe the work as airless and still be paying it a compliment. The dank, stale atmosphere of Veronica, however, is one of its greatest strengths. Focusing on the claustrophobic relationship between a ruined fashion model and the tacky, aggressively lonely woman she meets temping, it is definitely a work most interested in the darker corners into which loneliness can lead us but not without a certain amount of humor, redemption and grace.
Matthew Gallaway
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written story of a middle-aged woman looking back on her life/career as a fashion model and her unlikely friendship with a quirky office temp named Veronica who dies of AIDS. (Not a spoiler.) Captures the pain and intensity of remembering a once-vibrant life (at least superficially) without nostalgia. Amazing.
Lori
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an intense read and pretty heavy, being as dense as it is with description and metaphor. It's also pretty depressing, but I couldn't stop reading. I'm not much of a philosopher, but it seems to highlight the meaninglessness of existence and the disillusionment that comes from thinking there should be more. Not really sure though. Gotta think about it. ...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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“Of course there’s something there; unfortunately, there’s always something ‘there.’ Something you will one day be sorry you saw.” 36 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.”
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