Alanna's Reviews > Bad Behavior

Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
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May 03, 2009

really liked it
Read in May, 2009

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, neither for the characters who dwell sort of on the fringe nor for those who perhaps make "safer" choices... And in fact it's not as much edgy eroticism as I'd expected, never trying to shock... there's almost more about twentysomething shiftlessness and the burgeoning nervous awareness of that. I like this one part from the story "Connection" very much:

"Her life in New York had been erratic and unconnected. She had lived hand to mouth most of the time, working a series of menial jobs that made her feel isolated and unseen, yet strangely safe."

It's relatable, and not in an aggressively feminist "sex positive" agenda sort of way, which I'd feared. Her characters are human beings capable of tenderness as well as frightening self-absorption, even when relentlessly seeking out their own fulfillment and pleasure.
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