Published by: Vintage (1989)
I very rarely read short story collections in succession as I did this one. There was a common thread in her stories – a certain uncomfortable quality that made the ready queasy or “dirty” after reading them. The characters weren’t likable, there wasn’t even one protagonist that one sided with – they were all different aspects of deviance.
The writing was spot on. Gaitskill had the ability to capture the characteristics, eccentricities, and intricacies of human interaction (the real deal, not the way we wish people would talk or act or react) on paper. At times, because the dialogue was intensely realistic, it was hard to get through the stories. Especially the story, “Daisy’s Valentine,” about the man living with a drug-addicted woman and in love with his female co-worker. I found myself telling the people in the stories out loud to move on and leave him/her or to “get over it.” This is true life on paper. Raw.
The reactions I’ve read about this collection range from raves to rants (as with any work of fiction). I understand both sides of the arguments. That stories that stood out to me were “Connection,” “Other Factors,” and “Heaven.” Those stories were salient to me because there were aspects that I think people can relate to on some level.
As for my opinion, this collection is not for everyone and the end result leaves the reader in the mood for a hug and to be reminded of the good-naturedness in people. At least, that’s how I felt after I read it.
For your enjoyment or pure curiosity, I found an interview with Mary Gaitskill online here on this random website with other authors.
After reading the interview, I saw the author in her stories. Writers mostly create stories based on real life so I didn’t have any judgment while reading the stories, but there was interest and intrigue.