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So, lately I’ve been in a bit of an aggressive, combative mood... like I’ve been picking fights, or hoping that someone will instigate an argument so I can verbally “cut a bitch.” I’ve even gone so far as to go out in public* with the hope that someone will be rude to me, so I’ll have an excuse to lash out. I know I probably sound like a lunatic, and maybe I am. I probably need to be in Rageaholics Anonymous (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkQ9uy...) or at the very least, I should be sedated. Anyway, none of my usual victims have been willing to engage with me... so I sought refuge in a trashy book I suspected I probably wasn’t going to like. I hate it when I’m right. (OK, not really, but for once I wanted to be wrong.)This book originally piqued my interest because of its purported similarity to the HBO TV show Girls, and also because Mary Gaitskill is scheduled to appear at a local college in a couple of weeks for a reading/book signing. For these reasons I decided to step outside of my admittedly narrow comfort zone, and give this a try. So, what started out as a mild distaste with a pinch of schadenfruede eventually devolved into a full on hate-read. For the uninitiated, the hate-read, which is analogous to its more ubiquitous and slutty cousin, the hate-fuck, is an activity wherein one disseminates written content with the distinct objective of deriding it. (http://jezebel.com/5876891/the-art-of...) For me, this activity is normally limited to certain websites I peruse on the internet (e.g., xojane, jezebel, the NY Times style section, obscene chewing, the comments in Above the Law). Thus, I have never hate-read an actual book, until this one.So let’s get to a substantive discussion of the stories, shall we? Gaitskill is perhaps best known for her short story Secretary, which is featured in this collection - and was made into a movie starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenahaal. I don’t have anything to say about that story, because I didn’t actually read it. I got about half way through the collection, and couldn’t escape the feeling of déjà vu. I realized that the same two stories kept repeating themselves interchangeably. Dig it: depressive, college-educated, bohemian, aspiring writer, becomes a prostitute and her favorite client falls in love with her. Hilarity ensues. Then there’s its inverse: depressive, married, middle class, john falls in love with his favorite prostitute. Tragedy ensues. Then there’s also, the depressive, college-educated, bohemian, aspiring writer in an abusive relationship with a total prick, disguised as an S&M relationship. Humiliation ensues. You get the idea. Even in those descriptions, I feel like I’m giving Gaitskill too much credit. The stories were dull, trite, and meaningless. And I feel like the elements of promiscuity, drugs, sex, S&M, were all included merely as a gimmick;** or to provide some shock value as a distraction from what amounts to truly bad writing. To wit: “I love you,” said Sara. “It’s not real,” he said. “It’s puppy love.” “No. I love you.” She nuzzled his cheek with her nose and lips and her tenderness pierced him. The image became tiny and unnaturally white, was surrounded by darkness, then faded like the picture on a turned off TV. Come back.I can’t emphasize enough how contrived the above referenced elements felt. I couldn’t escape the feeling that Gaitskill’s intention in adding the S&M, prostitution, etc. elements, was for attention,*** because few women writers were addressing these kinds of themes at the time (this was published in 1988). Twenty-four years later, these themes fail to raise an eyebrow, (although they did elicit many an eyeroll), leaving the stories feeling flat and meaningless. So I didn’t finish. Not even the shreds of gratification received from hate-reading could save this. These stories left me feeling empty and mean.* a rarity for me -- I rarely leave the house willingly. I find the outside world too depressing.** the entire time I was reading this, this song was in my head on a loop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFRSaw...*** and Gaitskill loves attention. Any woman that shows up to read an excerpt from one of her books, braless, is dying for attention. Not that I haven’t done that in the past. But the difference is I was 19 years old when I would pull those cheap stunts. OK... maybe 23. My point is, although some women may be susceptible to stooping to such vulgar bids for attention, most have the sense to grow out of it.
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