Friday, February 12, 2010

Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill

(pb; 1988: story anthology)


Superb anthology of stories revolving around mostly-intinerant, city-dwelling personalities.

Even the two stories that didn't grab me ("Something Nice"; "An Affair, Edited") were decent, publishable; what separates them from the standout stories is that they aren't as focused as the others, and their subject matter/characters feel like redundant, secondary additions to the anthology.

One of the things I love about this anthology is how Gaitskill never get nihlistic with her edginess -- she certainly flirts with it, but compared to other writers who traffic in similiar subject matter and revel its nihlistic bent, her reserve adds a distinctive subliminity to Bad Behavior that would otherwise be lacking.


"Daisy's Valentine": A speed freak (Joey) dates Daisy, a co-worker and epileptic artist, while both of them live with their respective lovers. Sweet, edgy (as are many of the stories in this collecton).

"A Romantic Weekend": An ill-matched couple embark on a mutually-dissatisfactory weekend trip. Hopeful, ironic - laugh-out-loud, stellar end-line.

"Connection": Two contrasting women (Susan, Leisha) cycle through an intense, rollercoaster friendship, then split from each other.

Six years later, Susan wonders what happened to Leisha, and starts tracking her through old mutual friends and ex-lovers. Relatable (most of us have had friendships like this), masterfully shaped and paced.

"Trying To Be": Stephanie, an aspiring magazine writer and reluctant house prostitute, begins a sweet-natured affair with one of her johns (Bernard), while trying to network her way into a magazine-writing gig. Mature, warm, hopeful.

"Secretary": A young woman (Debby) discovers her BDSM bent via her lawyer boss. Tightly-written, focused, coming-into-oneself tale.

This was released stateside as a film on November 14, 2002.

Maggie Gyllenhaal played Lee Holloway (cinematic stand-in for Debby). James Spader played Mr. Grey. Jeremy Davies played Peter. Lesley Ann Warren played Joan Holloway. Oz Perkins played Jonathan. Amy Locane played Lee's Sister.

Steven Shainsberg directed the film, from a script by Erin Cressida Wilson.

"Other Factors": Constance Weymouth, an editor at a publishing company, is forced to re-examine her past friendship with a woman (Alice) who abandoned their relationship years before. Taut, relatable in its stay-or-fly social/interpersonal dynamics.

"Heaven": The ups and downs of a large family are seen through the eyes of Virginia - sister, wife, mother of four. Touching, honest, differentiated from the other stories in the collection (in that its characters are centered through blood). The end-line is sublime; it ties everything in the story together in a natural, resounding way.

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