National Book Award finalist Mary Gaitskill’s debut collection, Bad Behavior—powerful stories about dislocation, longing, and desire which depict a disenchanted and rebellious urban fringe generation that is searching for human connection.
Now a classic, Bad Behavior made critical waves when it first published, heralding Gaitskill’s arrival on the literary scene and her establishment as one of the sharpest, erotically charged, and audaciously funny writing talents of contemporary literature. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called it “Pinteresque,” saying, “Ms. Gaitskill writes with such authority, such radar-perfect detail, that she is able to make even the most extreme situations seem real…her reportorial candor, uncompromised by sentimentality or voyeuristic charm…underscores the strength of her debut.”
This collection of nine stories by Avery Hopwood Award-winner Gaitskill marks the debut of a promising and provocative new voice. These are tales of sexual obsession, drug addiction, the darkest sides of human relationships. Several of the stories feature young women working as prostitutes. Gaitskill's characters possess a curious combination of wit and naivete. When asked about her career a character in ``Connection'' answers, ``I want to work at Dunkin' Donuts when I get out of school. I want to get fat. Or be addicted to heroin. I want to be a disaster.'' Gaitskill has a fresh and original ability to reproduce the rhythms of unhappy talk, from intellectual hookers to unfulfilled veterinarians. Her observations of the details are acute: A radio emits ``horribly optimistic fiddle music.'' On a New York street a character eyes ``with disaffection and contempt the neatly hatted and booted, dyed and moisturized strangers marching toward her.'' Comparisons to Tama Janowitz are inevitable, but Gaitskill's humor is more subtle and her writing has a precision and depth than can charge a dreary setting with significance. Bad Behavior is about bad behavior and more. Writing about human nature at its most perverse and hopeless, Gaitskill has created an intimate and almost beautiful series of images.
Some of these are really great
But not all. The last one especially was difficult for me to get into. It felt unfocused and aimless and chaotic and it was hard to follow. But most of the book I enjoyed. I liked that the characters went through changes and reflected on their situations and desires. I liked that they had doubts about things and they engaged in the kinds of real relationships that you don’t see a lot of in mainstream fiction. This collection isn’t flawless but it does contain some gems and it has an original perspective and voice and I think it’s worth the time.
More than just "Secretary"
One of my very favorite collections of 80s short stories. Every character in the book lives left of center, making for an engaging venture into the off-kilter. I was brought to the book by "secretary". Ms. Gaitskill's voice is so honed. I've read these again and again. Definitely a true collection for those who like to read about the strange, exciting and beautiful with plenty of drugs/alcohol strewn throughout. I enjoyed and highly recommend.