Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO, Mary Gaitskill

Picking this collection up to avoid political news, I had forgotten just how painful Mary Gaitskill's stories are. This is the title story in a collection from the late nineties. A sixteen year old runaway takes a job babysitting for three small children (one an infant). Her travails with the kids over the course of one long day lead to her remembering her own horrific childhood. The mother never returns and eventually she leaves the kids and drifts back to her flat. Along the way she recounts a story of performing oral sex on a stranger for ten bucks. 

Now I read many dark stories and this one did keep me reading, but it was kind of like the way you have to look at an accident as you drive by it. You keep hoping things will improve and instead it only gets worse. This girl cannot be heroic because she's had too tough of a life, but boy, you need something by the end of this. I think I'm done with Mary Gaitskill. I probably should have just skipped even telling you about it. And all this was after ninety painful minutes in the dentist's chair. 

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

Casual Debris 

Jerry House


Margot Kinberg said...

Some stories are definitely like that, Patti. They're dark, painful, sad, but you can't stop reading. They draw you in in some way. To me, that speaks well of the author.

pattinase (abbott) said...

She is definitively a good writer but I felt the reader had earned a piece of good news by the end. At least that the mother had returned or the window she left open did not lead to a child falling to its death.

CasualDebris said...

I read her work some years ago at university & recall liking her work but not the details. I haven’t read this one.

I’ve posted a couple of story reviews since last week. This is the latest:

Todd Mason said...

Sorry it's been an unlovely couple of days. FWIW, the political news is not as bad as it could've been, if sill rather glummy. Gaitskill definitely a miserabilist. Wonder how much inspired by J. C. Oates, or, worse, by similar early experience.

Jerry House said...

Patti, I just looked up "glutton for punishment" on the internet. They had a picture of you.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not surprised, Jerry.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Wow, I think even I will skip this one. My latest:

While reading a Chris Offutt memoir about going back to Morehead SU to teach English, he was giving favorite students books of short stories to read. One he recommended was a guy I'd never heard of before, with the incredibl name Breece D'J Pancake. Seems he killed himself at 26 and his stories were collected and published posthumously. Of course, I had to check out his STORIES, but I've only read one so far so my review will have to wait a week.

Also read an MWA collection, CRIME HITS HOME, edited by S> J. Rozan. So far have read stories by Rozan, Sara Paretsky and Gary Phillips.

I finished QUEENS NOIR, which was a pretty enjoyable collection, as it made good use of the various and varied neighborhoods of Queens, which has not always been the case with some of the earlier colllections. Also, I think it helps that I know a lot of the areas. One I'd never heard of before was Blissville, a small area near Greenpoint in Brooklyn. Megan's story was one of the best, I thought.

Also reading JEWISH NOIR II, edited by Kenneth Wishnia & CHantelle Aimee Osman. There is a quite amusing foreword by Lawrence Block and a very sobering introduction by Wishnia. Doug Allyn is one of my favorite mystery short story writers, and his "Sanctuary" starts in World War II Germany and ends in northern Michigan. He is always worth reading.

TracyK said...

This doesn't sound like the kind of story I would enjoy. A story should not be unrelentingly painful. So now I am warned if I ever decide to try her writing. Are the novels similar?

pattinase (abbott) said...

She mostly writes stories although I think I read one (Veronica something) and yes, it was just as dark. I don't mean to be too critical. I think combined with worries about the election and the dentist visit, it was not a good time to read it.
I have to read more of them, Jeff. Kenneth Wisnia is a good friend of Megan's and I have meant to pick it up. Although my library doesn't seem to buy the noir books. Yes, I have read Allyn before and he is excellent.

Todd Mason said...

Breece D'J Pancake was a relatively famous wunderkind/tragic story a decade or so back, but, as with most such, is slowly being swallowed up with time.

Todd Mason said...

FWIW, the election result seems rather less bad in results than it could've been.

Todd Mason said...

JEWISH NOIR (the old testament aka 1st volume) has been discussed briefly on Rara-Avis his week.