All About Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill is the author of the story collections Bad Behavior, Because They Wanted To (nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award), and Don't Cry, the novels The Mare, Veronica (nominated for the National Book Award), Two Girls, Fat and Thin, and a collection of essays, Oppositions. Her stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's, Artforum, and Granta, among many other journals, as well as in The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories.

"She was delicately morbid in all her gestures, sensitive, arrogant, vulnerable to flattery. She veered between extravagant outbursts of opinion and sudden, uncertain halts, during which she seemed to look to him for approval. She was in love with the idea of intelligence, and she overestimated her own. Her sense of the world, though she presented it aggressively, could be, he sensed, snatched out from under her with little or no trouble. She said, "I hope you are a savage."" (Bad Behavoir)

Bad Behavior (1988)

Mary Gaitskill's tales of desire and dislocation in 1980s New York caused a sensation with their frank, caustic portrayals of men and women's inner lives. As her characters have sex, try and fail to connect, play power games and inflict myriad cruelties on each other, she skewers urban life with precision and candour.

Two Girls, Fat and Thin (1991)

Dorothy Never - fat - lives alone in New York, eats and works the night shift as a proofreader. Justine Shade - thin - is a freelance journalist who sleeps with unsuitable men. Both are isolated. Both are damaged by their pasts. When Justine interviews Dorothy about her involvement with an infamous and charismatic philosophical guru, the two women are drawn together with an intense magnetism that throws their lives off balance. Mary Gaitskill's first novel is an intense, darkly funny and caustic portrayal of loneliness and the search for intimacy.

Because They Wanted To (1997)

Mary Gaitskill's coolly compelling, quietly devastating stories explore the messy complexity of relationships between lovers, families and friends. An unsettling encounter on a plane; a tentative affair between an older woman and a younger man; the chasm between a father and his daughter: each expresses our longing for, and our fear of, human connection.

Don't Cry (2009)

An Old Virgin describes a nurse's obsession with her forty-three-year-old patient's virginity; Folk Song dissects the lives of people behind newspaper headlines, including a murderer who gives a prime-time interview and a woman attempting to break a world record by having sex with one thousand men; in the title story Don't Cry, a grieving widow reflects on her marriage whilst accompanying a friend on a journey to adopt an Ethiopian orphan during a violent election season; and a musician accidentally steals a girl's soul during a one-night stand in the urban fable Mirrorball.

The Mare (2015)

When Velveteen Vargas, an eleven-year-old Fresh Air Fund kid from Brooklyn, comes to stay with a couple in upstate New York, what begins as a two-week visit blossoms into something much more significant. Soon Velvet finds herself torn between her hosts - Ginger, a failed artist and shakily recovered alcoholic and Paul, a college professor - and her own tormented mother. Velvet's one constant becomes her newly discovered passion for horse riding, and her affection for an abused, unruly mare.

This Is Pleasure (2019)

Quin is an extrovert and a sensualist who thrives on flirtation and ambiguity. He is at his happiest when encouraging intimate confidences from the women he meets. Always clear with him about the boundaries of their own relationship, until now Margot has looked on his behaviour with a mixture of ambivalence and affection. But when Quin's actions are held up against a new light, and his life begins to unravel, Margot tries to work towards a deeper understanding of her friend, the damage he might have caused, and the loyalty he deserves.

Lost Cat (2020)

As she explores the unexpected trauma of her loss of her cat, Gaitskill describes how she came to foster two siblings, Caesar and Natalia, a pair of inner-city children who spent summers and holidays with Gaitskill and her husband. The joys and ultimate difficulties of this relationship leads to a searing examination of loss, love, safety and fear. Gaitskill applies her razor-sharp writing to her most personal subjects yet.

Oppositions (2021)

Written with startling grace and linguistic flair, and delving into the complicated nature of love and the responsibility we owe to the people we encounter, the essays collected here inspires the reader to think beyond their first responses to life and art. Spanning thirty years of Mary Gaitskill's writing, and covering subjects as diverse as Dancer in the Dark, the world of Charles Dickens and the Book of Revelation with her characteristic blend of sincerity and wit, Oppositions is never less than enthralling.