Books

‘Bad Behaviour’ by Mary Gaitskill

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Apologies for my long absence- I’ve been deep in exam season. It’s almost over, though, so I should be back to regularly posting soon!

In general I avoid reading short stories at all costs- the result of having to study an anthology of them for GCSEs and loathing it- but Bad Behaviour may have changed my mind.

Every time I finished one of the stories I’d think ‘this is my favourite, nothing can top this’, but then I’d read the next one and think it was even better. Most of the stories describe people trying (and often failing) to form connections with each other. Although they’re all very individual and are by no means repetitive, they blend together to create an incredibly believable, tangible world.

Having said that, there are certain features that appear in several stories, for example the theme of prostitution, and also characters who are trying to become writers. Most of these recurring themes seem to be partly based on Gaitskill’s own experiences- perhaps that’s how she manages to express them so well.

When I first started the anthology I thought Gaitskill had quite an ordinary writing style, but now I think controlled is a better word for it. She uses fairly simple language, but every so often she describes something in the most perfect, unexpected way. I found myself stopping throughout each story to just appreciate and bask in the glow of what I’d just read.

Gaitskill evokes the subtleties of human relationships better than any author I’ve read before, getting across all the fragile little links between people. I thought this was especially successful in her descriptions of the balance of power within relationships, particularly sadomasochistic ones.

I absolutely loved this collection, and will definitely be reading some of Gaitskill’s other work in the future.

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