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on 23 April 1998
Because They Wanted To shows Gaitskill at her best yet. Herpowers as an observer of 1990s America alarm and inspire. Where her previous story collection, Bad Behavior, was suffused with the vivid, muscular poetry so unique to her, this latest gathering proves that young, remarkable prose stylists can, like Fitzgerald or Porter, evolve into profound, moral visionaries. Gaitskill will be read long after most of those young, "hip" writers who came to prominence with her about ten years ago vanish. As few of her contemporaries, she's managed to pull universal truths from subjects and a milieu which may seem, at first glance, anything but universal. What is perhaps most encouraging and surprising about Because They Wanted To is Gaitskill's rapidly-developing ability to characterize an astonishing variety of people with rare humor, compassion and justice. In a few strokes, she can portray everyone from a dentist, a grumpy business man, or a hack Village writer to an aging middle class mother or a teenage girl lost on the streets. This sort of breadth of heart and surplus of talent come along just once or twice a decade in American letters.
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on 28 November 2011
This collection of stories is not as dazzling as "Bad Behavior." I'm sure Gaitskill has probably heard that before, and I imagine it's difficult for any author to have their work compared to their more popular books, but still... I kept hoping to be blown away by her interior monologue, which she was so good at with Bad Behavior. Yet she is undeniably talented, and I plan on reading her other novels.
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on 24 January 1999
A college friend used to have a catch-phrase for the second or third, revised, stumbling version of a catchy comic comeback someone might mouth: "That's the one you wanted!" In her first collection of short stories, Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill displayed a keen, David Leavittish eye for the revelation of turbid states through everyday actions. In her novel Two Girls Fat and Thin she screwed her microscope-lens tighter, yet missed a home run with a strainedly arch conceit about an Ayn Rand-like messianic character. In Because They Wanted To, she has finally landed on the one she wanted--a collection of stories so incisive, rigorous and true they're fit to sit on the top shelf next to Carver, O'Connor, and some of Updike's filigreed miniature beauties. Though Robert Stone may earn more praise for beating his scarred chest on the mountaintop, and David Foster Wallace impresses with mounds of NASA-like meta-footnotes, Gaitskill is the one author in recent memory who made the uphill climb to the slopes of Parnassus. She's a newly born great American writer.
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on 14 April 1998
I thought I'd try this one after reading Bad Behavior and another short story of the author's in The New Yorker's love story anthology, and I was sadly disappointed. The stories here did not seem very real to me, the third person style in most of them was unexciting. I liked Turgor best. I thought the last paragraph in the title story was unnecessary. I am at a loss trying to rationalize the type of movie they decided to see in The Dentist, and why they didn't end up in bed after viewing it.
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on 26 June 1999
Each time I read Gaitskill, I expect to like her better. The writing is so fine, but the underlying message and world view is simply ugly, barren and void of any depth or complexity.
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