Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill

After reading a short story by Mary Gaitskill in school, I decided to give a novel a try.  I was disappointed, sorta.  It was exactly like what I read for school, which I enjoyed, however, every story was exactly like that.  Here is the rundown:

Daisy’s Valentine: This story is about a guy named Joey who works in a used book store typing up the inventory of books.  His co-worker, Daisy, is the object of his affection.  However, both Joey and Daisy are both in relationships.  Joey is a drug addict that only eats Jelly beans, and Daisy consistently flits from guy to guy because she needs the drama.  The relationship between the two of them is not fulfilling and leaves them both confused.

A Romantic Weekend: This is about a woman that falls in love with a man that she thinks will be the person of her dreams.  He is married and they are planning on spending the weekend together.  She has this notion of being his sex slave because she once enjoyed being beaten during sex when she was in college.  He can’t wait to beat her and torture her.  However, as they meet, they decide they can’t really stand each other.  The weekend is terrible and neither party gets what they want or expected from the other.

Something Nice:  A man goes to a whore house and picks out his prostitute.  They lay down and talk for most of the allotted time.  He finds that he is strangely attracted to her and continues to go back to visit her every night that his wife is away.  He then plans to meet her outside of work, but she stands him up.

An Affair, Edited:  A man sees an old girlfriend on the street and begins to remember the relationship that he had with her.  He remembers that they didn’t love each other and he beat her during sex.

Connection: A woman, Susan, goes home to New York for a visit.  While she is walking, she thinks that she sees her old friend Leisha on the street.  This sighting triggers the memories of her relationship with her friend.  She replays how they met and became friends, the dramas that went through the friendship, and then the final fight that drove them apart.

Trying to Be:  A woman becomes a prostitute while she is not getting enough money from her read job.  She has a client that seems to fall for her.  He comes to her a lot and offers her money.  She begins to see him outside of work.  He gives her money there also, which she feels a little guilty for.  As their affair continues, they learn more about each other.  She doesn’t like his views on love, passion, and marriage, and their relationship falls flat.  The affair ends, but neither is sad about the separation.

Secretary:  If you have ever seen the movie Secretary, then you know the plot of this story.  A girl gets a job.  She begins making mistakes and her boss spanks her.  Unlike the movie, it is unclear if she enjoys the spankings or not.  She stops going to work and her boss gives her a lot of money, probably to keep her for saying anything about it as he seeks to further his career in the political area.

Other Factors: Connie runs into a man who tried to seduce her.  They have a brief conversation and it brings up memories (see a pattern here?).  The man invites her to a party at his house in which two of their old friends would be at.  This distresses her and she goes home to her lover upset.  She recalls the relationship that she had with the set of friends and how much she tried to impress them.  Even after all of this time, she still feels like she needs to be good enough for them.  After much deliberation, she goes to the party.  It is anticlimactic and neither Connie or the friends seem to care about each other.

Heaven: This is a story about a family.  The original sisters are all married, but unhappy.  One of them can not control their daughter, so she is sent to live with the other sister.  The girl is not happy there either and rebels and runs away.  No one chases her.  The other children have similar issues.  The wild child female that everyone loves gets married to a man that beats her and ends up going back home.  The other daughter marries a man and becomes successful, but is unhappy and divorces him.  One son went to school, but dropped out and the other son is killed in an automobile accident.

Ok, so that was a basic summary of each story.  I felt like she was so repetitive.  It seemed like every story had a lot of drug use with no point at all.  She also had a lot of the running into someone from the past and then thinking about how terrible life is.  Finally, all of the women don’t seem to enjoy sex unless they are being beaten during it.  I know that she is known for the realistic portrayal of the bad side of life, but honestly, I don’t know that many women that only enjoy sex while being hurt.  I’m just not impressed by this novel.  I think that it would be better to read one or two stories like this, but every single one was the same thing over and over.  Why bother putting yourself reading the whole book?  Why not just search her up through google and read a story or two?  Then you will get the Gaitskill experience without feeling bored by the second or third story.

2/5 stars

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  1. March 28th, 2010

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