Monday, June 09, 2008

Gaitskill Appearance

GOOD to see The New Yorker carry a story by Mary Gaitskill. Still, to me Gaitskill is a tale of unrealized potential; of the controlling influence of the corporation and the academy. Her stories, as excellent as they are, have always struck me as too controlled, like other literary stories, as if her art has been kept on a leash. Probably I was too influenced as a reader in the 90's by riot-grrrl zeens, which were full of literary "raw power" unlike any writing ever seen. They were crude affairs mostly, but captured the tough emotion of a Gaitskill and multiplied it by ten or twenty. Jen Gogglebox and Ammi Emergency are only two names I can recall from a score of great young women writers from that period; including the ULA's original "Zeen Elvis," who in pure explosive writing talent represented the fulfillment of what Mary Gaitskill hinted at. Talent that burned the page.

Gaitskill's story as a writer is a tragedy, in a way. Like a stray cat picked up from the streets; given shots, cleaned-up, and other things so to be properly domesticated. That's what I think of when I read her stories. "Look what we've done to her," the well-crafted writing says-- but I prefer the "before" kind of story; the fully uninhibited fully lusty and bloody voice of the streets.

13 comments:

Harland said...

The King's critical method in a nutshell: "good to see a story by Mary Gaitskill...too bad she's nowhere near as good as someone else, whose work is like...raw power, crude, pure explosive writing talent that burns the page."

At least Gaitskill gets off being a tragic case, by your lights, instead of a mindless zombie like the rest of us.

How patronizing of you, King, and how totally to miss the point of Gaitskill's stories, which the fling the idea of being a whore or a slut back in the face of the reader's preconceptions, by just calling her another kind of whore.

So far you're batting .000 on the critical front.

Harland said...

Pssst...the King has a subscription to the New Yorker! Pass it on!

John said...

Yet King still admires Gaitskill's stories, even if they're not as good as they could be. That means there is hope for the underground, and since she's in The New Yorker, that means there is no conspiracy against undergrounders. No one is trying to keep anyone down.

King said...

??? I don't get your comment, "John." Surely you know it wasn't easy for MG to get to the point of being in the NYer (which I browse through at the library). You know her story, don't you?
Why do you reflect everything back to myself? You're trying so hard to prove I'm wrong about this or that. If I am, so what? That's to be expected. In an inconsistent world it'd be impossible to be 100% consistent. In the main trends of my thought, however, I'm close to being right on.
My point re MG stands, btw. I'm referring to her stories' polish-- their subtlety, if you will-- not her themes.

King said...

John, now that I've reviewed Richette's book, are you now going to buy it and read it?
You were making so much noise about it, showing so much concern, I figure that's the least you can do.
I'd welcome your opinion-- we'll see if all good writers are being published in this country.

John said...

I had considered buying it. But then I saw the feedback on Amazon, where Richette praises his own book. That was a turn off. Plus, reading about screenwriters (average salary is 60,000 a year, according to the recent strike figures) in New York is too uppity for my taste.

If I can find it in a library somewhere I'll give it a read.

Harland said...

John,

The libraries are part of the conspiracy too, don't you know?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

John, what a cop-out. You've shown yourself to be yet one more phony.
To others: If Richette's book is a fine novel, this fact alone destroys much of the counter-argument of the counter-insurgency.
Take the risk, buy the book, and judge for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Excerpts from the novel are on Xlibris. The prose is virtually identical to any number of tepid "literary" novels written about young bohemians in New York City. (Pop culture references? Check. Self-involved first person narrator? Check. Hip drug use? Check. Yawn.) Mainstream houses publish these at a fast clip without any of them getting particular attention. The best novel of the year? Come on.

Now, a corporate house pays maybe 30K (more if you're lucky, sure) for such books, and most of those authors come from upperclass backgrounds. Richette was paid nothing.

If you think that all authors of mediocre first-person NYC bohemian novels ought to be paid substantially by mainstream publishing, then sure, Richette's been criminally ignored.

But that's not a literary argument.

An argument based on merit would be, all authors of mediocre first-person NYC bohemian novels ought to be paid nothing until they write something better.

Saying "Here's an author who is just as mediocre as many mainstream authors, why doesn't he have money?" is not revolution.

--the wandering jew

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

A pretty mediocre opinion, WJ, to judge a novel from a few excerpts. If you read my review of the book, you'll note I address this question immediately.
A novel is always MORE than the sum of its parts-- if it's any good.
I liked the book despite its subject matter etc.
My point stands. It's been said that every good writer in America can be published. (How is beyond me, given that slush isn't even read-- that many young writers starting out with no means or ways to access the system are left outside.)
Richette is a good novelist, based on his recent book and on others on other topics he's written.
Why are you so supportive of the mainstream? Do you really think it's working?

Anonymous said...

Who in the world has ever said that every good writer can be published? Quote me one person who said that, ever, and I'll buy five copies of Richette's novel.
--the wandering jew

Anonymous said...

"A pretty mediocre opinion, WJ, to judge a novel from a few excerpts."

This from a guy who trashed The Corrections after admitting he'd read a tiny portion of it, who has, in fact, trashed tons of writers again and again without reading, apparently, hardly any of them.

King said...

Actually I read the first few chapters-- not "read"; more slogged through them-- and could not gain an interest as a reader; couldn't pick up a thread.
With Richette's I said, "Not another Richette novel," started reading the first page, kept reading and spent half the night on it. Which is what a good novel is supposed to make a reader do.