Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: "Bad Behavior" by Mary Gaitskill

A book like Bad Behavior, the debut short story collection from writer Mary Gaitskill, brings with it a lot of expectations and when it doesn’t meet them, it is even more disappointing than a book that I went into blind. This book’s claim to fame has got to be the adaption of one its stories into the cult classic Secretary. After reading that story and seeing that movie, I can say honestly that the movie is a lot better and has a lot more heart than these stories. The quality that struck me first was how ahead of its time this collection was. I didn’t feel like I was reading a book that was published at the tail end of the 1980’s, despite some of the subject matter dealing specifically with that decade. But besides that, I found most of these stories weak, one or two exceedingly dull, and the best of the bunch paling in comparison to the collections of today I kept finding reference with as I read. Gaitskill is best with only two central characters, like in the opening story “Daisy’s Valentine”, “A Romantic Weekend” and the best of the bunch, “Something Nice”, the collections saddest and most poignant offering. It is when she steps away from the misplaced passion of two broken people that she loses her grip, and stories like “Connection and the bloated “Heaven” are borderline stinkers. Most of these stories have echoes of writers today who have done it better, such as Otessa Moshfegh, Maryse Meijer, and to a lesser extent Lindsay Hunter and Amelia Gray. This collection, at the very least, gives me more than enough interest to check out what Gaitskill can do with a novel (especially her early ones), a journey I will am excited to be taking sooner rather than later. 
Rating: 4/5

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