Authors: Mary Gaitskill
NEW YORK TIMES
“Gaitskill’s brand of brainy lyricism, of acid shot through with grace, is unlike anyone else’s. And it constitutes some of the most incisive fiction writing around.”
The New York Times Book Review
Dorothy is fat, cranky, and gifted with a vivid and lurid imagination that partly redeems the drabness of her job as a night-shift proofreader. Justine is smart, slender, and tugged by sexual compulsions. One is a journalist and the other—thanks to her past involvement with a preposterous cult leader—is her subject. But their initial interview leads to a friendship that will split open both their lives. As Gaitskill follows Dorothy and Justine’s deepening relationship and its mutual revelations of longing and brutality, she creates a comic, dark, and ultimately moving novel about the grotesque surfaces of modern life—and the raw humanity that lies beneath.
“The book is whole and complete; it needs no resolution, not even the one it offers. It is an entrée into the maw of other people’s lives, to which most people can blind themselves and to which a few novelists sometimes refuse to blind themselves: a weaving of a whole cloth . . . Gaitskill’s fairy tales are part of ordinary life, sometimes giving it grandeur, sometimes taking it back.”
’s most recent book,
, was nominated for a 2005 National Book Award and was one of the
New York Times’s
10 Best Books of 2005. She is also the author of two short story collections.
Because They Wanted To
, nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1998, and
. Her stories and essays have appeared in
The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories
The O. Henry Prize Stories
(1998). Her story “Secretary” was the basis for the film of the same name. She lives in New York.
Cover design and montage by Honi Werner
Cover photograph © age photostock/Superstock
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Two Girls, Fat and Thin
Chosen as one of the
New York Times Book Review’s
Notable Books of the Year
“An ingenious and disturbing psychodrama.”
“Gaitskill’s unparalleled ability to render the real in all its textures and bring it sharply before all of a reader’s senses is complemented by her uncanny accuracy at recapturing both emotion and thought. . . .
displays her as a dismayingly strong writer.”
The Boston Globe
“Thoughtful and eloquent. . . . Her fine and disturbing novel is also a stunning work of the imagination—genuine and luminous.”
“Lyrical . . . harrowing, finely written . . . fresh . . . startling.”
The Detroit News
“This is a wonderful and complex novel, at times even brilliant.”
The Women’s Review of Books
“To read her is to be given many surprise gifts: an unexpected metaphor, an uncannily accurate skewering of humdrum Middle America.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“[Gaitskill has] a fresh literary consciousness, a voice at once tender but unsentimental, lyrical and unfettered . . . . She is destined to become a major force.”
San Jose Mercury News
ALSO BY MARY GAITSKILL
Because They Wanted To
SIMON & SCHUSTER PAPERBACKS
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New York, NY 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 1991 by Mary Gaitskill
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 90023232
ISBN-13: 978-0-684-84312-4 (Pbk)
ISBN-13: 978-1-43912-880-0 (eBook)
Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint the following:
by Vladimir Nabokov, copyright 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, © 1967 by Vladimir Nabokov. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
“Reach Out in the Darkness” words and music by Jim Post. Copyright © 1967 Lowery Music Co., Inc. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
“Love Is All Around” written by Reg Presley. Copyright © 1967 Dick James Music Limited. All rights for the United States and Canada controlled by Songs of PolyGram International, Inc. (3500 West Olive Avenue, Suite 200, Burbank, CA 91505). International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
“Happiness Runs” by Donovan Leitch. Copyright © 1968 Donovan (Music) Ltd. Sole Selling Agent: Peer International Corporation. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
“Straight Up” by Elliot Wolff. Copyright © 1988 Virgin Music, Inc., and Elliot Wolff Music. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
For my parents, with appreciation.
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All one could do was to glimpse, amid the haze and chimeras, something real ahead, just as persons endowed with an unusual persistence of diurnal cerebration are able to perceive in their deepest sleep, somewhere beyond the throes of an entangled and inept nightmare, the ordered reality of the waking hour.
I entered the strange
world of Justine Shade via a message on the bulletin board in a laundromat filled with bitterness and the hot breath of dryers. “Writer interested in talking to followers of Anna Granite. Please call—.” It was written in rigorous, precise, feminine print on a modest card displayed amidst dozens of cards, garish Xeroxed sheets, newsprint, and ragged tongues of paper. The owners of this laundry establishment seem to have an especially lax policy when it comes to the bulletin board, and upon it any nut can advertise himself, express an inane opinion, or announce a slogan amid a blathering crowd of ads for Gorill-O-Grams, lost cats, plaintive George (wearing a tiny amethyst earring, gray leather boots) searching for “provocative boy in tight silver pants who asked tall black man for fabric softener,” Micro-Cosmic Orbit Meditation Lessons, Yes Sir!: The All-Boy Maid Service, and Spiritual Karate for Women. That day there was even an especially sinister card bearing an invitation to submit to tests that would determine whether or not your suicidal depression could be alleviated by “the latest medication” or hypnotic technique—an invitation evoking images of bulimic girls held prisoner in somebody’s basement, drug-addicted prostitutes confessing to severe men in white coats, electrodes wired to the naked bodies of frightened volunteers, rec
rooms erupting with violence, all made doubly queasy by their proximity to wretched George with his laundry. Nestled in this shoddy configuration of suggestion, promise, and nightmare, the writer’s card implied a lone kook gripping a grimy sheaf of papers, philosophical tracts, and paperback books, her jaw clenched, her face unnaturally pale. This is the kind of image that is, no doubt, associated with Anna Granite in the dull minds of those who peruse such bulletin boards carelessly, half-registering the muted snarl of urgency and need—but I knew differently.