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As a teenager on the streets of San Francisco, Alison is discovered by a photographer and swept into the world of fashion-modeling in Paris and Rome. When her career crashes and a love affair ends disastrously, she moves to New York City to build a new life. There she meets Veronica—an older wisecracking eccentric with her own ideas about style, a proofreader who comes to work with a personal “office kit” and a plaque that reads “Still Anal After All These Years.” Improbably, the two women become friends. Their friendship will survive not only Alison’s reentry into the seductive nocturnal realm of fashion, but also Veronica’s terrible descent into the then-uncharted realm of AIDS. The memory of their friendship will continue to haunt Alison years later, when she, too, is aging and ill and is questioning the meaning of what she experienced and who she became during that time.
Masterfully layering time and space, thought and sensation, Mary Gaitskill dazzles the reader with psychological insight…[more]
Gaitskill’s complex, urgent characters struggle with the disparity between what they want and what they know. Longing for emotional connection, they often mistake debasement for passion, manipulation for affection, cruelty for intensity. In “Tiny, Smiling Daddy,” a father suffers his ambivalent love for a daughter who has betrayed him—perhaps justly. In “The Girl on the Plane,” a disillusioned salesman must face his participation in a brutal act he has almost forgotten. In “Kiss and Tell,” a writer seeks revenge on a woman who rejected him, only to find that once he has achieved it, he no longer wants it. In “The Wrong Thing,” a lonely, emotionally injured woman involved in a set of skewed, apparently trivial sexual encounters unexpectedly discovers her own life-giving reserve of humility, gentleness, and compassion.