Mary Gaitskill is the 2011 Literary Arts Series author. Most recently, Gaitskill published a collection of short stories, Don’t Cry. She is also the author of two novels, Two Girls, Fat and Thin and Veronica, and two collections of short stories, Bad Behavior and Because They Wanted To. Her books have been finalists for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics awards. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harper’s.
She will be speaking April 28, 2011, 1:40 p.m., at the Tech Building, Room 128.
We encourage you to incorporate an excerpt, short story, or part of Gaitskill’s work into your syllabus and course material. To this effect, LAS will be offering several “teaching approaches” to Mary Gaitskill before the event, including sample questions.
In her personal memoir “Lost Cat” published in Granta, Gaitskill writes “Almost two years ago I lost my cat Gattino. He was very young, still a kitten, at seven months barely an adolescent. He is probably dead but I don’t know for certain. For two weeks after he disappeared people claimed to have seen him; I trusted two of the claims because Gattino was blind in one eye, and both people told me that when they’d caught him in their headlights, only one eye shone back. One guy, who said he saw my cat trying to scavenge from a garbage can, said that he’d looked ‘really thin, like the runt of the litter’. The pathetic words struck my heart. But I heard something besides the words, something in the coarse, vibrant tone of the man’s voice that immediately made another emotional picture of the cat: back arched, face afraid but excited, brimming and ready before he jumped and ran, tail defiant, tensile and crooked. Afraid but ready; startled by a large male, that’s how he would’ve been. Even if he was weak with hunger. He had guts, this cat.”
Mary Gaitskill, a University of Michigan graduate who began her education at community college, talks to The Believer about Virginia Woolf, post-9/11 New York, and her latest short story collection, Don’t Cry.
Gaitskill reads Vladmir Nabokov’s story “Symbols and Stories” and discusses it in an audio podcast with The New Yorker.
“The question in Veronica is how do we live with those ghosts of things done and undone, those invisible things that weigh on us the most, feelings we never shed and cannot truly share, those of being wronged by others and of doing others wrong, of losing and doing others wrong, of losing and becoming lost oneself? Eventually we find ourselves in a dark wood; the way out is unclear… Through four books over eighteen years, Mary Gaitskill has been formulating her fiction around that immutable question of how we manage to live in a seemingly inscrutable world. In the past, she has described, with clarity and vision, the places in life where we sometimes get painfully caught.” – Wyatt Mason, Harper’s
“Don’t Cry has perhaps the widest range of characters of any of her books: Americans, Ethiopians, and Italians; grandmothers, children, war veterans, journalists, nurses, musicians, murderers. They behave in the broad spectrum of ways typical of her work: from kind and compassionate to harsh and transgressive. Written with her distinctive, uncanny combination of bluntness and high lyricism, Don’t Cry takes its place among artworks of great moral seriousness..” – Matthew Sharpe, BOMB