Bad behavior

Collection of bad-ass short stories from the talented Mary Gaitskill. This collection houses Secretary, made famous by the movie of the same name starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. There’s more great stories of pain and love and humilation beyond that. Daisy’s Valentine was one that I remembered from reading this before– the bookstore employee who turns his back on his long term relationship and goes after Daisy who doesn’t like him because he likes her. Something Nice a story about a smart prostitute and the veterinarian who goes ga-ga for her, causing her to quit the brothel.
Gaitskill has serious skill in evoking specific images through words. I will now march on to devour the remainder of her canon.

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The Raw Shark Texts

This first novel from Steven Hall left me gasping for air, thrashing around in its words, willing myself to fight against the Ludovician shark that eats memories of its victims. Beautifully crafted in text and bookcover/”illustration”.
Eric Sanderson wakes up and realizes he knows nothing about where he is; he knows pop culture details but nothing in relation to himself. Following instructions written on an envelope, he ventures out to psychiatrist Dr. Randle’s house, where she tells him he has memory loss associated with a dissociative condition. Eric receives letters in the mail from his past self “Eric Sanderson #1” telling him how to set up a feedback loop that keeps him safe from the shark that ate his memories.
Months after living his safe existence, Eric ventures forth to find answers, searching for Dr. Trey Fidorous. Ian, the cat, joins him. Along the way he translates more of the LightBulb Fragment, the story of his vacation in Greece with girlfriend Clio, who drowned that trip, causing his trauma and subsequent memory loss. The smiley face on underside of toe from Clio matches new girl Scout’s tattoo. Mr. Nobody and his precious laptop. Scout leading him on an epic underground journey to find Fidorous. The last battle in the shark boat, strains of Jaws in the air “Ladies of Spain” and all.

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Willful Creatures

More Aimee bender gloriousness. Chock full of short stories about tiny people pets, pumpkinhead children with irons, boy with keys instead of fingers, the couple who plotted to murder their respective spouses on the same day, the beautiful Fruit&words story (Las Vegas, kiss like an old sock, breakup, mango obsession, words made out of solids, liquids, gases). I am a wholehearted Bender fan, especially after going on my Bender-bender where I read all of her books in almost one sitting.

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An invisible sign of my own

Delicious Bender writing, this time in novel form. Her chapters are delicate light butterfly wings, as she tells the story of Mona Grey, 19 year old math teacher who buys an ax for her 20th birthday. Mr. Smith the hardware store owner nee math teacher wears numbers around his neck signifying mood. Mona’s 2nd grade class and Numbers & Materials project, finding numbers in nature. The science teacher, washing mouth out with soap, physical reaction to the smell of soap, making soap bubbles with smoke inside. The greying of Mona’s dad. Lisa & her mom’s cancer. Numbers swirling everywhere. The emptiness of 51. Knocking, forever knocking, on wood.

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Girl In the Flammable Skirt

YES! YES! YES! another homerun hit by a fantastically talented writer of the female persuasion. Bender’s words were melting in my mouth, in my hand, all over my eyeballs. It was pure unadulterated joy in reading her dancing words.
SF Chronicle was equally pleased (this quote keeps popping up all over, so I have to include it):
“Once in awhile, a writer comes along who makes you grateful for the very existence of language…”
This a collection of short stories that left my knees weak, and made me pick up my typing hands to try my own whirl at it. The flammable skirt girl who dances too close to a candle, and whose skirt ignites, but thinks is it her dancing skills or the candle. Other stories are equally good but I cannot remember specifics now. Read this book.
Recommended by Andrea Seigel

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The Emperor’s Children

Bootie Tubb is a flabby, intellectual, college dropout who makes his way to NYC and is taken in by his uncle, the great Murray Thwaite (writer, opinion-maker extraordinaire). The glamorous life of the Thwaites is shared with Bootie, who develops a crush on his cousin Marina. Eventually Bootie moves out on his own into Marina’s friend Julius’ sublet apartment, and becomes slightly obsessed with exposing his uncle’s weaknesses. His life ends with a flash in the 9/11 disaster, then he picks up and moves to Miami, rebranding himself as Ulrich New.
This only a glimpse of the many characters within… there’s also Marina’s friend Danielle, hopelessly gone on Murray Thwaite; Julius & David and the biting incident. Ludovic Steely, Marina’s fiancee then husband whose magazine was set to explode onto the stage the week of 9/11/01, and which is shuttered after the event. Marina herself, and the book she eventually churns out– the Emperor’s Children Have No Clothes.
Overall, good writing and decent enough plot to keep me coming back for more until I finished it. Perhaps a bit on the beach-read side of reading, but that is all I can handle these days.

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