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The Crack Magazine

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Oppositions (Selected Essays) by Mary Gaitskill

A few years back critic and writer Suzanne Rivecca wrote a great piece for Rumpus Magazine which opened with this haymaker, “I hate it when men talk about Mary Gaitskill. I call for a permanent moratorium on men gassily discoursing on Mary Gaitskill”. Not sure whether that moratorium still stands but I’ve made a promise to Suzanne I won’t be too gassy. And, hey, Mary Gaitskill is a proper hero of mine anyway, ever since she was featured in Elizabeth Young and Graham Caveney’s fantastic Shopping in Space - Essays on American ‘Blank Generation’ Fiction. And although it could be argued that the Mary Gaitskill of 1992 is a very different writer to the Mary Gaitskill of 2021, she (still) never fails to surprise, provoke, or wander into the murky areas most writers try and avoid. With pieces about John Updike, Norman Mailer, Gillian Flynn and Linda Lovelace, I think you can see what I mean - but fear not, there are also pieces about Bjork, Talking Heads, and Chekhov among others. And what to make of the essay entitled, The Trouble with Following the Rules: On “Date Rape”, “Victim Culture” and Personal Responsibility? Although not quite as controversial as it at first appears, it is, inevitably, a disturbing but nuanced essay that carefully but determinedly steps through what constitutes consensual/non-consensual sex, the importance of one’s own agency and, ultimately, why the education of boys is so important. Lighter pieces are available. So, yes, if you’re a senior in Team Mary, Oppositions is never less than fascinating. For junior members of the team, I’d recommended Bad Behaviour or Two Girls, Fat and Thin. There. Now that wasn’t too gassy, was it?

Oppositions (Selected Essays) – Mary Gaitskill – publ. by Serpent’s Tail £16.99

Steven Long

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