cover image Bad Behavior

Bad Behavior

Mary Gaitskill. Not Avail, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-65872-4

This collection of nine stories by Avery Hopwood Award-winner Gaitskill marks the debut of a promising and provocative new voice. These are tales of sexual obsession, drug addiction, the darkest sides of human relationships. Several of the stories feature young women working as prostitutes. Gaitskill's characters possess a curious combination of wit and naivete. When asked about her career a character in ``Connection'' answers, ``I want to work at Dunkin' Donuts when I get out of school. I want to get fat. Or be addicted to heroin. I want to be a disaster.'' Gaitskill has a fresh and original ability to reproduce the rhythms of unhappy talk, from intellectual hookers to unfulfilled veterinarians. Her observations of the details are acute: A radio emits ``horribly optimistic fiddle music.'' On a New York street a character eyes ``with disaffection and contempt the neatly hatted and booted, dyed and moisturized strangers marching toward her.'' Comparisons to Tama Janowitz are inevitable, but Gaitskill's humor is more subtle and her writing has a precision and depth than can charge a dreary setting with significance. Bad Behavior is about bad behavior and more. Writing about human nature at its most perverse and hopeless, Gaitskill has created an intimate and almost beautiful series of images. (June)