cover image Veronica


Mary Gaitskill, , read by Kathe Mazur. . Random House Audio, $34.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7393-3404-1

Gaitskill begins her bittersweet novel of the friendship between fashion model Alison and the older HIV+ Veronica (whose looks and habits are totally alien to Alison's stylish world) years later when Alison is older and feeling her body slowly decay. While the book follows Alison's younger self as she prances about Paris catwalks and New York nightclubs, the knowledge that she ends up lonely and broken-spirited casts a pall over the telling of those glittering earlier days. Mazur plays on this well, giving Alison a weary yet wistful tone that conveys the weight of her self-loathing. For Veronica's lines, she skillfully alters her voice to be the "bitterly inflected instrument" Gaitskill describes: nasal, almost braying, but direct and honest in contrast to the timidity and insincerity of Alison's words. The narration can be disorienting as it slips from grim present to various points in the past, but that works to the story's advantage, making all the perspectives bleed together, infusing the whole with sadness. Bleak but compelling, the book affords listeners a wonderfully nuanced glimpse inside a damaged psyche. Simultaneous release with the Vintage paperback (Reviews, Aug. 1, 2005). (July)