In an attempt to reconnect with writers who have influenced me, I googled Mary Gaitskill’s name today and came across a 2015 New York Times article about connection and loneliness in Gaitskill’s work. In the piece, literary critic Parul Sehgal teases out some of the complexities that lie beneath the surface of Gaitskill’s behavior and writing.
The article left me wanting to slow down as a writer and to dig more deeply into silence, awkwardness, discomfort. To explore character traits I avert my eyes from in real life. The entire piece is available on the NYT website, but here is a short excerpt about weakness:
We are phobic of weakness, we treat it like a contagion, averting our eyes and hoping for the best. But Gaitskill puts her fingers in the wound. Even among other artists attracted to weakness as a theme, she is rare in being able to look at it on its own terms. She doesn’t treat it like a curiosity, like Diane Arbus, or a chink in the armor that might let in faith, like Flannery O’Connor. She isn’t afraid of it, like Muriel Spark; nor does she insist its depictions rouse us to action, like Sontag. She looks — just looks — and sees everything: how weakness is despised, how weakness can be cunning, how victims aren’t merely saints or dupes.