Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Post by Jessica Gilchrist, guest blogger: Fifty Shades of Mary Gaitskill: "The Secretary" and "A Romantic Weekend"
She appeared in a loose-fitting, dirty-gray pink cotton shirt, making her thin body look even smaller with the thick fabric holding her frail shoulders together. Gaitskill walked with her shoulders back. Though we were packed into the auditorium, touching thigh to thigh and using our free Skidmore College folders to fan ourselves under the domed fluorescent lights overhead, when she passed we shivered into each other. She had skin like bleached canvas stretched tight over her sharp cheekbones and giving way to two constantly pursed lips. Her eyes, almost as white as her straightened hair brushing the top of the loose t-shirt cowering around her neck, scanned us, leaving our spines shuddering from the ice in them. I thought I had a seen a ghost.
No many how many times I took her picture, it wouldn't quite come into focus. She floated down to the podium, and she settled, her body hunkering down among the desktop computer, her fingers pinching the stack of white papers she had brought with her. She glanced out as us as though she had asked a question, and we stared back at her with gaping faces as an answer.
Mary Gaitskill is creepy. She's creepy for taking the Fifty Shades of Gray style story of a secretary bending over a the wooden desk of her boss, letting him strike her until she is aroused by his own violent ejaculation. She takes what we read shitty fanfiction about, and she gives us a girl who is lying in bed with the covers pulled up, unable to summon the strength in her body to get dinner. Gaitskill exposes something about our own twisted bodies, our own twisted ways of reaching inside of others and taking something precious. In "The Secretary," maybe it's the sense that we can somehow do better for ourselves but not saying a word when someone metaphorically spanks us into submissions. Maybe in "A Romantic Weekend," we've had people who have gagged and tied us in stifling relationships. Gaitskill shakes out our dirty laundry onto the clothesline for the neighborhood to see, and when we try to slip back into our over-sized clothes, the air makes them as cold as I felt just watching her walk by.
Unpacking these stories is supposed to be emotional. I want to know what struck you. What was difficult to read about? How did you react? Gaitskill is brilliant, present, and detailed. Tell me what drew you in. More importantly, tell me what made you uncomfortable.
Also, here's a video of Peg Boyers and Mary Gaitskill reading at the program I went to over the summer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmY49CkOsUs. It's long. Don't watch the whole thing. Fun fact: The man introducing Peg Boyers is Howie. Gaitskill starts to read at 39:30. She laughs in the video. It's strange.
Posted by Anonymous at 4:46 PM