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Bad Behavior: Stories Paperback – July 21, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of nine stories "marks the debut of a promising and provocative new voice," PW remarked. These are tales of sexual obsession, drug addiction, the darkest sides of interpersonal relationships. "Writing about human nature at its most perverse and hopeless, Gaitskill has created an intimate and almost beautiful series of images." Author tour.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Pinteresque...Ms. Gaitskill writes with such authority, such radar-perfect detail, that she is able to make even the most extreme situations seem real...[her] reportorial candor, uncompromised by sentimentality or voyeuristic charm...underscores the strength of her debut." -- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Ferocious, terrifying stories, skillful as they are scary. Gaitskill's voice and talents are wonderfully new, as honest as rain, and as welcome in a long, dry season." -- Alice Adams

"A thrilling journey into the deep anxieties of romance and desire...Stunning." -- Frederick Exley

"Stubbornly original, with a sort of rhythm and fine moments that flatten you out when you don't expect it, these stories are a pleasure to read." -- Alice Munro

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439148872
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439148877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 98 people found the following review helpful By An Amazonian on September 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
W.H. Auden said something to the effect that there are a few books that we each feel were written for us, so perfectly do they speak our innermost thoughts and feelings, perhaps previously unknown even to ourselves. This is one of those books for me, and it's a true stroke of luck that I found it. I wish I knew how to identify who else it might be such a book for--perhaps the hip, the black-wearing, the eating-disordered, the dirty-minded (specifically S&M-minded), the fashionable or the completely fashion-oblivious, the young rocker or writer or painter with a hated day job he can't seem to get rid of. But I am few of those things; I am quiet and conventional in my outer life, and yet this book was like a bomb for me. Most essentially, it is part of the small subterannean body of literature written by the troubled and for them, and who could more desperately need their own literary voice?
The stories are about unhappy young urban women having unhappy, dirty sex, but they are not erotica--they are stories to feel and think to, not to do something else to. The upcoming movie "Secretary" is based on a story of the same name here, although the secretary in the movie is thin and pretty and seems (from the preview) to grow into a sort of third-wave feminist sex cheerleader, while the secretary of the story is fat and deeply ashamed. She is the exception, however, in being a victim in a fairly simple way--most of the women are far more active. The final story, "Heaven," is a beautiful coda to the book. All the women appear without any families, and you might wonder who the families of such unconventional women could possibly be. Heaven answers that, making the book's first visit to the suburbs and providing a mutely conventional set of older parents.
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144 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Monkey Deathcar on April 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sounds like I'm one of the few who knew absolutely nothing about Mary Gaitskill before purchasing "Bad Behavior." In fact, I'd seen (and really enjoyed - great film!) the movie "Secretary" and had no idea it was inspired by a short story in this collection.

My first exposure to Mary Gaitskill was the short story (from this collection, but I'd read it first in another) "A Romantic Weekend" - something of a long vignette about a would-be S&M romance between an egotistical married lawyer and a fawning, neurotic wannabe submissive. Unlike a lot of contemporary short fiction - with its focus on immediate scene, action and dialogue - "A Romantic Weekend" took the time to map out each of its central characters interior lives in a lively and descriptive way that encouraged me to read more. So, I stumbled upon a used copy of "Bad Behavior" and figured "what the hell?"

I give Gaitskill credit for needling at some tender nerves - stories about drug addiction, emotional abuse, sexual neurosis, prostitution and sado-masochism abound in this collection. Maybe my favorite story in the book is "Connection," about a woman (Sarah) who returns to New York after five years. Told almost entirely through backstory, "Connection" recounts Sarah's competitive relationship with Leisha - a dangerous game of sexual and drug abuse one-upsmanship that crumbled their relationship. Gaitskill is utterly unsympathetic in every way and she has a knack for biting dialogue and markers that bring her (for the most part, repellent) characters to life.

The problem with this collection is that there is nobody to sympathize with. The quintessential Gaitskill character is female, a prostitute or a slut, a drug user and either a hopelessly neurotic or ridiculously pretentious freak.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on May 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Gaitskill coolly anatomizes with great skill the dark side of human relationships. Her occasional metaphor is bondage both literal and emotional, but it's never used in a cheap or exploitative way. She writes of sympathetic young women who go through cruel hell (sometimes self-inflicted) before gaining wisdom and maturity. You may wince as you recognize your own teen-age and young adult follies. I find Gaitskill darkly funny and terribly moving. Her lucid, razor-sharp prose is a real pleasure. And as a man who is sometimes baffled by women, I think I learned something.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read BAD BEHAVIOR after seeing Gaitskill's blurb on the cover of another purchase, THE LOSERS' CLUB by Richard Perez. Like that novel, BAD BEHAVIOR is about the misfits (artists, wannabe-writers) of New York City's East Village. Also more of a high-minded literary work and a little less "youthful" than THE LOSERS' CLUB, BAD BEHAVIOR cuts to bone in its portrayal of damaged, neurotic young (mostly creative) people trying to find a place in the claustrophobic and dark recesses of the big city and their incapacity to connect with each other.
I found this collection of interwoven stories oddly compelling and, sadly, all too true to life. Many of the stories' relationships have an S/M theme, which in some cases implies a certain damage of the main characters, a certain comfort to be found in pain. The S/M quality of the stories is not portrayed in a titillating way as it might show up in a bit of erotica, but almost as a symptom of the characters' sad inability to relate to each other in a quote-unquote normal way - and often the characters' sexual tendencies tend to frustrate and alienate them even more.
Frankly, I recognized myself in these stories -- and it made me realize that the thing standing between achieving my goals and my personal happiness -- my greatest enemy -- is myself.
I recommend BAD BEHAVIOR highly. You don't have to be from New York City to relate to it -- I live in LA. But make sure you're in a safe place emotionally before you sit down to read it. Like all great art, it's disturbing and unforgettable -- full of truth -- and it can leave you feeling more than a little bit exposed.
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