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Because They Wanted to: Stories Paperback – Bargain Price, February 27, 1998


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Paperback, Bargain Price, February 27, 1998
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction Ed edition (February 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684841444
  • ASIN: B0027CSNH6
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,007,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Reading a Mary Gaitskill short story is like getting into a no-holds-barred fight: mean, raw, and dangerous. She's fond of portraying characters who seem strangely comfortable living in emotional extremity. She never takes the safe route through a story; in fact, she'll choose the low road every time. The title story places a runaway girl in care of abandoned children. Where many writers would seek out some faint ray of redemption or hope, Gaitskill concentrates on the grime in the cracks of the linoleum. In "The Girl on the Plane," a bitter man confesses his participation in a brutal act to a stranger, but the confession brings no solace. These stories practically shake with tension. In the final long story of this collection, "The Wrong Thing," Gaitskill picks up the tale after the breaking point, as she gracefully illuminates the life of a woman piecing together the fragments of her sexual and emotional history. Because They Wanted not only fulfills the promise of her previous short-story collection Bad Behavior and the novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin, it takes us to a higher place. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In "The Dentist," a story about a magazine writer's sexual infatuation with her bland, middle-aged dentist, a billboard for Obsession perfume looms over the protagonist's neighborhood, projecting a "strange arrested sensuality of unsatisfied want." Like that billboard, the nine stories in Gaitskill's third book (after the novel, Two Girls, Fat and Thin) hold a mirror up to a 30-something zeitgeist of emotional dysfunction, chronicling people paralyzed by unappeasable desires and trapped by abusive families and relationships. The landscape is a familiar one?of support groups and public health clinics, funky neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest and lower Manhattan inhabited by writers, musicians and sex workers. With her crisp prose and withering eye for detail, Gaitskill invests these scenes with psychological vividness and desolate poignancy. The title story is a portrait of a resilient 16-year-old who runs away from home in the wake of her parent's divorce and takes a job in Vancouver babysitting for a financially desperate mother of three. The disgruntled protagonist of the opening story, "Tiny, Smiling Daddy," disturbed that his estranged lesbian daughter has published a self-help essay about him in a national magazine, ponders the divide between parents and children. In the four-part final story, "The Wrong Thing," a 39-year-old poetry teacher tries to remain stoic in the face of a series of erotic but loveless flings. It's telling that Gaitskill's title is an unfinished sentence, for the theme that binds these stories together is an emotional modality shared by a cast of unhappy people, whose sordid fantasy lives and small gestures of compassion allow them to keep at bay the meaninglessness and despair of the everyday.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

And I hate characters like that.
MissOsh
If you don't think your life gives you that eery, depressing feeling that you've always craved, then pick this book up.
"ellitterate"
Her descriptions are wonderfully unique and filled with imagery.
momwith2kids

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Steve S. on May 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've been a short story fan since I was a teen, had a love-hate relationship with the New Yorker ever since. Too many short stories follow that formula--middle class protaganists, emphasis on interior life rather than plot, conflict deriving from relationships, with the epiphany arriving right on schedule in the last 2 pages. Updike and Munro do this really well. Even though Mary Gaitskill's collection follows some of these rules, I found it breathtakingly original and powerful. She pushes the interiority of her characters to an extreme, and I'd have to say the single trait of these stories I admire most is their ability to make you feel what her characters do. Forget plot, for the most part--the value here is in the subtle observations of love and sexuality. These stories have an edge unknown to your average buttoned-down New Yorker writer--only Thom Jones at his best can surpass her there. With Gaitskill, Jones and Junot Diaz, we're finally starting to get some short story writers who don't seem to have spent their lives hiding in the suburbs. Don't read this book in a hurry--savor it.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By momwith2kids on August 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
I loved this book! It?s a collection of short stories about men and women of all ages (mostly in their 30s though). Gaitskill has a beautiful style of writing. Her descriptions are wonderfully unique and filled with imagery. All of the relationships she portrays are fascinating because all of her characters are damaged in one way or another.
Some of my favorite stories (almost all of them, really) were Tiny Smiling Daddy, about the father who recalls and regrets his reaction to learning of his daughter's "coming out." Because They Wanted To, was about Elise, a 16 year-old runaway who takes care of a stranger's kids. Orchid, about old friends seeing each other after so many years, thus stirring up memories of a close friendship bordering on love. The Blanket, about a relationship between an older woman and a younger man. Finally there's one of my favorites, Girl on a Plane, where a man looks back on his misdeeds after meeting a woman who mysteriously reminds him of a girl he once knew. Then there's The Dentist, where a girl named Jill endlessly chases this man whom the author gives no name (which clues you into his personality!). In the last four stories, the narration changes to the first person and takes on a much more lively pace. However, that does not take away the depth of the all of the preceding stories.
Gaitskill is flawless at exposing the complexities of the human psyche. Furthermore, she exposes the maddening efforts people make to connect with one another. Illustrating every character as a unique individual, Gaitskill gives each person his or her own set of baggage, idiosyncrasies, and methods of survival.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Harvor on June 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Some readers may argue that Gaitskill's characters merely resist growing up, and it's certainly true that their lives are much more in an uproar, much more in flux than the lives of their peers who are married with children. And yet to dismiss them as piquant malcontents seems unfair--they are, after all, after a more profound and dangerous intimacy than the intimacy that might be found in more stable relationships. Gaitskill has also managed to achieve, in this third book, a moving away from the voyeuristic; this has made the work inevitably quieter, and has even made some of the characters seem almost "normal".

In Tiny, Smiling Daddy, the opening story in Because They Wanted To, a sexually prodigal daughter discharges "her strange jangling beauty" into her father's house, "changing the molecules of its air". In another story (Processing), a waitress, "vibrant with purpose" pours water for her dinner guests "with a harried rattle of ice". At a party in Palo Alto, light "runs and flirts on silverware". All of these glimpses into Gaitskill's latest stories illustrate how charged her language can be, and how much it is animated (in spite of its dark themes) by both boldness and joie de vivre.

In other Gaitskill stories, many of the characters act as impish raconteurs of narratives that reveal their own pain or shame. Their audience is made up of a sort of floating opera of fast friends, scoffers, and therapists manque. Privacy is sacrificed to get at "the truth" about both intimacy and the potential that life has for the playful (and in particular for the sexually playful) to be extended into adulthood. But sex, in Gaitskill's world, is mischievous, cerebral, brutal, or even described with an almost dainty candour, the one thing it is not is sexy.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Katrina Denza on April 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Mary Gaitskill's second story collection, "Because They Wanted To," seemed to me just as fresh as her first, with a quieter, deeper reflection on the human condition and dazzling gems of insight imbedded in its rich foundation. Each of the twelve stories (eight stories and four connected stories within a novella) is a tale of unrequited love in varying forms and degrees. In "Tiny, Smiling Daddy," a father discovers his lesbian daughter has published an article about their relationship; in "Because They Wanted To," a destitute runaway agrees to baby sit a stranger's three children for an afternoon while the woman hunts for a job, and reflects on the past that drove her to Canada; and in "The Girl on the Plane," a man is seated next to a woman that reminds him of a woman he once gang-raped and when confronted with the brutality of the act, desperately searches for ways in which he could excuse or explain his behavior. I most admire Gaitskill's incredible ability to pin down the nuanced behaviors and thoughts that make us all paradoxically universal and unique.
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