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Don't Cry: Stories Hardcover – March 24, 2009

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Hand Reached Down to Guide Me by David Gates
Hand Reached Down to Guide Me by David Gates
Relentlessly inventive, alternately hilarious and tragic, always moving, these stories and a novella prove yet again that David Gates is one of our most talented, witty and emotionally intelligent writers. Learn more | See similar books

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, March 2009: Mary Gaitskill has a reputation as the chronicler of bad relationships, but that label doesn't do justice to the stories she tells. Her relationships turn bad, or turn good, or just turn (and turn and turn). In every exploitation there's an attraction, or at least an accommodation; in every hostility there's a yearning for, or at least a memory of, connection. You see the intensity of people--friends and family as well as lovers--drawn together, and the often equally intense emptiness when the magnet flips and repels. Gaitskill is one of our best short story writers (that's a label that's fully just) and the prickly, sad brilliance of her last book, Veronica, confirmed her as a master of the novel, too. Don't Cry is just her third story collection in 20 years, after the modern classics Bad Behavior and Because They Wanted To, and it reminds you immediately of why you've been longing to read her again. Once more, there are former lovers and ex-friends and parents and children who have not quite made a hash of things, but there's also a broadening in this collection, especially in the title story, which looks at the ties of family and friendship when they are stretched across the global distance of privilege and poverty. --Tom Nissley

From Bookmarks Magazine

Ranging from gritty realism to fanciful allegory, the stories in Don’t Cry push the boundaries of fiction in several directions. Populated by peculiar but always authentic characters with bizarre dreams and fantasies, Gaitskill’s stories lack conventional plots, timelines, and mounting suspense, but she keeps readers rapt with the promise of exposing the darkest recesses of human nature. The subtle balance between her spare, clinical prose and the uncomfortably private thoughts and feelings she brings to light give these stories their edge; yet intermittent moments of grace and hope keep her work accessible. Though critics disagreed over which stories were the best, they all praised her pitiless eye, psychological insight, and unsettling ability to turn readers into voyeurs.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424199
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,145,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Duvernois on February 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sure, most folks know about Mary Gaitskill for the movie version of Secretary (Secretary), loosely taken from a short story in her collection Bad Behavior (Bad Behavior), but her best works, in my opinion are her novels Two Girls, Fat and Thin (Two Girls Fat and Thin) and Veronica (Veronica). Those are, respectively, on S&M and Ayn Rand, and on AIDS and the release from a gray world.

Here we have the new collection of short stories: College Town 1980, Folk Song, A Dream of Men, The Agonized Face, Mirror Ball, Today I'm Yours, The Little Boy, The Arms and Legs of the Lake, Description, and Don't Cry.

The ones that stood out for me included "College Town 1980" where the college town is Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the people there look to find meaning where they can. (And decide that Ann Landers is correct.) Also, the title story, in which a recent widow joins her friend who is trying to adopt a child in Ethiopia and is nearly overwhelmed by her guilt from infidelity. Many of the characters find themselves in bleak emotional waters, adrift, and find the oddest sorts of floats to support themselves, and perhaps even bring job.

On the other hand, the contrived Iraq War tale in "The Arms and Legs of the Lakes" brings the writing seminar sort of mix of humanity onto a train.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Gaitskill's first two books, a collection of short stories, Bad Behavior, and a novel, Two Girls, Fat and Thin, were exceptional. Our son assigned her second novel, Veronica, a National Book Award nominee, as required reading in a philosophy course and he's got good taste in such matters. Her fourth book, Because They Wanted To, was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award. In short, Gaitskill is for real and a very good writer.

Don't Cry is her first collection of short stories in ten years. The best stories are quite good but overall the collection is uneven. "College Town 1980" is exceptional. It is difficult to describe except to say that Gaitskill paints a young woman's failed relations and personal problems but reveals the steely resolve that underlies her unhappiness. "Folk Song" is an extended reflection on two extreme incidents: the television interview of a convicted serial murderer and the announcement by a woman that she is going to break the world record for consecutive sex acts by having sex with a thousand men in a row. "Today I'm Yours" describes the obsession of a married woman with an on again off again lesbian lover. In "Don't Cry," a widow (her husband died of Alzheimer's) accompanies a friend to Somalia to adopt a child and mourns an act of infidelity. Equally striking but somehow artificial -it reads at moments like a creative writing workshop exercise--is "The Agonized Face": a woman attends a literary festival as a stringer for a little magazine and observes the writers on display there. From there on, the quality drops. "The Arms and Legs of the Lake," which intertwines the inner thoughts of three men riding on a train, two of them veterans of the Iraq war and the third a veteran of WWII, is the least successful story in the collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David R. Anderson on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mary Gaitskill's literary landscape starts and ends with sex, although it meanders through other complex human relations along the way. Thirty-one of her short stories, written at about the rate of one a year over the last three or so decades, make up the collections in "Bad Behavior" (1988), "Because They Wanted To" (1997) and, most recently, "Don't Cry" (2009). The release of the paperback edition of "Don't Cry" in March is the occasion for this review.

Sex is complicated stuff. No one knows that better than Gaitskill nor writes about it with more acumen. To summarize her view, sex between a man and a woman is never consensual; its wellsprings are too deeply imbedded in our makeup to permit the knowledge required for assent. As one of her characters puts it, "Sex has been let out of the box, like everything is okay, but no one knows what `everything' is." Still, as her stories make clear, Gaitskill comes as close to getting it as any one can.

In "The Agonized Face" the fourth story in "Don't Cry", Gaitskill cuts to the quick. The narrator, reflecting on an interview she did with a topless dancer who abhorred, and in the next breath, accepted as normal a customer's unwanted buggering, sizes up the dancer's about face this way: "The combination was pathetic, and yet it had the dignity of awful truth. . ..because in the telling of it a certain foundation of humanity was revealed; the crude cinder blocks of male and female down in the basement, holding up the house. . . .We are glad to have the topless dancer to remind us of that dark area in the basement where personality is irrelevant and crude truth prevails.
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