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Don't Cry (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – March 9, 2010

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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

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307275876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307275875
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By margot on May 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mary Gaitskill's misfortune is to be the only Mary Gaitskill working the street. I mean she's alone out there, with her odd vision and idiom, not part of any tradition or school. Her narrative line is unpredictable, which can be very trying on the reader.

It is probably even more trying on the writer. Here is Gaitskill, marching on through the jungle, making her own way, with no one before her or beside her. No wonder both she and her characters always seem lost and despairing. Critics aren't an awful lot of help to her; they lazily slot her as wilfully perverse, when all she does is paint what she sees. If she positioned herself as a memoirist or social critic or writer of romantic fiction, she'd have an easier time of it.

Most of the stories here struck me as unfinished and confused in their direction. One exception, "The Arms and Legs of the Lake," is a near-perfect gem, but even so, it is experimental in technique and difficult to read simply as a short story. Basically, eight or ten characters are introduced and interact in the course of a train journey. None of them are given any description by the narrator; all exposition is given from the various characters' points of view. There is a central character with the appropriately anonymous name of Jim Smith, and we quickly learn he is a recent Iraq veteran. Most readers will immediately form a mental image of him, an image that will become more and more wrong as the story progresses. He is a slight black man on the verge of middle-age, perhaps a little crazy, perhaps feebleminded. The other characters project upon him their admiration or pity or contempt, and then make biased and critical judgments of each other.
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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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