Monday, March 19, 2007


I am not an edgy person. I think at one point I was. I went to clubs and shows, stayed out all night, wore trendy clothes, etc. Now, I stay at home and am quite thrilled that tonight I can both fold laundry and walk on the treadmill to Dancing with the Stars. So, I typically don't read novels by edgy novelists. No Chuck Palahniuk-ish or Susanna Moore-esque writers for me.

But, now I can say I've read a novel by a scary-persona novelist, and it was really quite good. Last week, I picked up Mary Gaitskill's Veronica. The narrative voice of Alison was wonderfully un-Lifetime movie-- cool, distant, with an oddly misplaced serenity. Her matter-of-fact rendering of her rebellion and its repercussions, good and bad, really drew me in. Some of Gaitskill's writing sparkled with a sharp sheen, especially early on during Alison's time in San Francisco and her observations about her Hepatitis friends. Yet, it also mingled with some oddly pedestrian and overwrought prose, and I thought the climbing narrative that pulled along the second half of the book was a bit forced. And, the "physical punishment of the pretty girl" is a little tired. Couldn't Alison have made it to the point she did without the car crash? Wouldn't her revelations have been just as powerful or even more so if she simply got old?

Alison's relationship with Veronica is laid bare in a way that leads to little sympathy for Alison, which is nice. The book doesn't go for the heart and suddenly create a Oprah-momented character where none would exist. Alison is solipsistic and enclosed throughout, letting her love for Veronica in and out just a sliver at a time. Even after Alison's epiphany about the depth of her friendship with Veronica, there remains an element of their relationship that arises because of Veronica's role as magical mirror rather than as actual human. Yet, the novel does show that she has grown wearily wiser overtime; if not to the degree one would wish, then likely to the degree that a real world Alison would.

I do think this book could have been cut by 50 pages or so with little harm and probably some benefit. Still, I highly recommend it.

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