Read Don't Cry by Mary Gaitskill Online


Following the extraordinary success of her novel Veronica, Mary Gaitskill returns with a luminous new collection of stories — her first in more than ten years.Beginning with a story of young people adrift in the college town of Ann Arbor on the cusp of the Reagan era and ending with the complex quest of a middle-aged woman to adopt a child in Addis Ababa, Gaitskill works aFollowing the extraordinary success of her novel Veronica, Mary Gaitskill returns with a luminous new collection of stories — her first in more than ten years.Beginning with a story of young people adrift in the college town of Ann Arbor on the cusp of the Reagan era and ending with the complex quest of a middle-aged woman to adopt a child in Addis Ababa, Gaitskill works across a broad backdrop of American life and brilliantly delivers her signature pleasures: prose as taut as a high-tension line, a supreme command of the interior landscape, and characters as real as the secret faces that peer back at us from the mirror. Each story is charged with her powerful, original language and the dramatic engagement of the intelligent mind with the craving body — or the intelligent body with the craving mind — that is characteristic of Gaitskill's fiction. Her settings are a surprising mix of real and surreal: in the urban fairy tale "Mirror Ball" a young man steals a girl's soul during a one-night stand, while in the stunning "The Arms and Legs of the Lake" the fallout of the Iraq War becomes painfully immediate for a group of characters who collide by chance on a train going up the Hudson River.As spirited and intense as the now-classic Bad Behavior, Don't Cry shows us how our social conscience has evolved while basic truths — "the crude cinder blocks of male and female down in the basement, holding up the house," as one character puts it — remain unchanged....

Title : Don't Cry
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780375424199
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 226 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Don't Cry Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-10-14 00:33

    Angelique was a girl with a beautiful right shoulder, too much make-up, and a very expensive handbag made out of the skins of orphans. She had an anthropology degree but she was currently out of work. The problem was not any of that however. The problem which had been causing her sleepless nights, or nights where you just doze fitfully and never really go properly to sleep and see things which are kind of green, was that there was something in her vagina. Having looked at it from every angle, using mirrors and a speculum, she had concluded that it was a penis. Oh dear oh dear, she said to herself. What’s it doing there? Why doesn’t it go away? It was so irritating. As if my vagina is the only place it could be. And for so long too.Days went by and it was still there. She decided to call one of her slightly depressed girlfriends named Ruby. She had five girlfriends called Ruby. It had never struck her before what a gigantic co-incidence that was. But now it did. Ruby was depressed but not so depressed that she’d stick her head in the oven or anything. She’d recently pulled chunks of her own hair out so that she had to wear a wig. The wig was very beautiful. It was from the hair of orphans. She was thinking of pulling other people’s hair out too, so that they could wear beautiful wigs and be better than they were, but she hadn’t got up the nerve to do that. She was in love with a boy called David but she called him Batbrains. He had a supernumery nipple and played in a grindcore band. “Ruby” said Angelique, “there’s a penis in my vagina.” Ruby said Angelique should take steps to find out whose it was. But Angelique couldn’t be bothered. It seemed like such an effort. She ate a bag of Doritos. Maybe it would get bored and go away. But it didn’t. Eventually she gathered the Rubys together for a penis extraction party. They were giggly and excited. Once the deed was done, the penis made a fzzz sound and whizzed about the room like a balloon. They caught it and put it in a hamster cage where it flopped about a bit and then died. Ruby said that someone should make sure it was all gone. She volunteered to take a look around the vagina. She was gone for the best part of an hour. When she emerged she was clutching about twenty copies of Playgirl magazine. “I found these,” she said. “I didn’t even know I had those” said Angelique. “I’m sure they’re not mine.” The Rubys looked sceptically at one another. By now it was daytime. So they decided to watch daytime tv even though they were all really brainy. So they did.

  • Jessica
    2018-10-20 00:51

    This is one of the places where the star system breaks down, because I loved -- five-star loved -- some of these stories so much that I became obsessed and thought about them all the time. But then I liked the ones towards the end less and less, and wound up really feeling repelled (in a bad way) by the last two stories, so.... rating books with stars is so stupid anyway. This is all ridiculously subjective and shouldn't be quantified like that, right? I looked at some reviews on here of people who felt the opposite way I did about which stories were good, which I'd guess could have to do with how the reader feels about Gaitskill's take on sex.As it happens, Gaitskill and I seem to be pretty much on the same page about sex, specifically about (mostly straight) female sexuality, and I loved most of the first half of this book so much because of that. She leads with the forgettable and harmless jab "College Town, 1980," then delivers a crushing right hand with "Folk Song," which knocked the wind out of me. "Folk Song" was my favorite story in here, even though in theory it seems like some dumb intro-fiction exercise: a woman's response to three articles that happen to be on the same page in the newspaper. But this story made me freak out from how good it was and how shatteringly it cut through to all this really intense stuff about sex and being female I almost know and almost think about but haven't ever even considered trying to put into words myself. I felt similarly about "The Agonized Face," a narrator's response to a suspiciously familiar "feminist author" who "had apparently been a prostitute at some point in her colorful youth, and who had gone on record describing prostitutes as fighters against the patriarchy. She would say stupid things like that, but then she would write some good sentences that would make people say, 'Wow, she's kind of intelligent!'"There are some extremely good sentences in Don't Cry, and I'd venture to say that Mary Gaitskill is a bit more than kind of intelligent. I've read her stuff before, but for whatever reason some of stories in this collection affected me in a way that most of her other work hasn't. I do see where people are coming from when they get annoyed with all the sex and masochism and what have you, because that kind of thing is annoying and seems gratuitous when it doesn't come off like it's supposed to, and I've read Gaitskill's eighties-hooker stories in the past and just been like, "Whatever." But sometimes -- here -- when she writes about sex and sexual violence and what it's like having a vagina and being a woman around here, she really nails it and pushes through deep into some very dark and out-of-the-way places. And not to get all gross or cheesy anything -- heaven forbid! -- but a few of these stories touched me in a way that left me feeling really almost violated, but also quite moved.These stories had another effect on me too, that I think's maybe worth noting. In the most general sense I read fiction to escape from the banal and stupid shitshow that's my life, and successful fiction rescues me from my surroundings in two ways. It either takes me outside of my world, as the sleazy crime fiction I've been reading does, by essentially constructing painted cardboard panels all around me then projecting characters onto them, so I'll be distracted and amused and shielded from the mundane reality still going on, hidden behind the screens. Alternatively -- and okay, this maybe is too silly or snotty a leap, but it might point to a distinction between simple fiction and capital-L-Literature -- books can also bleed out of themselves and wind up coloring the way that I experience my life, so that I'm seeing my same world but in a completely new way. While I was reading this book I was no longer stuck in Jessicaland, and instead found myself living in a Mary Gaitskill story. It's different from the cardboard magic-lantern thing, though, because instead of hiding my real life, the stories left me in it, only the way that I experienced that life had changed. Like I'd be riding the subway or looking around at people on the street, or thinking of people I know (perhaps even in the Biblical sense!) and suddenly they'd all be Mary Gaitskill characters too. Which like, might not seem like a purely good thing, but I appreciate that kind of novelty. I can't just live in my own crappy fiction all the time, and having someone more gifted come along and rewrite things can be refreshing. The stories in here made me think about everything differently, which means they're good, or at least that they were good for me. Although I can see how someone else might just make fun of it, "Mirror Ball" was another one I particularly enjoyed that I think changed how I see things somehow; not just human relationships, but possibilities for how to tell a story. I also really liked "Today I'm Yours" a lot, though as with "Folk Song" if someone had described it to me, I wouldn't have wanted to read it.I did not like the stories towards the end of the book, which are less explicitly about sex and more about boring short-story people whom I didn't like or care about, only not in a fun way. But even writing about this collection -- especially after reading Greg's take on it, which is the exact opposite of mine -- makes me wonder what the point of any of this Bookfacing is. My response to this book felt very, very personal, and seems irrelevant to anyone considering whether or not to read it.God, you know, I don't even remember why I used to review books on here all the time, what I thought the compelling reason for doing that was. I do like having a record for myself of books and what I thought at the time, because otherwise three weeks on I have no memory of having read them. What I thought of while reading this book was a time that my friend Kristi's family took me with them on their vacation when I was fifteen. We were someplace, who knows where, and I guess there was a fountain or something that looked kind of like a slit in the concrete. And Kristi and I discovered that while we well knew -- and liberally used -- the word "phallic," we had absolutely no idea what the female equivalent was. At this point Kathy, Kristi's stepmom, helpfully interjected and told us that the word we wanted was "yonic." Which it turns out is not in a lot of dictionaries, but that is in fact what it means.Anyway, the lady can write, and I hugely admired Gaitskill's use of language even in the stories I didn't like. I bet most people could get into some of these stories, though maybe not too many people would love all of them. I would recommend the first half Don't Cry to men who are curious about what it's like to have a vagina, except that (as noted elsewhere) I've noticed a lot of them would rather not know.

  • Greg
    2018-10-05 00:54

    Don't Cry was a disappointing reading experience. At first I found the book to be kind of annoying. The first story was quite unappealing, in both the characters and whatever it was that was going on. Then for the next few stories the unappealing just kept happening. None of the stories could seem to escape feeling like there were shocking things being said for the sake of being shocking. Mostly they had to do with fucking, and oftentimes with the fact that women have vaginas. I realize this fact, and maybe if I had read these stories in Edith Wharton's time the shockingness of the black hole of mystery that is a cooter would have made me go into a convulsion of some sort, or maybe if I had read this as a woman in the sixties I could have rallied around the vagina-ness of all womenkind, but by 2009 it's not that shocking nor mysterious. So that's disappointment one, I wasn't enjoying the book. About 2/3's through the book I already started formulating some review ideas in my head. I was ready to tear this apart. I dreaded having to slosh through another 1/3 of the book, but I was ready to do it, just to be angered more. Instead here comes disappointment two. The third to last story is actually really good. What the fuck? No mysterious vaginas, no dime store versions of Levinas' theory of The Other / the face of The Other turned into some silly Feminist thing that held no water what so ever. No characters just blurting out things like, "My ex-boyfriend fucked me in the ass," and then spend a half a page ridiculing people who find comments like that to be uncomfortable as prudes (what to think of the reader who feels uncomfortable for a writer who thinks something like this is shocking, or gritty, or real), and also no Eggers like ironic distancing of oneself from the faults already showing in earlier stories through a separate story. None of those things. Instead a very good story. And then that story was followed up with two not quite as good stories, but still quite good ones. What the fuck. I couldn't even hate the book in peace, instead it had to end with three solid stories that were enjoyable, and if I hadn't had to read the first 2/3's of the book, I'd consider Gaitskill as a writer I should check out and read more of. Instead I'm left with a weird feeling of indifference, not knowing if the last three were a fluke or maybe signs of what her newer / more mature work is like. I guess the only way to find out is to read more of her books, but I don't know if I want to deliberately set myself up for more disappointments.

  • Imogen
    2018-10-15 21:42

    While reading: My boyfriend the Random House rep gave me a proof! I know this is attributing things to an author because of the content of their work, but I want Mary Gaitskill to beat me up, cut me and make me cry. Afterward: Yeah. An interesting thing happened in this one- I can't remember whether it happened in the previous short story collections of hers that I've read, or whether maybe I haven't actually read them- where, as it went on, the stories got less, like, evil, and while they didn't become nice stories about nice people having nice things happen to them, they became less... brutal, I guess? Vicious? There were fewer people walking dazed through life post-institutionalization, and instead more self-aware, self-obsessed grad school assholes. Combined with the fact that specifics would recur from story to story- I can't remember any right now, but like, y'know how if you use say the word 'stately' three times in three consecutive paragrpahs, it becomes a Thing that you've Noticed? that sort of thing- and with the consistent we're-all-assholes-and-we're-all-fucked tone, made it feel really unified, for a short story collection. Also, one story, 'the Agonized Face,' is the first thing in a really long time to remind me of how much I used to see potential in and get excited about short stories. It threw me off guard! That happens so rarely any more. It's a combination of powderkeg feminist politics and an unreliable/likable/hateable narrator that had me super engaged, super critical, and ultimately super excited without feeling like any answers or solutions had been proposed. Just more like it was a new and eloquent way of saying, 'stuff is weird.'Oh hey and speaking of answers and solutions! I love how, when the subject comes up, debasement usually is the only way to find any kind of release at all. Specifically: Sadism! Or: Masochism! It's a neat trick how eloquently she bathes everything in kink, and even neater how natural and logical she makes it seem. Like sometimes it's pretty overt and sometimes it's not, but maybe it's most overt in the first story or two and then it's less so but since it was so strong at first it feels more pervasive. Or maybe I'm just a pervert and I see kink in everything. Or maybe it's really there, or maybe all of 'em.Either way, whatever. I can't recommend this thing highly enough, even though it doesn't even come out for six months or something, which means they might ruin it by then. In which case you can borrow my copy.

  • Louise
    2018-09-27 23:27

    Not every story in the collection is a "wow" but enough of them are and the book works as a whole. The story, Don't Cry, which I originally read in the New Yorker, and loved at the time, grows larger and more poignant within the context of the collection- which seems to me a hallmark of a great short story collection.There's more formal range here than in Bad Behavior and Because They Wanted To. She takes some risks in this sense.Yes, she has a bit of a potty mouth ;) This has never bothered me about Gaitskill because I think she is using it metaphorically, particularly in this collection where some of the somewhat crude sex talk is seemingly so casual and "thrown in". I think she is making a statement on how inured we have become as a culture to violence, and in Gaitskills book, sex is always a form of violence, even when it is consensual.In that sense, what may strike some as crudeness seems essential to the development of the characters, who have all experienced emotional violation in some way-- at the hands of others, at the hands of the culture.

  • Gus
    2018-09-22 02:46

    Only one of the stories, "Description," was really good. I appreciated some of these and they are different from a lot of her earlier stories.

  • Kim
    2018-10-20 23:25

    I remember the first time I read Self-Help and when I picked up Lust and Other Stories. There was this intimidation, this contempt, this other sadness. I wanted to be this good. I wanted to crawl, to burrow into the reader and make myself known. Dammit.Gaitskill's collection creeps in like that... at first I was kind of bored. I wasn't impressed with the beginning stories.. it was what I had been experiencing this entire year with the books that I've chosen to read. Meh. But, with Mirror Ball I began to feel that clenching, that annoying jealousy. With an opening line "He took her soul--though, being a secular-minded person, he didn't think of it that way." I was right back at that growling, mewling MINE stage. Seriously, this sucks.I am not a good person, I want to applaud these women, I want to feel some sisterly bonding with them, but I know that if I had the chance, I would so pull their hair and scratch at their eyes. I am the effaced soul on the musician's floor, I am the agonized face, I am the monsters, the demons, the Alzheimer's, the malaria ridden day laborer, the stupid trysts.I am angry.

  • Gregory Baird
    2018-10-19 00:47

    Unmitigated, Unreadable Despair The stories in Mary Gaitskill’sDon’t Cryreflect characters who are profoundly vexed, but not in a profound way. It seems that Ms. Gaitskill has contrived both them and their situations with the simple goal of shocking her reader. The stories are visceral, yes, but they lack substance, and the fact that Gaitskill herself seems to harbor nothing but disdain for her characters makes it impossible for the reader to feel anything for them either. That’s all that there is to this collection – a shame, because Gaitskill does seem like a talented writer, albeit one whose brain I would never want to pick over coffee. By the halfway point I began questioning the point in slogging through the rest of the collection, and when I was about seventy-five percent through I gave up. This is not something that I typically do. Yet I have no regrets.I had decided to read this collection because I was interested in reading Gaitskill’s novelVeronica.Emphasis on was. Instead, I’ll be looking for a writer with a touch of empathy, whose goal is not to shock and appall for no purpose other than the joy of having shocked and appalled.Grade: D

  • lindsay
    2018-10-11 01:39

    i have a soft place in my heart for mary gaitskill for various reasons but this book was kind of bad most of the time. i admire what she does, because it is beautiful and truly grotesque, but there comes a point where it gets boring. most of the characters felt like either representations of or foils to gaitskill and that actually made me uncomfortable. but then again, it usually makes me uncomfortable to read literary fiction about people who write literary fiction. the last two stories are good, and linked, and "the agonized face" i liked in spite of myself, just because it addresses ideas about women's sexuality -- and how dangerous it can be for women to fetishize their own sexuality -- that i think about a lot of the time. i also really enjoyed some parts of "mirror ball" but half of it could have been edited out and made a much more beautiful story. all in all, it is not the worst thing i've read, but definitely a disappointment after bad behavior.

  • Laura
    2018-09-29 03:26

    None of the characters in this selection of short stories appealed to me. Their lives didn't make me want to learn more, and the obsession with sex that permeated the book just turned me off. Pity, because I usually like Gaitskill's work.

  • Philip
    2018-10-11 01:27

    I really liked this collection of short stories. I can't wait to read more of Gaitskill's work but this is certainly my favorite of what I've read by her so far. I've always appreciated her ability to wake me up--in particular, her ability to defamiliarize the understandings of intimacy that I become comfortable with--but in this collection the writing itself is so elegant that I feel encouraged to wake up, regardless of the reality that I'm waking up to.Every once in a while I come across short fiction that shakes me awake, that functions in the way of Kafka's axe-metaphor by breaking the frozen sea within me. However, very rarely does the process of getting broken by a book feel as good as it did when I read Gaitskill's prose in this newest collection of her's. Even when the subject matter is disturbing, Gaitskill effectively mixed in enough comedy and poetic language to make me enjoy her stories without forgetting that I just might become enlightened by them.For those that believe Gaitskill writes merely to shock us until we are strong enough to think about sex and desire and intimacy as they actually are should certainly read this beautifully poignant book, which, like her previous works, definitely does not coddle when it comes to her descriptions of the physical world(we see the serious philosophical inquiries of a stripper interuppted by the memory of a client who stuck his finger in her ass even though he had promised not to in one story and a jarring pastiche that features a woman who has sex with over 1,000 men, the mating habits of a turtle, and the famous John Henry of folk song legend in another) but the portrait that Gaitskill paints is not wholly dark, despite the reality that she encourages us to face in this collection. Speaking of facing, I really like that she pays attention to faces in this book. I've been having a lot of difficulty trying to write faces in my fiction, regardless of how much time I've spent reading them lately. I recently consulted a portrait painter that I know for help with this problem that I've been having and, frustrated with her ease in reproducing faces, I was just about ready to decide that the problem is more with the language that I've been using, more with my medium of expression, and less with my own inadequacies--that is, until I started reading this book by Gaitskill. In "Don't Cry", my favorite story, she offers the following description of a baby's face, which is just one instance of the precision and attention to detail that you'll find in this story alone:"The baby was beautiful, fragile and small for his age, with a severe mouth, a high forehead, almond-shaped eyes, and slightly pointed ears that made his gaze seem radically attuned. When you held him, you felt the pure unprotected tenderness of an infant, but in those eyes there also was something uncanny and strong, nascent and vibrating with the desire to take form." "Don't Cry", which takes place in Ethopia, is certainly my favorite story of the collection but I think the whole collection is very beautiful and worth reading for any Gaitskill fan or fan of short fiction.

  • Bucket
    2018-10-06 02:51

    This is a more expansive collection than Bad Behavior (published 20 years earlier), which mostly featured young women in personal and sexual turmoil. While the turmoil theme is still prominent here, there are plenty of other themes, the variety of characters (gender, age, sexual orientation) is quite wide, and the collection manages to tackle its themes from a variety of directions - in my opinion, this is the mark of a good collection of stories. Bad Behavior managed none of this, and it goes to show what a difference 20 years of experience can make. What I love most about Gaitskill's writing is how very TRUE it feels. Her descriptions and situations are never idealized or glossy - everything is gritty and sharp and blatant, even when that means overtly sexual or disgusting or what many people would consider devient or perverted. Of the 10 stories, I very much enjoyed 7 of them. Mirror Ball really spoke to me - I was fascinated by the way Gaitskill anthropomorphized the soul to explain what it's like to be utterly altered by someone you meet without understanding why or how it happened. The Arms and Legs of the Lake says so much about the cost of war to those who return. The final story, Don't Cry, juxtaposes different types of struggle - the struggle of war, the struggle of grief when you lose your spouse, and the struggle of trying to achieve something that seems impossible. The choice of Don't Cry as the overall title of the collection was a good one. Each story very much speaks to the need for great inner strength. Only in Don't Cry, does a character break down, let go, and cry.Themes: women, relationships, sex, turmoil, souls and soul-speak, writing, aging, grief, death (of a partner, in particular), inner strength

  • Simone Subliminalpop
    2018-10-15 19:33

    “Oggi sono tua” altro non è che una summa delle tre raccolte pubblicate in trent’anni dall’autrice, oltre a due romanzi (di cui uno, “Veronica”, edito quasi in contemporanea quest’anno per Nutrimenti).Mary Gaitskill scrive molto bene e spesso stupisce perché è in grado di non fossilizzarsi su uno stile in particolare o di seguire sempre lo stesso canovaccio che funziona. Hanno tratti molto fisici le storie che racconta, con i corpi della donne che entrano di prepotenza nella visionarietà delle sue parole, colpendo e maltrattando le sensibilità coinvolte. Sessualità e tenerezza come opposti concordi che trovano nella vita di tutti i giorni terreno fertile dove crescere, scontrarsi e mescolarsi.Per certi versi, anche se fondamentalmente diverse tra loro, mi ha ricordato altre grandi autrici di short stories americane come Alice Munro o Grace Paley.Tra gli episodi migliori segnalo: “Papino buono e caro”, Perché sì”, “Consolazione”, “La ragazza dell’aereo”, “La faccia straziata” e “Oggi sono tua”.

  • Benjamin Chandler
    2018-10-07 22:47

    Mary Gaitskill is one of my favorite writers. Her ability to realistically plumb the human soul and its motives is astonishing. She also can do some lovely writing, turning phrases and metaphors that feel fresh and exact. So, I was excited that this book was out, and after hearing her read from "Mirror Ball" on KCRW's Bookworm, I knew I couldn't wait for paperback.There are some excellent stories in this collection—stories that individually warrant more than the 3 star rating I gave the book. (The best being "The Agonized Face," "Description," and the aforementioned "Mirror Ball" which has an uncharacteristic-for-Gaitskill magical-realism bent to it.) The other stories—and there are 10 total—are good, but not great. The weakest was "College Town, 1980" which it turns out is a very old story of hers revamped and set out to pasture. Still, though, "Agonized Face" and "Mirror Ball" were so good, they're still knocking around in my head. And it's not even really the scenes or ideas from the story, but just shades of feelings and tone that I'm retaining.

  • Jasmine
    2018-10-14 03:31

    I have to say I think this is a very wide spectrum book I say that because while Greg didn't so much like the beginning but liked the end. I cared far less for the end and enjoyed the beginning of the book. I think that it would work well for people who like famous fathers, it uses similar themes in the stories so it is relevant to know if you appreciate such things. It you do not you will not like this book that is simply how it is. Regardless there is at least a little something for everyone and she is really not that bad.

  • Laura
    2018-10-08 00:54

    What the HELL is wrong with Mary Gaitskill? I don't necessarily have a problem with the word "cunt," I even found it used hysterically in Kill Bill, but there's just no reason for it to be used so many times in the beginning of the book. One of the characters just shuffles around mumbling it for no apparent reason, and there is so much talk about vaginas that I started to feel nauseated. What the hell.

  • Kevin
    2018-10-14 22:27

    It's taken me a long time to get through this one for some reason. I like a couple of the stories quite a bit here, like the College Town one and The Agonized Face--both of which are pretty acidic and funny in tone. Some of the other stories seem to ramble on and on a little too much, like little novels that she got bored of and abandoned.

  • Beth
    2018-09-21 19:26

    Disappointing. The first two stories were really great, so I was very excited, and then I didn't really resonate with any of the later stories. I still love Mary Gaitskill, but I have to admit I like her best when she's writing about dysfunctional people and dirty sex.

  • Oriana
    2018-10-10 21:28

    Gosh, well, I never really considered reading her, but Imogen can be pretty convincing....

  • patty
    2018-10-21 02:37

    I've read all of her other for the latest...will it be any good?!?

  • Gabrielle Van Wyk
    2018-09-26 00:25

    My feelings about this collection of stories are very jumbled and I'm finding it very difficult to decide how many stars to give it which almost never happens to me.I never felt quite myself when I was reading any of it. I was really pulled into the different scenarios and carried off into these worlds. Obviously Gaitskill is a great writer, but I also never connected with any of the characters. This book (and most of it's characters) came off as very judgemental, which isn't relaxing. I didn't learn anything from this book. I didn't gain a new perspective or experience any waves of emotions or any of the other criteria I have for great literature. Even though for me it was maybe a two star read I still feel like other people should read it. Maybe it wasn't meant for me, but someone somewhere could be profoundly changed by the way she writes about the female experience.

  • Joan Colby
    2018-10-09 02:39

    Some of the stories I liked mildly, others I detested. Quite a gulf between them. I liked Gaitskill’s recent novel “The Mare’ but her stories range from quite good to boring

  • Kent Winward
    2018-10-18 03:35

    Gaitskill is a skilled short story writer that edges into life's seams, especially our darker proclivities as humans. Very enjoyable.

  • Sydney
    2018-09-24 19:34

    Spoiler alert, I love this! I have more thoughts here:

  • Ikè
    2018-09-28 19:34

    From a review I wrote over a year ago:I didn’t want to look at reviews when I began reading Don’t Cry, a collection of short-stories by the writer, Mary Gaitskill. I didn’t know anything about her, less of all, what she’d written, and first heard of her when a friend invited me to a book reading by CCNY’s English Department. The guest reader, she said, was the writer of “Secretary”—the short-story on which the film was based (here, I thought dimly of a desk, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a horse).I think I was curious about how a woman who wrote such physical yet distantly sexual stories would look like, and how she would sound. We went.I was honestly excited at the prospect of seeing the author and potentially meeting her for a reason, though. Writers excite me, especially creative writers. I see the professionals as proof that it’s possible to survive in the industry.So we went, a whole crew of us from the student newspaper office, delighting in the buzz of energy we felt from each other. We joked and we laughed at Macaulay Honors students who sat clustered in one large but predominantly silent group. We forgot that we too were clustered. We might have been slightly drunk.When Ms. Gaitskill came in, she wasn’t what I expected at all. She was of medium-height and slim with streaks of white running through her fading blond hair. She was much older than I expected also, and dressed casually in generic black pants and an off-white sweater.But she swept into the audience chamber with a presence that told all in the room undeniably who she was.(view spoiler)[She was introduced to us by Prof. Brandon Judell (himself a writer, an author, and a film critic) and upon taking the podium, immediately had us know that she felt a little sick and might rush out suddenly at any moment (she collapsed briefly in the midst of her reading; some maintain suspicions that in actuality, she was drunk off the bottle of wine on the table by the podium; I digress).She read “Folk Song” to us, the second from her third collection of shorts, Don’t Cry. It was meant to draw us in, and the story did, what with it’s unusual opening—the cold, disembodied listing of the headlines of a newspaper’s front-page—before diving into a dissection of the lives of the characters listed: there is the killer, slated for a satellite interview; the mother and daughter whom he has slain; the woman from San Francisco attempting to break world records by having sex with one thousand men. So on.But “Folk Song” isn’t about reiterating gossip or pornographically recounting a murder on the front-page, and neither is Don’t Cry. Bluntly describing sex and the physical body just to shock was not her goal, intimacy was. The kind of intimacy that blooms in your mind when you’ve thought about someone dear to you, or perhaps, the type of physical intimacy you feel when you look at your naked body. But neither is the reader meant to grow comfortable just because Ms. Gaitskill is only depicting intimate situations we go through everyday. That would be a travesty. The reader is meant to see and understand.I imagine though that there will be those who’ll remain discomfited after reading the book. To that effect, it is my opinion that as long as they or any other person can internalize what they’ve read and not unduly sublimate its impact, the transgressive intimacy of Ms. Gaitskill’s lines become tools to understanding her world. It’s all Freud after all:The killer is a “destroyer of women” because he sublimates feelings he cannot understand into violence. It may be a testament to his childhood, but what it isn’t is a validation of his crimes.The lady from California does as she does because she is secretly afraid of men. Much like the killer once did, she feels inadequate and vulnerable. She seeks nirvana through the glimmers of physical vulnerability she spies while having intercourse with her partners.The woman and her daughter do not remain faceless victims. Their story is brought out of the shadow of the killer who claimed their lives. We understand the mother’s thought and frustration, and the embarrassed guilt of the daughter when she wants to protect her mother.In short, the story was as disturbing as it was brilliant, and much could be said about the rest of the book. Ultimately, if you so choose, you the reader will take what you will from Don’t Cry. You will find likes and dislikes (my other favorites were “Mirror Ball” and “The Little Boy”). You will find dark things. But you will also find beauty. (hide spoiler)]

  • Stephanie
    2018-10-02 23:51

    I found these stories to be very moving. There are several unique female experiences throughout this collection. I like the way that Mary Gaitskill is able to so convincingly convey the thoughts and feelings of women in so many different situations at so many different times over the course of a woman's life. The title story, Don't Cry is the final short in the book. Its, of course, a sad story. In it, she is able to show us the minds of two very different women, in two very different places. The main character is a woman that was recently widowed by the much older man that she married. The supporting character is a woman that is sick of trying to find a man to spend her life with, and she has decided to travel to Ethiopia to adopt a baby. The story details their stay in a miserable, poor, foreign land and the obstacles they face through their quest. It also gives us a tantalizing glimpse of the main character before the journey and her life with her husband, specifically the time when she cared for him during the struggle with Alzheimer's Disease before it ultimately killed him. College Town 1980 is a great story to open this collection with. I think the main character gripped me enough to see what else Gaitskill could do, to read each of these stories carefully. She's a young, crass, lonely and depressed college dropout, suffering through some sort of post-break-up-quarter-life-crisis. Throughout this story, she is trying to sort through the idiosyncrasies, gossip, jealousy, manipulations and cattiness of the females around her, as well as (I think, anyway) to gauge the presence of and tendencies toward these things in herself.Though I really enjoyed Folk Song, An Old Virgin, The Agonized Face, and The Little Boy, the last story in this collection that I want to mention is Mirror Ball. It is about what could happen to two people after a one night stand. Unlike the plot of Knocked Up, there is no surprise pregnancy and there is no shotgun relationship or wedding or anything like that. The boy (inadvertently, of course) takes a part of the girl's soul. Its presence changes the nature of his soul. Its absence changes the nature of hers, but they are equally vulnerable while he retains this part of her soul. I find this story particularly touching because it delves into the realities that promiscuity can hold: the sex that is never all that it could be, the lack of fulfillment, the promise that one thinks one sees which never comes to fruition, the heartbreak and panic that comes when the encounter you'd been hoping would turn out so wonderfully doesn't even yield a follow up phone call. So many 20- and 30- somethings have experienced this, many from both sides of the narrative. Mary Gaitskill is able, in this story, to give the characters such emotional ambiguity that when reading, one is able to associate freely with the boy or the girl on an emotional level. I think this is important, since it allows the reader to view both characters with no stigma. The one-night-stand is on equal footing. The girl becomes vulnerable only when a piece of her soul leaves her and goes with the boy. She feels this emptiness and tries to reach out after he doesn't call. He is busy with another girl, promises they'll talk and then does not deliver. The piece of her soul that she leaves with him awakens a sleeping piece of his own soul, and then returns to her. They pass each other on the street a while later and afford each other a bare glimpse of recognition and a slight hello. It seemed as if nothing had ever happened between them.This was my first time reading Mary Gaitskill. I will certainly be picking up one of her novels soon.

  • Abbi Dion
    2018-10-09 20:46

    She'll go with you to those uncomfortable memories.from "Folk Song"However, with her lame' bathing suit and her camp ring walk, appealing to everyone's sense of fun, she would be the fundamental female as comedy: The killer could sit comfortably in the audience and laugh, enjoying this appearance of his feminine colleague. Maybe he would feel such comfort that he would stand and come forward, unbuckling his pants with the flushed air of a modest person finally coming up to give testimony. Safe in her sweating, loose, and very wet embrace, surrounded by the dense energy of many men, his penis could tell her the secret story of murder right in front of everyone. Her worn vagina would hold the killer like it had held the husband and the lover and the sharpie and the father and the nitwit and every other man, his terrible story a tiny, burning star in the rightful firmament of her female vastness.Hell, yes, she would "show what women can do"!from "An Old Virgin"Well, but who could blame her? When she was still a teenager, out of nowhere her mother asked Laura what it had been like to lose her virginity. She wanted to know if the experience had been "special." It was late and the living room was dark. They had been watching TV together. Laura was startled by the question. "Was it someone you loved?" asked her mother."Yes," replied Laura, lying. "Yes it was.""I'm glad," said her mother. She still looked straight ahead. "I wanted you to have that."What a revolting conversation, thought Laura. She couldn't quite put her finger on why; her mother had only been expressing concern. But her concern seemed somehow connected with the nun in the water, and the dirtbag trying to set the little girl on fire.from "Mirror Ball"Because the dark-haired elfin girl was also a secular-minded person, she didn't know he'd taken a part of her soul any more than he did. But she knew she would not hear from him again. And she knew something was gone. She woke the next day feeling bereft and heartsick. She sulked and drooped around her flat while her roommates exchanged knowing glances. She vacillated between anger and contempt and terrible longing, and a sense that she must see the young man again no matter what. Because she was a rational person, she was sure that her feelings were illusory. Because she was a proud person, she was determined that she should not act on her feelings and call him. Rational and proud, she controlled her feelings by categorizing them in terms of obsession and projection. "I don't even know him," she said. "I'll get over it." And she waited for it to pass.from "The Agonized Face"I thought of my daughter, standing before the mirror, pushing her lower lip out, making seductive eyes. I though of her sitting at the kitchen table, drawing scenes from her favorite book, Magic by the Lake. I thought of her frightened awake from a nightmare, crying, "Mommy, Mommy!" I remembered washing her as a baby, using the spray hose from the kitchen sink to rinse shit away from the swollen petals of her infant slit--a hole she may fall down if she opens it too early, a dark Wonderland of teeth and bones and crushing force. The hole in life, a hole we cannot see into, no matter how closely we look.andWordless knowledge can be heavy and dark as the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes you want the relief of dryness, of light, bright words. Sometimes you might be on the side of a smart-aleck middle-aged woman who thumbs her nose at the agonized face and fellates a snotty, sexy man, just for a dumb little thrill. Sometimes you wish it could be that easy.

  • Shilo
    2018-10-17 20:51

    I really loved some stories, while others I did not care for at all. Either way, Mary Gaitskill is a master of description.

  • Scott Foley
    2018-09-25 20:51

    In Don't Cry, Mary Gaitskill presents ten short stories that are sometimes literally connected and sometimes thematically related. Some of these stories are firmly entrenched within the real world, and some, while taking place within the real world, dabble with the metaphorical and metaphysical plane as well. Each of them investigates complex human emotions and Gaitskill proves she is not afraid to tackle any issue.Gaitskill is a very skilled writer; I have no doubt of that. Her stories were finely written and she delighted me with her rapid shifts in time and perspective (sometimes within the same paragraph). However, by and large, I simply could not invest in her tales on a personal level. I can't believe I am writing this because it sounds so horribly obtuse, but her work in this collection is distinctly female, so much so that I felt alienated by much of it. By no means am I calling her a feminist (though if she is, that's not a bad thing), but generally speaking her stories seemed aimed at women in particular (again, this is not a bad thing).Now allow me to contradict myself. Two of her works that absolutely held my full attention and thrilled me were "The Arms and Legs of the Lake" and "Don't Cry.""The Arms and Legs of the Lake" takes place within a train where the point of view shifts from several different people as they interact with one another. It's a very interesting technique and, as a veteran from Iraq is the focal point, I also found it particularly significant."Don't Cry" is far more traditional in its execution, but as a new father, this tale depicting a woman trying to adapt a child in Ethiopia during political unrest had me on the edge of my seat and I truly could not put it down until I'd finished it. Even now, it still haunts me.So while Gaitskill is a talented and skilled writer unafraid to take risks and investigate sophisticated themes, most of her subject matter simply failed to resonant with me. However, even with that being said, the two aforementioned stories were fantastic and made the time spent reading Don't Cry worthwhile.

  • kate
    2018-09-28 21:38

    Providing a rating for a collection of stories - all fairly self-contained, some successful, some less so - is a difficult task, often with misleading results.Having only heard tangential references to Gaitskill, I decided to try this recent collection when I had the opportunity to buy it on super-sale. Therefore, I went into it with few to no expectations. In many ways, I'm enamored with her stylistically, though a few pieces here miss the mark. The openers are strong - I love-love "College Town, 1980," "Folk Song," "An Old Virgin," "The Agonized Face," and "Today I'm Yours." In other words, the collection starts out strong. "Mirror Ball" elicits no complaints from me, but mere preference places it a bit below these others in my esteem.Most reviewers are correct in that "The Arms and the Legs of the Lake" is the dead weight here; however, I'd argue it's less because it is a failed attempt at "a story about Iraq" or that Gaitskill is unable to adequately portray a male center of consciousness. ("Description" belies the latter, to some degree.) I think that she fails in her commentary on Iraq, and Gaitskill tries to incorporate too many elements and too many personas into the commentary; what appears to be a critique of exploitation becomes, in itself, exploitative, echoing the tone of the condescending liberalism it seeks to discredit."Description" wins me over in the end, though I've often grown tired of writers writing about writers, and it becomes a tad too self-referential for me in that regard. "The Little Boy" fell seriously flat. I was bored, wishing it would end. Not to mention that the middle-aged protagonist's opening lines, as she mutters her mantra, too closely echo the opening of "An Old Virgin," where it works so much better anyway.I'm iffy about the title story; it reads a bit like an updated, Americanized, more "female" take on Graham Greene's trope of the displaced white man.