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The extraordinary new novel from the acclaimed author of Bad Behavior and Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Veronica is about flesh and spirit, vanity, mortality, and mortal affection. Set mostly in Paris and Manhattan in the desperately glittering 1980s, it has the timeless depth and moral power of a fairy tale. As a teenager on the streets of San Francisco, Alison is discovered by The extraordinary new novel from the acclaimed author of Bad Behavior and Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Veronica is about flesh and spirit, vanity, mortality, and mortal affection. Set mostly in Paris and Manhattan in the desperately glittering 1980s, it has the timeless depth and moral power of a fairy tale. As a teenager on the streets of San Francisco, Alison is discovered by a photographer and swept into the world of fashion-modeling in Paris and Rome. When her career crashes and a love affair ends disastrously, she moves to New York City to build a new life. There she meets Veronica—an older wisecracking eccentric with her own ideas about style, a proofreader who comes to work with a personal “office kit” and a plaque that reads “Still Anal After All These Years.” Improbably, the two women become friends. Their friendship will survive not only Alison’s reentry into the seductive nocturnal realm of fashion, but also Veronica’s terrible descent into the then-uncharted realm of AIDS. The memory of their friendship will continue to haunt Alison years later, when she, too, is aging and ill and is questioning the meaning of what she experienced and who she became during that time. Masterfully layering time and space, thought and sensation, Mary Gaitskill dazzles the reader with psychological insight and a mystical sense of the soul’s hurtling passage through the world. A novel unlike any other, Veronica is a tour de force about the fragility and mystery of human relationships, the failure of love, and love’s abiding power. It shines on every page with depth of feeling and formal beauty.


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The extraordinary new novel from the acclaimed author of Bad Behavior and Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Veronica is about flesh and spirit, vanity, mortality, and mortal affection. Set mostly in Paris and Manhattan in the desperately glittering 1980s, it has the timeless depth and moral power of a fairy tale. As a teenager on the streets of San Francisco, Alison is discovered by The extraordinary new novel from the acclaimed author of Bad Behavior and Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Veronica is about flesh and spirit, vanity, mortality, and mortal affection. Set mostly in Paris and Manhattan in the desperately glittering 1980s, it has the timeless depth and moral power of a fairy tale. As a teenager on the streets of San Francisco, Alison is discovered by a photographer and swept into the world of fashion-modeling in Paris and Rome. When her career crashes and a love affair ends disastrously, she moves to New York City to build a new life. There she meets Veronica—an older wisecracking eccentric with her own ideas about style, a proofreader who comes to work with a personal “office kit” and a plaque that reads “Still Anal After All These Years.” Improbably, the two women become friends. Their friendship will survive not only Alison’s reentry into the seductive nocturnal realm of fashion, but also Veronica’s terrible descent into the then-uncharted realm of AIDS. The memory of their friendship will continue to haunt Alison years later, when she, too, is aging and ill and is questioning the meaning of what she experienced and who she became during that time. Masterfully layering time and space, thought and sensation, Mary Gaitskill dazzles the reader with psychological insight and a mystical sense of the soul’s hurtling passage through the world. A novel unlike any other, Veronica is a tour de force about the fragility and mystery of human relationships, the failure of love, and love’s abiding power. It shines on every page with depth of feeling and formal beauty.

30 review for Veronica

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    The Year of Women--in which I'm devoting 2021 to reading female authors only--continues with Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. I've read Bad Behavior, a collection of nine short stories by the author that threw me across the room. Some of her disassociated New Yorkers looking for connections in all sorts of places occupy rent controlled apartments in my head and have refused to leave. I had high hopes for this novel, published in 2005 and dealing with a female friendship in 1980s Manhattan, but th The Year of Women--in which I'm devoting 2021 to reading female authors only--continues with Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. I've read Bad Behavior, a collection of nine short stories by the author that threw me across the room. Some of her disassociated New Yorkers looking for connections in all sorts of places occupy rent controlled apartments in my head and have refused to leave. I had high hopes for this novel, published in 2005 and dealing with a female friendship in 1980s Manhattan, but threw in the towel at the 73% mark. The prose is jeweled and characters pop off the page but there's so much Hooptedoodle. Fatal Hooptedoodle. Alison scrapes by in San Mateo, accepting charity from a friend to clean his office, living with hepatitis and suffering chronic pain in her arm from a car accident. Alison remembers many things from the days when she was healthy and beautiful. She remembers growing up in suburban New Jersey and needing to escape. She remembers running away to San Francisco and living on sofas. She remembers fucking a catalog agent who launches her modeling career. She remembers working as a runway model in Paris and living the high life as the mistress of the most powerful agent in Europe. She remembers working as an office temp in Manhattan and meeting Veronica, who is twelve years older, brash and kooky and soon to die of AIDS. Gaitskill is a gifted writer and fills the novel with stellar Writing. When it was over, I went down the stairs like I was sliding down a chute and came out the other end of the rabbit hole. On the street, it was business as usual. There was no secret language of little complicated things. The fog had come in and the store windows had gone dull. It was cold and I was hungry. I found a diner, where I had a piece of blueberry pie with two creamers poured over it, then tea with sugar. Across from me, a meager girl with raw bare legs was crying against a big older woman in a rough coat. Flares kept going off in my body, rushes of strange, blank sensation, like bursts of electricity. Gregory Carlson had given me cab fare, but I kept it and took the bus. It soothed me to sit with so many people and to rock with the movement of the bus creaking up hill after hill. The flaring subsided and my body quieted; with listless wonder, I realized that the song had not really said "ossifier." It had said "hearts of fire," which I thought was not as good. Have you ever spent the day at a museum and got to a point where your brain needed a rest as much as your feet? When you can't see one more fascinating exhibit or one more priceless work of art? When it becomes stimulus overload? That's what reading Veronica felt like. Writing overload. Around the 30% mark, I started to get worn out. There's no story. Gaitskill's narrative is one long thread of "and then, and then, and then." Her prized writing is what John Steinbeck called Hooptedoodle, overly wordy prose that gets in the way of the story and he wishes he didn't have to read. I didn't either and that's why I gave up on the book. Gaitskill's characters left a mark on me. I could visualize Alison dragging herself along the side of the road, suffering from pain, asking to bum a cigarette and maybe if I had one to give her, she'd say, "I used to be healthy and beautiful once." I recognized in the narrator the type of person who's neither good or bad, who neither makes good decisions or bad decisions, who's blessed with both good luck and cursed with bad, but tends to wear people down and move on, struggling to live one day to the next. And any one or two paragraphs of the book are excellent. More highlights: My roommate came home and turned on the light, and--bang!--there was no mother and no demons. She clacked across the floor in her high heels, chatting and wiping her lipstick off. It was 4:00 in the morning, but when she saw how unhappy I was, she took out her tarot cards and told my fortune until it came out the way I wanted it. (Luxury. A feast. A kind, loyal woman. Transformation. Home of the true heart.) The sun rose; the enamel rooftops turned hot violet. I had just lain down on the couch to sleep when Alain called and told me I was going to be moving into an apartment on rue du Temple. The rent would be taken care of. Everything would be taken care of. We met for champagne and omelettes in a sunny bistro with bright-colored cars honking outside. He talked about the Rolling Stones and his six-year-old daughter, after whom he had named the agency Céleste. He asked if I wanted children. I said, "No." He grabbed my nose between two knuckles and squeezed it. The omelettes came heaped on white plates with blanched asparagus. He hadn't kissed me yet. He spread his slim legs and tucked a cloth napkin into his shirt with an air of appetite. I wanted badly to touch him. Inside its daintiness, the asparagus was acrid and deep. He said, "The first thing we need to do is get you a Swiss bank account. All the smart girls have one. First, you don't have to pay taxes that way. Then they invest it for you. Your money will double, triple. You should see!" I loved him and he obviously loved me. Love like in the James Bond movies, where the beautiful sexy girl loves James but tries to kill him anyway. We would love each other for a while and then part. Years later, I would ride down the street in a fancy car. I'd see Alain and he'd see me. I'd smile on my way past. Sexy spy music rubbed my ear like a tongue; it rubbed my crotch, too. We finished quickly and went to my new apartment. Another way to describe this novel is that it is like a runway show or a dog show. Or a drag race (with cars, not transvestites). Some people can spend hours looking at fashion models or dogs or cars (or drag queens) going in circles. If you love Writing, this novel may be for you. I could see myself reading an essay about Gaitskill's themes and prose and loving that essay, but like Hooptedoodle, I just don't want to have to read it. Mary Gaitskill was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1954. She's taught creative writing at UC Berkeley, the University of Houston, New York University, Brown University and Syracuse University. As of 2020, Gaitskill is a visiting professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College. In the event you missed it: Previous reviews in the Year of Women: Come Closer by Sara Gran

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    "What stood out, most loudly and violently were images of beauty so intense they were almost warped; some of these images were human. The fashion model seemed suddenly at the centre of the cultural world, inextricably wound in with art, music and cinema. These human images snagged my imagination, which twisted and turned reactively, picking and chewing over them, foolishly trying to get nourishment from them - for I wanted to be part of this vibrant and powerful world". Mary Gaitskill's 'Veronica "What stood out, most loudly and violently were images of beauty so intense they were almost warped; some of these images were human. The fashion model seemed suddenly at the centre of the cultural world, inextricably wound in with art, music and cinema. These human images snagged my imagination, which twisted and turned reactively, picking and chewing over them, foolishly trying to get nourishment from them - for I wanted to be part of this vibrant and powerful world". Mary Gaitskill's 'Veronica' is the intense and stylistic study of a friendship. Of love, pain, illness, and rejection set mostly in 1980's New York, it's a richly metaphorical tale, set against the nocturnal glamorous tyranny of the fashion modelling industry, and unfortunately for some, during an eruption of AIDS cases. There are moments when the world is at your feet, a dream come true. But also times when it's nothing more than a sleazy, degrading nightmare. One thing is certain, it pays well, even if it means having to spend days in the company of complete arrogant sexist assholes. For Allison and Veronica, both would experience the highs and lows of this hectic ruthless, and narcissistic lifestyle, both would find ways to grow stronger, but also succumb to weaknesses beyond their control. The novel could be looked at as a kind of exercise in tainted nostalgia. The narrator, Allison is in her 40's, cleaning offices for a living, as we go back through her thoughts to a time when she made it as a model. It all started in Paris, strutting her stuff on the catwalk and becoming the mistress of one of the city’s most successful modelling agents, she is still pretty young, and not exactly wise in all her decisions, losing a lot of money, falling in and out with acquaintances (some were never even worth knowing), before ending up back in the States, after her illicit relationship crashed and burned in the city of love. After a stint back with her parents and sisters, she heads off to The Big Apple looking for work. And it's here she meets Veronica whilst proofreading as a temp, a brash, head-strong former model, twenty years her senior, who shows unpredictable oddball behaviour, and dates a bisexual (Duncan) who she adores. Both seem mismatched, and Allison finds her at times deplorable, being appalled and fixated by Veronica in equal measures. So to call the novel an out and out buddy story is misleading. You never get the impression they are true friends, but each still leaves an impression on the other. In a strange way they seem the right fit, but you also feel a coldheartedness between them, like they wouldn't be bothered if they were never to meet again. After Veronica is diagnosed with HIV, she losing all those closest to her, Allison is drawn to her more than ever, but with a strong sense of pity, as she rapidly loses her health. On the whole the novel carries a sombre feeling throughout, portraying a brittle, echoing emptiness for it's two leading ladies, even though it's set in a booming New York, bursting at the seems with life and partying. The two main characters I eventually came to like, with all their issues and hiccups along the way, they were just two people trying to make their way in life, Gaitskill speaks an emotion that is easy to relate to. I was partially impressed with her richly drawn world, bringing to life the downtown art scene of the decade, for its beauty and glamour but also its fair share of grime and filth. She sees the whole picture with a larger canvas of almost viscerally aching melancholy, with depictions of some the most unsavoury elements of human interaction, big themes being nihilism, pity and rejection. The plot is somewhat beside the point (there isn't really one anyway) as its structure relies on a frenetic assemblage of vignettes flashing between the 80's and the present, and my biggest praise for Gaitskill, is it's humane and unsentimental approach, mixing a cocktail of brutal loneliness with moments of raw tenderness, and she gets down and dirty when the story needs to be, Mary is not afraid to articulate the anguished thoughts and feelings from which we prefer to turn away. But that's just life, and the pains and joys, beauty and ugliness that go with it. I found it an engaging and penetrating work, as soulful as it was sordid, with characters who were realistic carrying flaws and problems like the rest of us. There were a few moments that I found too uncomfortable and below the belt, and it might have helped being a tad longer to give more of a backstory to Veronica, who still felt like a bit of an enigma to me, but some of Gaitskill's sentences were just like, wow. Sincere, and oh so true.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kalisa Hyman

    Veronica by Mary Gaitskill came very highly recommended. It was on a lot of "best of" lists and I'd actually had it on my list of "To Read" for a while. This was a book that I couldn't finish and that is a real dilemma for me. When I'm not enjoying a book at all, I never know whether to quit or keep going. If I don't like it early on, I feel like I owe it to at least give it a chance, and keep reading. Eventually I'm half-way through and even if I still don't like it, I'm like, "Well, I'm half-w Veronica by Mary Gaitskill came very highly recommended. It was on a lot of "best of" lists and I'd actually had it on my list of "To Read" for a while. This was a book that I couldn't finish and that is a real dilemma for me. When I'm not enjoying a book at all, I never know whether to quit or keep going. If I don't like it early on, I feel like I owe it to at least give it a chance, and keep reading. Eventually I'm half-way through and even if I still don't like it, I'm like, "Well, I'm half-way through now...." But this one I finally just put down. It's the story of a women who had been a model in Europe, fell from grace, contracted Hepatitis, and met an older, slightly crazier woman named Veronica in NYC, who died from AIDS. The story wasn't really about Veronica, though, it was about the infected former-model. I think eventually, further toward the end, we would have learned more about how Veronica influenced the other girl's life, or something. Reviews praise the writing as "poetic" but I thought it was flowery and weird and hard to follow. I found myself skipping over whole paragraphs, which is why I eventually decided, "What's the point?"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I never read a better description about what music meant in a period than Veronica. Found myself writing whole passages in my notebook. Deserved the National book award. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Second Reading: I often read bits of this book for inspiration in my own writing, and recently I decided I needed to read it again in toto. For a long stretch I was avid for the language, the literary firepower of Gaitskill's grim story about an ex-model, currently broke and ill with hepatitis, cleaning office I never read a better description about what music meant in a period than Veronica. Found myself writing whole passages in my notebook. Deserved the National book award. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Second Reading: I often read bits of this book for inspiration in my own writing, and recently I decided I needed to read it again in toto. For a long stretch I was avid for the language, the literary firepower of Gaitskill's grim story about an ex-model, currently broke and ill with hepatitis, cleaning offices in the SF Bay Area for money and thinking about her life, her family, modeling in Paris and her unlikely friendship with a woman working the night shift as a word processor in New York, Veronica, a woman a generation older but having been similarly involved with questionable, fashionable people and damaged by them, contracting AIDS from her bisexual boyfriend in the 1980s. I love the grit of this book, and the density of its sinuous prose. When I teach a class in the art of the sentence, I use this book. "The more withered the reality, the more gigantic and tyrannical the dream. From the dark hole of a bar on a street of sickness and whores comes a teeming cloud of music sparkling with warmth and glamour: Sweet dreams of rhythm and magic--Look in and see the dark dead blurs slumped on stools." My favorite thing about the book are Gaitskill's insights on music and style. Here's a taste: "There is always a style suit or suits. When I was young, I used to think the suits were just what people were. When styles changed dramatically--people going barefoot, men with lon hair, women without bras--I thought the world had changed, that from then on everything would be different.... But then five years later it changed again. Again, the TV announced, "Now we're this instead of that! Now we walk like this, not like that!" Like people were all runny and liquid, running over this surface and that, looking for a container to hold everything in place, trying one thing, then the next, incessantly looking for the right one. Except the containers were only big enough for one personality trait at a time, you had to grab onto one trait, bring it out for a while, then put it back and pull out another one. For a while, "we" are loving, then we were alienated and angry, then ironic, then depressed. Although we were at war with terror, fashion magazines say we are sunny now. We wear bright colors and choose moral clarity. When I waiting to get a blood test last week, I read in a newsmagazine that terror must not change our sunny dispositions." Her insights are so good, her language is so brilliant, and yet, I'm finding myself stalling about 3/4 the way through this very short book--only 225 pages long. Even though it's absolutely brilliant, I feel I've gotten what I wanted from it. I sometimes feel this way about certain remarkable, lyric novels that are just like desserts that are too sweet, too much-- a spoonful is good but a whole piece becomes repulsive. I don't like flourless chocolate cake either. The language is superb, and the insights about life are bigger and come faster than almost any other writer I can imagine. But at around page 165, I'm sick of the narrator and the similarity of dreary, decadent mood and event. I'm restless for a denouement. We'll see if I can finish. >>>>>>>>> Was able to get over my page 165 hump and complete the book. So much worthwhile in those last 50 pages. After we got finished with her love relationship with some guy I never cared about, she returned to Veronica for the rest of the book. Aside from some clumsy plot tying ups (what exactly had Allison been doing after trying to recucitate her modeling career?) which didn't matter much, Gaitskill really dug down to find the reason we'd been reading--what was it Alison found in her friendship with the unlikely Veronica that made it stick to her through all this time. This is not at all sentimental, as what Gaitskill excels at is teasing out the subtle and unspoken emotions, not all of them (or even most of them) very generous, but they strike you as very true to life, the contrary feelings we hold when we are trying to help someone, or fail to help. The ending was lightly, carefully done, which I appreciated.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Krok Zero

    I bet I'd be really inspired by this novel if I were a fiction writer. Mary Gaitskill sees the world through no eyes but her own, and she communicates that worldview with an unyielding series of remarkably inventive metaphors and physical descriptions, interspersed with prose-poem reveries in which Gaitskill abandons standard literary psychology to focus entirely on texture. Heady stuff, and my inner creative-writing student is all fired up by it, galvanized. But alas, I am not a writer of ficti I bet I'd be really inspired by this novel if I were a fiction writer. Mary Gaitskill sees the world through no eyes but her own, and she communicates that worldview with an unyielding series of remarkably inventive metaphors and physical descriptions, interspersed with prose-poem reveries in which Gaitskill abandons standard literary psychology to focus entirely on texture. Heady stuff, and my inner creative-writing student is all fired up by it, galvanized. But alas, I am not a writer of fiction, merely a reader, with all the reader's selfish, automatic appetite for narrative conveyance. Gaitskill is less interested in moving from A to B than she is in wringing all the physical and emotional meaning out of A before collapsing, exhausted, onto B. Thus the book frustrated me as often as it thrilled me. Semi-coincidentally, this is the second novel I've read this summer about a fashion model. While the protagonists of both Look at Me and Veronica are changed by the fashion world, I can't say that either book is really about modeling. Egan uses it as a vehicle to explore themes of identity and culture; Gaitskill seems interested in it more abstractly, as one source of the memories that protagonist-narrator Alison dips in and out of throughout the book. Veronica is most interesting in the last 50-70 pages, when the relationship between Alison and the titular character—a brassy old dame, sure to be played by Patricia Clarkson in a theoretical movie version, who's dying of AIDS—comes to the forefront. In this section, Gaitskill eases up on the prose-poem digressions and the non-linearity, as if to reward the reader's hard work by finishing up with a relatively conventional two-hander character piece. And it is devastating. The reality of the '80s AIDS crisis is difficult to comprehend for those of us who are too young to have consciously lived through it. I'd never really given any serious thought to the matter until I saw HBO's great miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner's play Angels in America, and I thought about it again when I saw André Téchiné's great film The Witnesses. The genocidal cruelty of it, the fact that it was basically a holocaust wrought by nature to wipe out an already-persecuted group...one day you're a healthy young person living your life, and the next day you're dying of a mysterious disease and watching your friends die from it too, and meanwhile a big chunk of mainstream society is clucking its tongue and judging you for bringing it on yourself with your deviant behavior. It takes nuanced, sensitive art to help us understand the enormity of such a calamity, and I'd add Veronica to this shortlist of works that made AIDS real for me—all the more impressive since Gaitskill spends virtually no time dwelling on the physical nature of Veronica's illness. But the character herself, as seen through the memories of Alison, is vivid, and the act of watching Alison watch her die, rather than create distance, somehow makes the sadness of it more acute. But again, all this stuff happens toward the end of the book, and the preceding pages are an uphill battle. Sometimes the book even verges on self-parody, and I rolled my eyes at more than a few of Gaitskill's overripe abstractions. So to evaluate the gestalt of the book I can't bring myself to give it more than three stars. Maybe I'm too tough a grader. (Or maybe I just gravitate toward the three-star rating too often out of equivocation; just as I don't have the guts to give this book four stars, I didn't have the guts to give Mitchell's Ghostwritten the two-star rating I really felt it deserved.) But I do think the work it demands the reader put it in is, largely, worthwhile; as an example of the book at its singular best, I reproduce this fantastic sentence: "He moves like he's being yelled at by invisible people whom he hates but whom he basically agrees with."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    In Veronica, Alison, an aging model, whose body is wracked with pain and disease, looks back on her life in snapshots, as if she is flipping through a portfolio of memories. In her prime, Alison was beautiful and flawed. She related to the world with vanity, but also with a vague sadness and misunderstanding. She tells her stories as if her life is over in her 40s, which I guess for Alison, it is. The most telling of the flashbacks involve the title character, Veronica. Alison dislikes her and b In Veronica, Alison, an aging model, whose body is wracked with pain and disease, looks back on her life in snapshots, as if she is flipping through a portfolio of memories. In her prime, Alison was beautiful and flawed. She related to the world with vanity, but also with a vague sadness and misunderstanding. She tells her stories as if her life is over in her 40s, which I guess for Alison, it is. The most telling of the flashbacks involve the title character, Veronica. Alison dislikes her and begrudgingly befriends her, but after Veronia finds out she has AIDS, Alison, out of both pity and self-aggrandizement, becomes one of the few friends to help her through the disease. The friendship has a shiny, photograpic quality, even as it deals with the fleshy horrors of AIDS. And Veronica, though the title character, is quite one-dimensional, relfecting the shallowness of Alison's view of her. Gaitskill's prose is beautiful and haunting. The reader is forced to look at the ugly side of physical beauty and the end-of-life sadness of a life lived, literally, in vain. This is not an uplifting book, but one that sheds light our cultural obsession with youth and beauty like nothing else I've read. I highly recommend it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    I mean, I fight my middle age at every turn. But some days you're just cranky about things - younger writers, younger people. Younger subjects. Mary Gaitskill can bring out the crank in anyone. Or maybe just anyone my age. She is a terrific writer, and an adept wordsmith. And I sorta hated this book, and knew I should like it more. Our heroine, Alison, is a terminally jaded young woman - her mother left her father, she's been a model and lived in Europe and failed at everything and seen it all. I mean, I fight my middle age at every turn. But some days you're just cranky about things - younger writers, younger people. Younger subjects. Mary Gaitskill can bring out the crank in anyone. Or maybe just anyone my age. She is a terrific writer, and an adept wordsmith. And I sorta hated this book, and knew I should like it more. Our heroine, Alison, is a terminally jaded young woman - her mother left her father, she's been a model and lived in Europe and failed at everything and seen it all. Already she's a bit of a pill. Her modeling career, which was good but not brilliant, brought her into a number of sexual situations, which Gaitskill outlines with glacial sophistication, but not much heat. Eventually Alison falls out of favor, either because her look is over or because her married lover tires of her. Either way, she ends up back in New Jersey, in community college and living with her tiresome family. Upon moving to New York, she takes up temping while contemplating resuming her modeling career. While temping, she meets Veronica, a larger-than-life figure who is sadly familiar from literature - seize the day, love whom you will, laugh til it hurts. She's almost as shallow as Maude from Harold & Maude, and nearly as annoying. Veronica loved a gay man who gave her HIV, which will eventually kill her. (This isn't really a spoiler; Alison tells us this early on, as the book travels freely back and forth in time.) Oh, I don't know; I just found the whole thing annoying. It was also a finalist for the National Book Prize, clearly I am a grumpy growing-older-man with no patience for this stylish claptrap. Maybe it was a bad idea to read this during Thanksgiving weekend. Harrumph.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cornelia

    I read Veronica over the course of roughly 1.5 days (sleep, work, play also took up some time). It was addictive and mesmerizing and delirious and stunning and beautiful and expansive and breathless and depressing and hard and devastating and wonderful. Not everyone will love it and I've no trouble seeing why. Still, it really hit the spot for me. The structure is linear but with lots of flashbacks and sometimes the transition from present to past is so smooth that you don't realize you were in t I read Veronica over the course of roughly 1.5 days (sleep, work, play also took up some time). It was addictive and mesmerizing and delirious and stunning and beautiful and expansive and breathless and depressing and hard and devastating and wonderful. Not everyone will love it and I've no trouble seeing why. Still, it really hit the spot for me. The structure is linear but with lots of flashbacks and sometimes the transition from present to past is so smooth that you don't realize you were in the present day at the start of a paragraph, only to find yourself 2 decades in the past at the end of it. This isn't hard to follow if you can get into the flow of the writing and let it carry you. The best thing about this novel is that it's very much alive. Even when it deals with death and decay, it manages to hum and pulsate with aliveness. It's not nihilistic, it's not ironic, it's not flippant. It's guttural and sometimes it guts you. But, sometimes it caresses and warms you with the loveliness of fleeting moments, deep love and small joys. This is largely due to the the sharp and precise beauty of Gaitskill's prose. It's in your face when it needs to be and allows you to take a step back (without ever keeping you at arm's length) when that's necessary. It knocks the wind out of you, but lets you get it back before socking you again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    If you are looking for a dark, gritty book - look no further. Even though the story bounces from past to present in every chapter, once you get used to the writing style and can focus on the plot - watch out. The plot is intense, upsetting and wonderfully gloomy, all warped together. Lots to take in. For the most part it was an OK read. I enjoyed the darkness while catching the small glimpses of light. I did not enjoy the extra wordiness which constantly litters the narrative. I skimmed through If you are looking for a dark, gritty book - look no further. Even though the story bounces from past to present in every chapter, once you get used to the writing style and can focus on the plot - watch out. The plot is intense, upsetting and wonderfully gloomy, all warped together. Lots to take in. For the most part it was an OK read. I enjoyed the darkness while catching the small glimpses of light. I did not enjoy the extra wordiness which constantly litters the narrative. I skimmed through those paragraphs and felt like I didn't loose anything by doing that. I was not able to feel any connections with any of the characters. They were all one dimensional and boring. Would I ever read this again - NO. Would I recommend this to anyone - NO. Did I get anything out of reading this - YES. Interesting plot - Definitely. Just fell flat for me in so many other areas.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Constantine

    As far as the story itself, I thought it was lackluster and a bit pretentious. I appreciated what Gaitskill was trying to do, that she was trying to explore notions of superficiality and depth when it comes to personal interactions. I also liked that she gave her two main characters, these women who are by turns pitiful and infuriatingly self-destructive, a sense of dignity even though they were behaving in ways I found really sad and upsetting. But for the most part, I thought she was striving As far as the story itself, I thought it was lackluster and a bit pretentious. I appreciated what Gaitskill was trying to do, that she was trying to explore notions of superficiality and depth when it comes to personal interactions. I also liked that she gave her two main characters, these women who are by turns pitiful and infuriatingly self-destructive, a sense of dignity even though they were behaving in ways I found really sad and upsetting. But for the most part, I thought she was striving too much to be deep and thoughtful and literary. I don't really care for that in college-level creative writing classes, and I don't think I particularly care for it with National Book Award Winners. I mean, be deep and thoughtful and literary, but don't let me see you strain to attain those qualities. I don't want to see your effort. (BTW, this isn't the first Gaitskill I've read, but I don't recall the earlier stuff I've read of hers being quite so strained.) Where this book really shines, though, is in the writing. One of Gaitskill's conceits was to describe some sort of sensory experience using an adjective that appeals to a different sense, like the phrase "sequined music," for instance. It's a visual descriptor coupled with an auditory noun, yet it worked. I could just imagine the kind of glammed-out pop-rock her character was listening to. Perhaps it might have generated a different genre for you, but that's okay - the point is, it instantly brought something to mind, and it did so using unconventional word choices. As someone who has seriously taken up writing in the past few months - I'm talking several hours a day - my appreciation for a writer who can come up with ways to convey ideas and emotions without resorting to facile cliches is infinite. So I was really torn with this book. I enjoyed reading it, but again, primarily for the craftsmanship of the language. As far as the story itself, though, I felt it left a lot to be desired.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    I found this book so powerful that I couldn't write about it right away. I've had an ambivalent relationship to other work by Gaitskill (I'd only read her stories, not her other novel). I'm fascinated by it but sometimes repelled. The people and the situations often seemed ugly to the point that I wondered if an unconscious sadism wasn't at work. Then I'd wonder if that was only my squeamishness speaking. I also sometimes had trouble picturing her characters, who can be so contradictory that the I found this book so powerful that I couldn't write about it right away. I've had an ambivalent relationship to other work by Gaitskill (I'd only read her stories, not her other novel). I'm fascinated by it but sometimes repelled. The people and the situations often seemed ugly to the point that I wondered if an unconscious sadism wasn't at work. Then I'd wonder if that was only my squeamishness speaking. I also sometimes had trouble picturing her characters, who can be so contradictory that they don't even seem to cohere. Yet the writer's willingness to take on difficult subjects and difficult characters, and her strong prose, kept me interested in her work. Now comes Veronica. While I was reading the novel, I felt really down. Perhaps it was the mood I was already in, or perhaps it was the book itself--some of both, probably. Yet I couldn't stop reading. I had to know what was going to happen to everyone, and how it was going to happen. I had to get more of those sentences. The poetry was relentless, beautiful, almost painful. Every page just bursting with unbelievable images. It was like a fever dream--which I guess was appropriate, since the main character suffers from fevers. And I felt more clearly than in Gaitskill's stories that there really is a compassion at work. I admire the hell out of this novel, and think Gaitskill has done something new here.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I picked up Mary Gaitskill's 2006 novel Veronica as part of my ongoing disgust project, and indeed it is a rich depository of fascinating uses of disgust. Yet I find I can't bear to write simply about the disgust in the book, without addressing its greater appeal. I consciously avoid pronouncements about the Canon, which books are Great and which merely Good, or anything of the kind—and yet, I am beset by a strong desire that Veronica be studied, written about, appreciated, revisited. It is not I picked up Mary Gaitskill's 2006 novel Veronica as part of my ongoing disgust project, and indeed it is a rich depository of fascinating uses of disgust. Yet I find I can't bear to write simply about the disgust in the book, without addressing its greater appeal. I consciously avoid pronouncements about the Canon, which books are Great and which merely Good, or anything of the kind—and yet, I am beset by a strong desire that Veronica be studied, written about, appreciated, revisited. It is not a book for everyone, and not an easy read, but it is a book that will be important to some. And although I haven't written fiction or even songs in years, Veronica is the kind of book I wish I could write: utterly unsentimental, yet deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking, harsh and even crass at times but finely crafted and never cynical to the point of hopelessness. So this will be a discussion of those non-repulsive aspects of Veronica, to be followed in a few days by a discussion of Gaitskill's many and intriguing uses of disgust. This novel contains a cesspool, but I don't want to leave you with the impression that that's all it contains. No indeed, there's so much more. The surface plot elements revolve around the narrator Alison, a former model and pretty-girl who has lost her looks and her health, and has washed up, sick and in pain, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Now that she is ill and unattractive herself, she finds herself remembering a pivotal friendship—or at least, a friendship that has since become pivotal in her memory—from twenty years before, with a frumpy, provocative, and often obnoxious copy-editor named Veronica, who died in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But stop right there, because here are some things this novel is not "about." It is not "about" modeling, or the fashion industry, either to romanticize that world or to vilify it. The modeling world as Gaitskill portrays it is sleazy and destructive, sure, but not any more sleazy and destructive than Veronica's relationship with her boyfriend Duncan—and neither set of relationships is lacking in humanity, even faint appeal. Neither is the novel "about" HIV/AIDS, although it certainly evokes some of the terror and bigotry in the air as the first and second waves of infection were breaking. Veronica's setting, although in a sense specific—Gaitskill paints millennial Los Angeles and 1980s New York in visceral detail—doesn't come off as illustrating an exception, but instead as presenting a more universal picture. In other words, Alison is a sick and selfish person, not because she fell down the rabbit-hole of modeling and drug use, but because human beings are generally infirm and selfish, and despite this they go from day to day doing the best they can, occasionally making genuine yet flawed contact with other human beings. As opposed to so many meteoric-rise-and-fall stories which deal in "if only"s (if only she hadn't gotten hooked, if only he hadn't been drinking before getting in the car, if only their families had realized in time), Gaitskill presents struggle, compromise, and disintegration as inevitable, while at the same time according her characters total free will. There is nothing pre-ordained about Alison's choices to move to Paris or New York, to quit modeling or start up again, to ask Veronica to the movies. She suffers (and occasionally triumphs, and often slogs) because of her choices, but based on the evidence of the characters around her, she would have faced a similar ratio of suffering and triumph if she had made the opposite choices, as well. Take Alison's sister Sara, who is locked in an uncommunicative battle with her suburban setting and probable mental illness. Or Alison's father, who attempts to communicate his regrets via music to which nobody listens anymore. Or Veronica, who decides that her semi-abusive relationship is so much a part of herself that she doesn't stop sleeping with her partner even when she knows he has AIDS. All these characters, however glamorous they may or may not look from the outside, struggle with similar levels of alienation and distress, similar levels of discomfort with the world around them, and a similarly inevitable downward trajectory. Veronica is one of the least moralistic novels I've ever read. Only you can decide your own trajectory, it seems to say; but whatever trajectory you choose, it will be difficult; and whatever trajectory you choose, you will stumble and fall. This is the problem with Alison's father's refusal to feel compassion for the early AIDS sufferers based on the argument that "they had choices." Everyone makes choices, and everyone suffers for them; and since suffering implies no sin or judgment but only the inevitable process of living a life, our imperfect treatment of each other is all we have. And indeed that treatment will be imperfect, even if we are doing our best. Alison's relationship with Veronica is hardly a feel-good, Sex and the City version of female friendship. Alison is often self-congratulatory, often resentful; she often spews platitudes at Veronica and tells her what to do rather than listening to her. Her attempts at communication and communion often fall flat. Veronica, in turn, is often extremely grating, and only gets more so as she becomes ill. Gaitskill has much to say here about privilege—in this case, the privilege of the beautiful and the healthy person, to whom the experiences of the ill or unattractive are invisible until she too is sick or ugly. Looking back, Alison can see her own contempt and dismissiveness, her belief that she was in some way fundamentally different from Veronica—all things which were invisible to her at the time. I said it with disdain—like I didn't have to be embarrassed or make up something nice, because Veronica was nobody—like why should I care if an ant could see up my dress? Except I didn't notice my disdain; it was habitual by then. She noticed it, though. In one way, of course, all this is a huge downer. In another way, it's oddly reassuring. Because Gaitskill doesn't conclude, based on the suspect motives and often-unsuccessful results of attempts at human connection, that they are not worth making. Rather, despite Alison's recognition of her own bad behavior, of her own suspect agenda and Veronica's own obnoxiousness, her relationship with Veronica becomes a pivotal, and legitimately redemptive, experience. Even though most of the time she does a poor job at being Veronica's friend (and at general person-hood), her efforts to connect with Veronica still end up making a huge difference to both women—especially Alison herself. One of the concepts that struck me most forcibly in Veronica was this combination of the invisibility of the habitual or privileged, and the rapidity with which the outward forms of privilege (and who possesses privilege) can change. These two themes are addressed frequently in fiction, but I'm not sure how often I've seen them together. So often we see the entrenched privilege of race or sex that perpetuates itself from generation to generation, and there is certainly some of that here, in the form of homophobia and sexual exploitation of women. Yet there is also an acknowledgment of how slippery privilege can be; how it can be founded on trivialities and superficialities that we nonetheless mistake for core realities. Early on in the novel, Alison introduces the concept of a "style suit," while looking at a series of photographs taken by her friend John: Most of them don't have good bodies, but they are looking at the camera like they are happy to be naked, either just standing there or posing in the combination of relaxation and sexual nastiness that people had then. They all look like people whose time had given them a perfect style suit to wear: a set of postures and expressions that gave the right shape to what they had inside them, so that even naked, they felt clothed. [...] There is always a style suit, or suits. When I was young, I used to think these suits were just what people were. When styles changed dramatically—people going barefoot, men with long hair, women without bras—I thought the world had changed, that from then on everything would be different. It's understandable that I thought that; TV and newsmagazines acted like the world had changed, too. I was happy with it, but then five years later it changed again. This is more than just an observation about the fickleness of fashion. It's an examination of the ease with which people who have lucked into a well-fitting style suit assume that the privilege and ease they enjoy inheres naturally in their person-hood, and that as a result there must be something fundamentally wrong with those who don't fit into the dominant suit. And as Alison remarks above, it's similarly easy to believe that the suit reflects the way things substantively are—and that when those superficial elements change, it means a sea-change in peoples' inner beings as well. Yet even when the style suit favors looseness and naturalness, that preference itself can be very strict, and if any one suit actually does happen to fit someone's innate personality, the next, equally-strong suit is almost guaranteed to squeeze and discomfit them, transforming them into an outsider and even an object of pity or repulsion in the eyes of those who subconsciously believe the world to have progressed in a meaningful way. Together with the idea of invisibility, the style suit and the effects of seeing difference play into Gaitskill's many uses of disgust. More on Veronica in a few days; I'm far from done thinking and writing about this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Cain

    I could read this book again and again, just to bask in the language. The writer/psychiatrist Oliver Sacks talks about a patient he had, an artist who could look at the world and see red. Not the way that you and I can. For her, red would separate from the landscape and all the other colors would drop away. She could glance at a field and instantly see a single red flower in a meadow of green. The rest of us could see that flower too, if we looked for it, if it was pointed out, but most of our b I could read this book again and again, just to bask in the language. The writer/psychiatrist Oliver Sacks talks about a patient he had, an artist who could look at the world and see red. Not the way that you and I can. For her, red would separate from the landscape and all the other colors would drop away. She could glance at a field and instantly see a single red flower in a meadow of green. The rest of us could see that flower too, if we looked for it, if it was pointed out, but most of our brains would process that image entirely differently. We would see thousands of other things before we drilled down to that flower. By the time we got to it, it would be withered and brown. Mary Gaitskill finds words the way that woman found red. Like the best lyrical writers and poets she reinvents language and finds ways to express moments that are thrillingly unexpected. Reading this book made my heart beat faster. It's not for everyone. Readers who thrive on plot will tear their hair out. And those with delicate sensibilities should probably avoid Gaitskill altogether. But if you can find magic in the way a sentence is put together, this should be on your shelf.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

    I loved this book for the writing alone. It's musical in the way certain bodies are muscial, even if the notes are wrong. It's more than stream of consciousness, it's stream of unconsiousness, revilement, love, hate, music, poetry, debauchery, lust, loss. I did not really like the narrator character yet I couldn't put it down. I had no sympathy for her. Yet I envied her in a way. She was miserable and yet she didn't need to be. She didn't need to live the life she lived. She threw opportunities a I loved this book for the writing alone. It's musical in the way certain bodies are muscial, even if the notes are wrong. It's more than stream of consciousness, it's stream of unconsiousness, revilement, love, hate, music, poetry, debauchery, lust, loss. I did not really like the narrator character yet I couldn't put it down. I had no sympathy for her. Yet I envied her in a way. She was miserable and yet she didn't need to be. She didn't need to live the life she lived. She threw opportunities away and I hated her for that. I did enjoy Veronica. She was very New York, the way New York used to be. This is not a linear novel. It's all over the place and that makes you pay attention. I like strange and poetic writing. Too bad the main character was complicit in her own misery.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mindy

    When this was good it was really good. Then the author almost seemed to lose herself in the metaphors. This story takes place in the 80’s and 90’s. The dark side of the glamour and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Many parts are so brilliantly rendered and then others where you’re left scratching your head. All in all I’m glad I read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Maia

    I'm a true, dedicated, devoted fan of Mary Gaitskill--I will scout the 'Net for anything with her byline on it. Her words thrill me, her descriptions astound me, her observations leave me breathless. I've read every one of her stories several times. And even though I knew from the set-go that her first novel, Fat and Thin, isn't very good in terms of novel-writing (I actually think it fails), I still wanted to really, really like this book. Unlike Fat and Thin (which nearly everyone agrees did no I'm a true, dedicated, devoted fan of Mary Gaitskill--I will scout the 'Net for anything with her byline on it. Her words thrill me, her descriptions astound me, her observations leave me breathless. I've read every one of her stories several times. And even though I knew from the set-go that her first novel, Fat and Thin, isn't very good in terms of novel-writing (I actually think it fails), I still wanted to really, really like this book. Unlike Fat and Thin (which nearly everyone agrees did not work), Veronica has received rave reviews (at least in the US--have not read the Brit ones yet), so I was hopeful and expectant though, to be honest, I wasn't thrilled by the storyline or the concept. And i was right, because in the end, this novel that-isn't-a-novel (there you go, typical problems of so-called post modernism!) didn't grip me, left me cold, at times bored me, very often irritated me, and left me wondering just where had gone the awesome Mary Gaitskill voice I'd been following for years. I've come to the conclusion that she's really a short-story writer, not a novelist.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    VERONICA is many things, but what struck me first was its rebuttal to the trite truism that we have only the moment we live in, that all else is illusionary and the present is where life is found. The past, even the future but less so, inhabit every page of this wonderful novel by Mary Gaitskill, like Al Jaffee's fold-up back cover of Mad magazine creating the full image only from parts. That's the picture, everything at once, forever churning through our consciousness. If time is the fourth dim VERONICA is many things, but what struck me first was its rebuttal to the trite truism that we have only the moment we live in, that all else is illusionary and the present is where life is found. The past, even the future but less so, inhabit every page of this wonderful novel by Mary Gaitskill, like Al Jaffee's fold-up back cover of Mad magazine creating the full image only from parts. That's the picture, everything at once, forever churning through our consciousness. If time is the fourth dimension then there's no ruler for it, unmeasurable in its omnipresence. The characters lives are lived fragmented and sprinkled throughout the narrative, collecting like snow on a windowsill, visible only in volume that ironically doesn't obscure the view but clears it. All this is just window dressing, the frame for the story, which is sensory and beautiful and finally redemptive.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eveline Chao

    Really interesting book narrated by an aging former model. Love the author's ideas about dynamics between men and women, what people need and take from each other, and beauty vs. ugliness and how the two are intertwined and heighten each other. Find myself still thinking a lot about the book a week later. I've been going my whole adult life thinking I've read Mary Gaitskill before because I hear her mentioned so much, but when I started reading this I realized I hadn't, because her language is s Really interesting book narrated by an aging former model. Love the author's ideas about dynamics between men and women, what people need and take from each other, and beauty vs. ugliness and how the two are intertwined and heighten each other. Find myself still thinking a lot about the book a week later. I've been going my whole adult life thinking I've read Mary Gaitskill before because I hear her mentioned so much, but when I started reading this I realized I hadn't, because her language is so distinctive that I would have remembered it. Really visceral and somehow both spare and ornate at the same time. I guess because there is a ton of sensory description but the sentence construction is really simple and direct. The sensory description is so intense that at times I even thought it was nearing on maudlin and over-the-top, but somehow the narrator's sort of stark outlook undercuts the rococo-ness and the balance works in the end. I will note that the narration jumps around in time and place a lot (between the narrator's childhood, youth spent modeling in Paris then New York, her friendship with a theatrical "cat lady" type named Veronica, and the present day) and I found it confusing to follow for the first 1/3 to 1/2. But eventually I got really sucked into the world and the voice and was on board for anything. And even with the confusion, I don't actually think that as an editor I would have even changed any of it. Last thought is that the 5 stars is based on how much I enjoyed it and got out of it, but if I were rating based on how much I would recommend it to other people, I might actually go 3 stars because it was a very particular voice and reading experience that I think is probably not for everyone. But for me, am now excited to read pretty much every and anything else Gaitskill writes!

  19. 5 out of 5

    sofía

    I didn’t have the ambition to be an important person or a star. My ambition was to live like music. I didn’t think of it that way, but that’s what I wanted; it seemed like that’s what everybody wanted. I remember people walking around like they were wrapped in an invisible gauze of songs, one running into the next—songs about sex, pain, injustice, love, triumph, each song bursting with ideal characters popped out and fell back as the person walked down the street or rode the bus. + Nan Goldin, P I didn’t have the ambition to be an important person or a star. My ambition was to live like music. I didn’t think of it that way, but that’s what I wanted; it seemed like that’s what everybody wanted. I remember people walking around like they were wrapped in an invisible gauze of songs, one running into the next—songs about sex, pain, injustice, love, triumph, each song bursting with ideal characters popped out and fell back as the person walked down the street or rode the bus. + Nan Goldin, Phillipe H and Suzanne Kissing at Euthanasia Come, said the music, to joy and speed and secret endlessness, where everything tumbles together and attachments are not made of sad flesh. - I walked down a hallway crowded with gorgeous people. Lush arms, gold skin, fantastic flashing eyes, lips made up so big and full, they seemed mute—made not to talk but only to sense and receive. So much beauty, like bursts of violent colour hitting your eye together and mixing until they were mud. + Marilyn Minter, Cheshire - Again, the TV announced, “Now we're this instead of that! Now we walk like this, not like that!” Like people were all runny and liquid, running over this surface and that, looking for a container to hold everything in place, trying one thing, then the next, incessantly looking for the right one. + Barbara Kruger, I shop therefore I am

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Knox

    I approached this book wanting to like it (as Mary Gaitskill seems a fascinating person and writer), but much of the book was a struggle for me. She writes beautifully, in a poetic-lens prose, of the narrator's childhood, modeling stint in Paris, and returning in NYC, interspersed with her unusual friendship to Veronica and how it shaped both their lives. But the stream of conscious, shifting timelines, thoughts, and lack of driving plot took away from my reading experience. While there were often I approached this book wanting to like it (as Mary Gaitskill seems a fascinating person and writer), but much of the book was a struggle for me. She writes beautifully, in a poetic-lens prose, of the narrator's childhood, modeling stint in Paris, and returning in NYC, interspersed with her unusual friendship to Veronica and how it shaped both their lives. But the stream of conscious, shifting timelines, thoughts, and lack of driving plot took away from my reading experience. While there were often amazing scenes, moments of brilliance, and quite funny writing, it wasn't sustained enough for me to want to keep reading. Some of the best stuff comes near the end as the main character focuses on the evolution of her relationship with Veronica and what it means for the both of them. She'd often say what many think and it was this insight and lack of filter which endeared me to both of these characters. But I can see why Gaitskill may be a stronger short story writer, as this longer format didn't appeal too much to me as a reader.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Macey

    I almost didn't finish this book. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I'd spent so much time just to get half way. I felt like I fell down the rabbit hole with Alice, only Alice was an extremely unlikable character. Too many metaphors that made no sense to me or probably anyone but the author. Music plays a big part. Didn't understand how. The timeline goes from paragraph to paragraph skipping 20 years or more at a time. Sometimes every other sentence. The main character, not V I almost didn't finish this book. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I'd spent so much time just to get half way. I felt like I fell down the rabbit hole with Alice, only Alice was an extremely unlikable character. Too many metaphors that made no sense to me or probably anyone but the author. Music plays a big part. Didn't understand how. The timeline goes from paragraph to paragraph skipping 20 years or more at a time. Sometimes every other sentence. The main character, not Veronica by the way, is a miserable, hateful character and only cheers up in the last short paragraph. Also, the author's photo on the book cover is freaky. I hope she's TRYING to be ironic...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I'm a big fan of Gaitskill's but this novel was a disappointment. It was really odd (usually I like odd). I'd say it improved in the last third, but prior to that, it was way too hectic & jerky & claustrophobic (all at the same time)for me. Or something like that. I'm a big fan of Gaitskill's but this novel was a disappointment. It was really odd (usually I like odd). I'd say it improved in the last third, but prior to that, it was way too hectic & jerky & claustrophobic (all at the same time)for me. Or something like that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I really did not like this author or book. I struggled to read the first few chapters and found it very offensive. Others may not object to the language or content, but I did. I guess I'm finally old enough to put down a book I don't like! I really did not like this author or book. I struggled to read the first few chapters and found it very offensive. Others may not object to the language or content, but I did. I guess I'm finally old enough to put down a book I don't like!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Worst book I ever read. Depressing and pitiful.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Ugh. Read 107 pages, had to quit. The writing and storyline are not cohesive and none of the characters are engaging.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alisa Ridout

    Poetry prose is Veronica. Mary Gaitskill doesn’t write. She transcends. Raw, real, severe, cerebral, Gaitskill’s style haunts my world long after I’m done reading it for the morning. I’m running ahead of my reading schedule, which is good. I’m exactly halfway through the 257 page novel. These last few days I have stopped moving ahead in the story to revisit noteworthy passages. Upon dissection, it became evident to me how perplexing and magnificent the poetic quality of Mary Gaitskill’s words tr Poetry prose is Veronica. Mary Gaitskill doesn’t write. She transcends. Raw, real, severe, cerebral, Gaitskill’s style haunts my world long after I’m done reading it for the morning. I’m running ahead of my reading schedule, which is good. I’m exactly halfway through the 257 page novel. These last few days I have stopped moving ahead in the story to revisit noteworthy passages. Upon dissection, it became evident to me how perplexing and magnificent the poetic quality of Mary Gaitskill’s words truly are. Since discovering this visceral style, I’m opening to experiment in my own writing projects. It’s difficult-if not impossible-to mimic Gaitskill’s methods of unconscious abstraction. For example, on page 42, Gregory Carson, modelling agent, seduces Alison, he’s done shooting Alison’s initial go-see Polaroid’s and proceeds to seduce Alison, leaving no room for discussion. “Here it was. Ossifier. Miss Field floated in a bright, distant oval. The chocolate milk was delicious. …we got sucked into the electrical buzzer together.” That is sex to Alison. Ossifier, Miss Fields, chocolate milk, electrical sucking buzzers is Alison’s thoughts on screwing her agent for a modelling career fix. Brilliant on some levels, debasing on others. Alison is eighteen, beautiful, a run-a-way-by choice, not because her family hates her, in fact she comes from a healthy, loving family- nonetheless she leaves home to experience the world on her on and as a high school dropout. She is shallow and like so many young girls, her world revolves around her own vanity. She’s open to whatever the world has to offer: sex, drugs, glamour, travel, every man eating from her hands for sex. It’s a romping good time for everyone, except Veronica, surfacing throughout the narrative by Alison’s referencing her AIDS infliction and dying-via flashbacks. The entire first half is middle-aged Alison flashing back to the glory of her youth spent modelling, doing drugs, sexual encounters with many strange partners, tragedy in sues, leaving Alison addicted to codeine, dying of Hepatitis, working odd jobs doing menial labour. I thoroughly enjoy the roller-coaster like energy of Veronica. The characters resemble people I have known throughout my life. I have family with Hepatitis and it is scary to think of the liver failing without another option to live. Alison is a fascinating woman, she proves to be strong, more so than the other girls at the French modelling agency in Paris where she loses fifty million dollars of salary to a disgruntled boss and lover. He squandered her earnings away into a Swiss bank account, being she was only a child, at eighteen. She didn’t know any better, she trusted him when he said she reminded him of his daughter, slept with her, cheated on her, supported her drug habit, took her to sadistic-masochistic sex clubs, only to lock her out of her apartment, penniless, jobless, worthless, she returns home to New Jersey and starts to attend GED courses, finally going to community college to study poetry. It is time to heal as a family but she finds herself resenting everyone she used to love. Her cruelty to them all makes her hard, mean, ugly, is it any reason she grows into a bitter drug addict cleaning strip malls for minimum wage?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Daisy

    After I finished Two Girls, Fat and Thin, I immediately went to the library to check this one out. Like in the previous novel, the story focuses on the friendship between two women. One is a model. The other is a middle-aged woman diagnosed with AIDS in the epidemic of the 80s. It's hard not to see how Gaitskill is trying to highlight the similarities in the female experience. The ideas of beauty, youth, ugliness and love are not only totally upended, but sometimes exposed as something not even After I finished Two Girls, Fat and Thin, I immediately went to the library to check this one out. Like in the previous novel, the story focuses on the friendship between two women. One is a model. The other is a middle-aged woman diagnosed with AIDS in the epidemic of the 80s. It's hard not to see how Gaitskill is trying to highlight the similarities in the female experience. The ideas of beauty, youth, ugliness and love are not only totally upended, but sometimes exposed as something not even real. Great book, worth reading. I will note that people who don't go in for "modern fiction" will be wildly frustrated by the lack of linear plot. I warned you!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Gallaway

    Beautifully written story of a middle-aged woman looking back on her life/career as a fashion model and her unlikely friendship with a quirky office temp named Veronica who dies of AIDS. (Not a spoiler.) Captures the pain and intensity of remembering a once-vibrant life (at least superficially) without nostalgia. Amazing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    this book's full of ugly feelings brutal to recognize oneself within; also a lot of hope/beauty. not that ugly feelings need redemption via hope/beauty, just that it's an emotionally comprehensive novel. i had a hard time getting into it at first but then somehow it was everything. as a character, veronica stuns. <3 this book's full of ugly feelings brutal to recognize oneself within; also a lot of hope/beauty. not that ugly feelings need redemption via hope/beauty, just that it's an emotionally comprehensive novel. i had a hard time getting into it at first but then somehow it was everything. as a character, veronica stuns. <3

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wes

    Suffocating is rarely a compliment but Veronica's stale atmosphere is its greatest strength. While largely a work interested in the darker corners into which loneliness can lead us, it isn't without its humor, redemption, and grace. Suffocating is rarely a compliment but Veronica's stale atmosphere is its greatest strength. While largely a work interested in the darker corners into which loneliness can lead us, it isn't without its humor, redemption, and grace.

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