A couple weeks off has meant time for indulgent reading. Usually I have a pile of scripts, galleys and newspapers that reaches the ceiling but what, I ask, is more luxurious than REreading? And so here I've been, pouring through Mary Gaitskill's Bad Behavior. Not only are these twisted jewels as relevant as they were the first time I devoured them, they're also as relevant to the life of an NYC writer as they were when they were published in 1988-- jealousy, narcissism, sexual longing and the dark ways we satiate it. Mary G gets it all, and makes us guffaw with recognition in the process.
I'm a big fan of literary memoirs about difficult childhoods (see also: Mary Karr's The Liar's Club; Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), and Chris Offutt's My Father the Pornographer is a searing entry in the field. Offutt's father, Andrew, wrote hundreds of pornographic novels over several decades. Andrew was an alcoholic, who isolated his wife and four children in rural Kentucky while maintaining complete, authoritarian dominion over their rambling house. Offutt the oldest son, admired, loved and feared his dad—the book is brimming with compassion, but Offutt doesn't gloss over any of the awful things his dad did. He talks about the terrible repercussions of his father's treatment in a way that is clear and lyrical without being melodramatic. It's definitely not a light read, but it's an important one.