Oppositions: Selected Essays

Mary Gaitskill

Oppositions: Selected Essays
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Oppositions: Selected Essays

Mary Gaitskill

Nuanced, daring and tender, these essays from the celebrated author of This is Pleasure and Bad Behavior, consistently fascinate and provoke. Mary Gaitskill takes on a broad range of topics from Nabokov to horse-riding with her unique ability to tease out unexpected truths and cast aside received wisdom.

Written with startling grace and linguistic flair, and delving into the complicated nature of love and the responsibility we owe to the people we encounter, the work collected here inspires the reader to think beyond their first responses to life and art. Spanning thirty years of Mary Gaitskill’s writing, and covering subjects as diverse as Dancer in the Dark, the world of Charles Dickens and the Book of Revelation with her characteristic blend of sincerity and wit, Oppositions is never less than enthralling.

‘Mary Gaitskill is willing to think about the problematic with complexity and humanity, and without taking sides or engaging in all the fashionable moral hectoring that passes for serious thought these days.’ - Eimear McBride 


In The Observer’s review of Mary Gaitskill’s new book, Oppositions, Abhrajyoti Chakraborty writes: ‘Gaitskill is gloriously trenchant, but never gimmicky, in these unsparing essays’. There it was, the word I had been futilely casting about for in my own attempts to articulate my thoughts on this new collection by the masterful Mary Gaitskill: trenchant – vigorous or incisive in expression or style. This single word, for me, perfectly encapsulates Gaitskill’s writing, and especially the selection of essays here.

Gaitskill has never shied away from taking the most controversial and complex of topics, throwing them open, twisting them this way and that, and exploring them from every angle. She is completely fearless in putting forth opinions that she knows will be met with fierce opposition, even derision, and challenges those who insist she is wrong. No subject is taboo. Oppositions lays bare her thoughts and feelings on everything from how we define sexual assault, the public’s perception of women whose husbands have been unfaithful, Talking Heads, Charles Dickens, Linda Lovelace, Gone Girl, Nabokov and Obama’s 2008 election campaign. Oh, and a run-in with a bridge in Russia.

I have long admired Gaitskill’s writing, both her fiction and nonfiction. Truth be told though, it is always her essays that I look forward to most. Gaitskill never fails to make me question myself – do I believe what I think I believe? Why do I believe it? Oppositions offers the reader some genuinely funny moments and some genuinely uncomfortable ones. At one point it made me quite angry. It made me sad too. But most importantly, it made me think. In a world that can now no longer anticipate new writing from the great bell hooks or the unsurpassed Joan Didion, Gaitskill’s words feel more valuable than ever.

Tye Cattanach is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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