Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mary Gaitskill, Veronica, 2005.

Veronica was another book I decided to read based on its review in Salon. I didn’t really care for it. Part of my dislike was the overly complex structure of the plot: the story weaves the present and the past, both dreams and memoirs, of two characters told through the eyes of one of them. As Alison tries to make sense of the life she has lived, she tries especially to make sense of her friendship with Veronica.
The book was intriguing for me; despite disliking it, I couldn’t stop reading it because it tries to make sense of the dignity of the principal characters. Gaitskill draws the minor characters sharply: they exist so clearly in the flaws that Alison perceives in them. The descriptions are equally vivid. The reflections on life are stark and interesting, though I often disagreed with them. The omnipresent sex is necessary and harsh, never uplifting: love makes little sense when it ever appears in the world Gaitskill draws.
A representative excerpt:
…there was a soft dark place where prayer had been and sometimes my mind wandered into it. Sometimes this place was restful and kind. Sometimes it was not. Sometimes when I went into it, I felt like a little piece of flesh chewed by giant teeth. I felt that everyone was being chewed. To ease my terror, I pictured beautiful cows with liquid eyes eating acres of grass with their great loose jaws. I said to myself, Don’t be afraid. Everything is meant to be chewed, and also to keep making more flesh to be chewed. Maybe sometimes there is pity for the chewed thing, and that is what we pray to. Maybe sometimes there is love. (165)