In 1988 I published my first book, a story collection titled Bad Behavior.  I wrote the book in part because I was trying to understand/interpret the world and trying to find a way into it.  For me “the world” was New York City which I loved or at least liked a lot more than where I’d come from, Michigan.  I liked that I could be invisible in this huge place full of such various people, to be quiet and just take it in; because I was young and quiet, people would say and do all kinds of things around me that were amazing to watch and hear. 

But I wanted to do more than observe, I wanted very badly to connect with this world, to be in it.  I could go out and sometimes get into the club but then I didn’t know how to talk to people once I was there.  People would walk up to you and say things that, even when they were polite, felt like challenges to some kind of duel!  For me it required a lot of courage, especially given that I was usually alone.  I often felt baffled and humiliated but I still kept trying.

Then I wrote this book and suddenly I was connected, so connected, not only to the broader society but to people’s inmost thoughts and feelings.  It was wonderful, awful and confusing.  But mostly wonderful.  I had not only helped myself; incredibly, I had helped other people understand and connect. Not everybody! But some and “some” was enough.

Me, New York City, 1987

         Many years and eight books later:  I have never been on social media because it is hard for me to understand or trust.  It’s like a club where you can’t see anyone, can’t hear their voices.  You can’t just be quiet and watch, because there is nothing to see but typed words; you can’t see or sense the person they come from.  So being here too requires a lot of courage.   But I still want to do it for the same reason I started writing a long time ago; to connect with people.  Again, I’m negotiating a world that I don’t understand and I’m guessing a lot of you don’t either; I’m hoping we can figure something out together and enrich each other doing it.      

Me with T.K. Madden’s crew at Housing Works, 2015

I’ll be posting twice a week, on subjects from fiction to incel phenomenon to gorgeous worms at the bottom of the ocean. I’ll also be talking writers and other people trying to figure things out.


People

Mary Gaitskill
I write and talk to people. I write fiction and non.