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.


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