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Gaitskilling My Buzz

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 22, 2006 5:20PM

Veronica_9_22.jpgMost of the time we still feel like we’re sixteen. We still have no answers, we’re just as awkward with the opposite sex, and we continue to wish someone would ask us to prom.

But reading Mary Gaitskill’s novel “Veronica” has put us in our place. It’s a really wonderful book, but we can’t help being a little annoyed with Ms. Gaitskill (also known for writing the short story “Secretary,” made into the movie of the same name) for making us feel old.

“Veronica” is the story of Annie, who leaves home as a teenager and becomes a model. Her experiences in Paris and New York have her attending all the best parties, doing all the best drugs, and doing all the best (and worst) men. The story is narrated by Annie in her 50’s, with the knowledge that everything in her youth has repercussions for her today. Annie is now struggling with Hepatitis C, and her unlikely friend Veronica has passed away from AIDS.

Annie thinks about her youth, “We were stupid for disrespecting the limits placed before us. For tearing up the fabric of songs wise enough to acknowledge limits. For making songs of rape and death and then disappearing inside them. For trying to go everywhere and know everything. We were stupid, spoiled and arrogant. But we were right too. We were right to do it even so.”

The older Annie is detached, her body is broken, her mind is tired, and her memories are mostly painful. Annie doesn’t berate herself for her previous actions, but has a reticent acceptance of the consequences. In the end, we felt just as tired as Annie, our bodies catching up with our stupid decisions, and our warm beds looking more welcoming every day.

You can see Mary Gaitskill as part of the Writers on the Record series on Sun., 9/24 at 12:00 p.m. at Lookingglass Theater, 821 N. Michigan Ave. Tickets are free, but reservations are required. (773) 935-1544.