365 Days of Women Writers

Women writers only – no boys allowed

The Other Place by Mary Gaitskill

with one comment

It isn’t often I get annoyed a story exists – sure many, many stories are not very good, but that’s ok, I don’t have to read them, and while sometimes I might be annoyed I spent time reading them, I rarely want them erased from existence.

“The Other Place” by Mary Gaitskill is one I’d like to have erased. It is a deliberately creepy story of a middle-aged man who fantasizes about hurting women and sees the signs of the same in his son.

Mostly, though, he draws pictures of men holding guns. Or men hanging from nooses. Or men cutting up other men with chainsaws—in these pictures there are no faces, just figures holding chainsaws and figures being cut in two, with blood spraying out.

My wife, Marla, says that this is fine, as long as we balance it out with other things—family dinners, discussions of current events, sports, exposure to art and nature. But I don’t know. Douglas and I were sitting together in the living room last week, half watching the TV and checking e-mail, when an advertisement for a movie flashed across the screen: it was called “Captivity” and the ad showed a terrified blond girl in a cage, a tear running down her face. Doug didn’t speak or move. But I could feel his fascination, the suddenly deepening quality of it. And I don’t doubt that he could feel mine. We sat there and felt it together.

He’s a loathesome sociopathic character who hides behind a façade of normalcy, but by conveying the story as his inner monologue we know how far from normal he is.

And that’s where my problem lies with the story. It focuses on the sensational, the outlier, the guy who is so fucked up that allows society to ignore the violence against women that’s committed every day by normal guys. (I think Gaitskill intended to do the opposite – hint at the darkness that lies in all of us but this guy is too far off the map of normalcy for that to work.)

This is something we see all the time in real life – the most recent example being the house bill (H.R. 3) which attemped to redefine what qualified for rape only into acts which involved violence or the threat of violence. Like the myth that most murders are committed by strangers, there are people who like the delusion of believing real rapes are committed by the man in the ski-mask hiding in the bushes with a gun and not by the nice fellow you went on a date with and asked in to have coffee or a drink and didn’t take no for an answer.

I don’t need to have it reinforced in fiction.

(sorry, been swamped at work – I hope in a week posting will become more regular again.)

Written by Chance

March 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] The Other Place by Mary Gaitskill « 365 Days of Women Writers. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s