review Veronica A Novel 103

Veronica A Novel

characters Veronica A Novel

S New York One is a young model stumbling away from the wreck of her career the other an eccentric middle aged office temp Over the next twenty years their friendship will encompass narcissism and tenderness exp In Veronica Alison an aging model whose body is wracked with pain and d

summary ✓ eBook or Kindle ePUB ☆ Mary Gaitskill

A finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award here is an evocative novel about female friendship in the glittering 1980sAlison and Veronica meet amid the nocturnal glamour of 1980 I bet I'd be really inspired by this novel if I were a fiction writer M Course of Action: Out of Harm's Way\Any Time, Any Place really inspired by this novel if I were a fiction writer M

Mary Gaitskill ☆ 3 read

Loitation and self sacrifice love and mortality Moving seamlessly from present and past casting a fierce yet compassionate eye on two eras and their fixations the result is a work of timeless depth and moral pow I found this book so powerful that I couldn't write about it right away The Cowboy Meets His Match result is a work of timeless depth and moral pow I found this book so powerful that I couldn't write about it Daughters of the Lake right away

10 thoughts on “Veronica A Novel

  1. says:

    What stood out most loudly and violently were images of beauty so intense they were almost warped; some of these images were human The fashion model seemed suddenly at the centre of the cultural world inextricably wound in with art music and cinema These human images snagged my imagination which twisted and turned reactively picking and chewing over them foolishly trying to get nourishment from them for I wanted to be part of this vibrant and powerful worldMary Gaitskill's 'Veronica' is the intense and stylistic study of a friendship Of love pain illness and rejection set mostly in 1980's New york it's a richly metaphorical tale set against the nocturnal glamorous tyranny of the fashion modelling industry and unfortunately for some during an eruption of AIDS cases There are moments when the world is at your feet a dream come true But also times when it's nothing than a sleazy degrading nightmare One thing is certain it pays well even if it means having to spend days in the company of complete arrogant sexist assholes For Allison and Veronica both would experience the highs and lows of this hectic ruthless and narcissistic lifestyle both would find ways to grow stronger but also succumb to weaknesses beyond their controlThe novel could be looked at as a kind of exercise in tainted nostalgia The narrator Allison is in her 40's cleaning offices for a living as we go back through her thoughts to a time when she made it as a model It all started in Paris strutting her stuff on the catwalk and becoming the mistress of one of the city’s most successful modelling agents she is still pretty young and not exactly wise in all her decisions losing a lot of money falling in and out with acuaintances some were never even worth knowing before ending up back in the States after her illicit relationship crashed and burned in the city of love After a stint back with her parents and sisters she heads off to The Big Apple looking for work And it's here she meets Veronica whilst proofreading as a temp a brash head strong former model twenty years her senior who shows unpredictable oddball behaviour and dates a bisexual Duncan who she adores Both seem mismatched and Allison finds her at times deplorable being appalled and fixated by Veronica in eual measures So to call the novel an out and out buddy story is misleading You never get the impression they are true friends but each still leaves an impression on the other In a strange way they seem the right fit but you also feel a coldheartedness between them like they wouldn't be bothered if they were never to meet again After Veronica is diagnosed with HIV she losing all those closest to her Allison is drawn to her than ever but with a strong sense of pity as she rapidly loses her health On the whole the novel carries a sombre feeling throughout portraying a brittle echoing emptiness for it's two leading ladies even though it's set in a booming New York bursting at the seems with life and partying The two main characters I eventually came to like with all their issues and hiccups along the way they were just two people trying to make their way in life Gaitskill speaks an emotion that is easy to relate to I was partially impressed with her richly drawn world bringing to life the downtown art scene of the decade for its beauty and glamour but also its fair share of grime and filth She sees the whole picture with a larger canvas of almost viscerally aching melancholy with depictions of some the most unsavoury elements of human interaction big themes being nihilism pity and rejection The plot is somewhat beside the point there isn't really one anyway as its structure relies on a frenetic assemblage of vignettes flashing between the 80's and the present and my biggest praise for Gaitskill is it's humane and unsentimental approach mixing a cocktail of brutal loneliness with moments of raw tenderness and she gets down and dirty when the story needs to be Mary is not afraid to articulate the anguished thoughts and feelings from which we prefer to turn away But that's just life and the pains and joys beauty and ugliness that go with it I found it an engaging and penetrating work as soulful as it was sorid with characters who were realistic carrying flaws and problems like the rest of us There were a few moments that I found too uncomfortable and below the belt and it might have helped being a tad longer to give of a backstory to Veronica who still felt like a bit of an enigma to me but some of Gaitskill's sentences were just like wow Sincere and oh so truePondered on giving three stars but have upped it to four on deeper reflection

  2. says:

    Veronica by Mary Gaitskill came very highly recommended It was on a lot of best of lists and I'd actually had it on my list of To Read for a while This was a book that I couldn't finish and that is a real dilemma for me When I'm not enjoying a book at all I never know whether to uit or keep going If I don't like it early on I feel like I owe it to at least give it a chance and keep reading Eventually I'm half way through and even if I still don't like it I'm like Well I'm half way through now But this one I finally just put down It's the story of a women who had been a model in Europe fell from grace contracted Hepatitis and met an older slightly crazier woman named Veronica in NYC who died from AIDS The story wasn't really about Veronica though it was about the infected former model I think eventually further toward the end we would have learned about how Veronica influenced the other girl's life or something Reviews praise the writing as poetic but I thought it was flowery and weird and hard to follow I found myself skipping over whole paragraphs which is why I eventually decided What's the point?

  3. says:

    I bet I'd be really inspired by this novel if I were a fiction writer Mary Gaitskill sees the world through no eyes but her own and she communicates that worldview with an unyielding series of remarkably inventive metaphors and physical descriptions interspersed with prose poem reveries in which Gaitskill abandons standard literary psychology to focus entirely on texture Heady stuff and my inner creative writing student is all fired up by it galvanized But alas I am not a writer of fiction merely a reader with all the reader's selfish automatic appetite for narrative conveyance Gaitskill is less interested in moving from A to B than she is in wringing all the physical and emotional meaning out of A before collapsing exhausted onto B Thus the book frustrated me as often as it thrilled me Semi coincidentally this is the second novel I've read this summer about a fashion model While the protagonists of both Look at Me and Veronica are changed by the fashion world I can't say that either book is really about modeling Egan uses it as a vehicle to explore themes of identity and culture; Gaitskill seems interested in it abstractly as one source of the memories that protagonist narrator Alison dips in and out of throughout the book Veronica is most interesting in the last 50 70 pages when the relationship between Alison and the titular character—a brassy old dame sure to be played by Patricia Clarkson in a theoretical movie version who's dying of AIDS—comes to the forefront In this section Gaitskill eases up on the prose poem digressions and the non linearity as if to reward the reader's hard work by finishing up with a relatively conventional two hander character piece And it is devastatingThe reality of the '80s AIDS crisis is difficult to comprehend for those of us who are too young to have consciously lived through it I'd never really given any serious thought to the matter until I saw HBO's great miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner's play Angels in America and I thought about it again when I saw André Téchiné's great film The Witnesses The genocidal cruelty of it the fact that it was basically a holocaust wrought by nature to wipe out an already persecuted groupone day you're a healthy young person living your life and the next day you're dying of a mysterious disease and watching your friends die from it too and meanwhile a big chunk of mainstream society is clucking its tongue and judging you for bringing it on yourself with your deviant behavior It takes nuanced sensitive art to help us understand the enormity of such a calamity and I'd add Veronica to this shortlist of works that made AIDS real for me—all the impressive since Gaitskill spends virtually no time dwelling on the physical nature of Veronica's illness But the character herself as seen through the memories of Alison is vivid and the act of watching Alison watch her die rather than create distance somehow makes the sadness of it acuteBut again all this stuff happens toward the end of the book and the preceding pages are an uphill battle Sometimes the book even verges on self parody and I rolled my eyes at than a few of Gaitskill's overripe abstractions So to evaluate the gestalt of the book I can't bring myself to give it than three stars Maybe I'm too tough a grader Or maybe I just gravitate toward the three star rating too often out of euivocation; just as I don't have the guts to give this book four stars I didn't have the guts to give Mitchell's Ghostwritten the two star rating I really felt it deserved But I do think the work it demands the reader put it in is largely worthwhile; as an example of the book at its singular best I reproduce this fantastic sentence He moves like he's being yelled at by invisible people whom he hates but whom he basically agrees with

  4. says:

    In Veronica Alison an aging model whose body is wracked with pain and disease looks back on her life in snapshots as if she is flipping through a portfolio of memories In her prime Alison was beautiful and flawed She related to the world with vanity but also with a vague sadness and misunderstanding She tells her stories as if her life is over in her 40s which I guess for Alison it is The most telling of the flashbacks involve the title character Veronica Alison dislikes her and begrudgingly befriends her but after Veronia finds out she has AIDS Alison out of both pity and self aggrandizement becomes one of the few friends to help her through the disease The friendship has a shiny photograpic uality even as it deals with the fleshy horrors of AIDS And Veronica though the title character is uite one dimensional relfecting the shallowness of Alison's view of her Gaitskill's prose is beautiful and haunting The reader is forced to look at the ugly side of physical beauty and the end of life sadness of a life lived literally in vain This is not an uplifting book but one that sheds light our cultural obsession with youth and beauty like nothing else I've read I highly recommend it

  5. says:

    I read Veronica over the course of roughly 15 days sleep work play also took up some time It was addictive and mesmerizing and delirious and stunning and beautiful and expansive and breathless and depressing and hard and devastating and wonderful Not everyone will love it and I've no trouble seeing why Still it really hit the spot for meThe structure is linear but with lots of flashbacks and sometimes the transition from present to past is so smooth that you don't realize you were in the present day at the start of a paragraph only to find yourself 2 decades in the past at the end of it This isn't hard to follow if you can get into the flow of the writing and let it carry you The best thing about this novel is that it's very much alive Even when it deals with death and decay it manages to hum and pulsate with aliveness It's not nihilistic it's not ironic it's not flippant It's guttural and sometimes it guts you But sometimes it caresses and warms you with the loveliness of fleeting moments deep love and small joys This is largely due to the the sharp and precise beauty of Gaitskill's prose It's in your face when it needs to be and allows you to take a step back without ever keeping you at arm's length when that's necessary It knocks the wind out of you but lets you get it back before socking you again

  6. says:

    I mean I fight my middle age at every turn But some days you're just cranky about things younger writers younger people Younger subjects Mary Gaitskill can bring out the crank in anyone Or maybe just anyone my age She is a terrific writer and an adept wordsmith And I sorta hated this book and knew I should like it Our heroine Alison is a terminally jaded young woman her mother left her father she's been a model and lived in Europe and failed at everything and seen it all Already she's a bit of a pill Her modeling career which was good but not brilliant brought her into a number of sexual situations which Gaitskill outlines with glacial sophistication but not much heat Eventually Alison falls out of favor either because her look is over or because her married lover tires of her Either way she ends up back in New Jersey in community college and living with her tiresome familyUpon moving to New York she takes up temping while contemplating resuming her modeling career While temping she meets Veronica a larger than life figure who is sadly familiar from literature seize the day love whom you will laugh til it hurts She's almost as shallow as Maude from Harold Maude and nearly as annoying Veronica loved a gay man who gave her HIV which will eventually kill her This isn't really a spoiler; Alison tells us this early on as the book travels freely back and forth in timeOh I don't know; I just found the whole thing annoying It was also a finalist for the National Book Prize clearly I am a grumpy growing older man with no patience for this stylish claptrap Maybe it was a bad idea to read this during Thanksgiving weekend Harrumph

  7. says:

    If you are looking for a dark gritty book look no further Even though the story bounces from past to present in every chapter once you get used to the writing style and can focus on the plot watch out The plot is intense upsetting and wonderfully gloomy all warped together Lots to take in For the most part it was an OK read I enjoyed the darkness while catching the small glimpses of light I did not enjoy the extra wordiness which constantly litters the narrative I skimmed through those paragraphs and felt like I didn't loose anything by doing that I was not able to feel any connections with any of the characters They were all one dimensional and boring Would I ever read this again NO Would I recommend this to anyone NO Did I get anything out of reading this YES Interesting plot Definitely Just fell flat for me in so many other areas

  8. says:

    As far as the story itself I thought it was lackluster and a bit pretentious I appreciated what Gaitskill was trying to do that she was trying to explore notions of superficiality and depth when it comes to personal interactions I also liked that she gave her two main characters these women who are by turns pitiful and infuriatingly self destructive a sense of dignity even though they were behaving in ways I found really sad and upsetting But for the most part I thought she was striving too much to be deep and thoughtful and literary I don't really care for that in college level creative writing classes and I don't think I particularly care for it with National Book Award Winners I mean be deep and thoughtful and literary but don't let me see you strain to attain those ualities I don't want to see your effort BTW this isn't the first Gaitskill I've read but I don't recall the earlier stuff I've read of hers being uite so strainedWhere this book really shines though is in the writing One of Gaitskill's conceits was to describe some sort of sensory experience using an adjective that appeals to a different sense like the phrase seuined music for instance It's a visual descriptor coupled with an auditory noun yet it worked I could just imagine the kind of glammed out pop rock her character was listening to Perhaps it might have generated a different genre for you but that's okay the point is it instantly brought something to mind and it did so using unconventional word choices As someone who has seriously taken up writing in the past few months I'm talking several hours a day my appreciation for a writer who can come up with ways to convey ideas and emotions without resorting to facile cliches is infinite So I was really torn with this book I enjoyed reading it but again primarily for the craftsmanship of the language As far as the story itself though I felt it left a lot to be desired

  9. says:

    I found this book so powerful that I couldn't write about it right away I've had an ambivalent relationship to other work by Gaitskill I'd only read her stories not her other novel I'm fascinated by it but sometimes repelled The people and the situations often seemed ugly to the point that I wondered if an unconscious sadism wasn't at work Then I'd wonder if that was only my sueamishness speaking I also sometimes had trouble picturing her characters who can be so contradictory that they don't even seem to cohere Yet the writer's willingness to take on difficult subjects and difficult characters and her strong prose kept me interested in her workNow comes Veronica While I was reading the novel I felt really down Perhaps it was the mood I was already in or perhaps it was the book itself some of both probably Yet I couldn't stop reading I had to know what was going to happen to everyone and how it was going to happen I had to get of those sentences The poetry was relentless beautiful almost painful Every page just bursting with unbelievable images It was like a fever dream which I guess was appropriate since the main character suffers from fevers And I felt clearly than in Gaitskill's stories that there really is a compassion at work I admire the hell out of this novel and think Gaitskill has done something new here

  10. says:

    I picked up Mary Gaitskill's 2006 novel Veronica as part of my ongoing disgust project and indeed it is a rich depository of fascinating uses of disgust Yet I find I can't bear to write simply about the disgust in the book without addressing its greater appeal I consciously avoid pronouncements about the Canon which books are Great and which merely Good or anything of the kind—and yet I am beset by a strong desire that Veronica be studied written about appreciated revisited It is not a book for everyone and not an easy read but it is a book that will be important to some And although I haven't written fiction or even songs in years Veronica is the kind of book I wish I could write utterly unsentimental yet deeply thoughtful and thought provoking harsh and even crass at times but finely crafted and never cynical to the point of hopelessness So this will be a discussion of those non repulsive aspects of Veronica to be followed in a few days by a discussion of Gaitskill's many and intriguing uses of disgust This novel contains a cesspool but I don't want to leave you with the impression that that's all it containsNo indeed there's so much The surface plot elements revolve around the narrator Alison a former model and pretty girl who has lost her looks and her health and has washed up sick and in pain on the outskirts of Los Angeles Now that she is ill and unattractive herself she finds herself remembering a pivotal friendship—or at least a friendship that has since become pivotal in her memory—from twenty years before with a frumpy provocative and often obnoxious copy editor named Veronica who died in the early days of the HIVAIDS epidemicBut stop right there because here are some things this novel is not about It is not about modeling or the fashion industry either to romanticize that world or to vilify it The modeling world as Gaitskill portrays it is sleazy and destructive sure but not any sleazy and destructive than Veronica's relationship with her boyfriend Duncan—and neither set of relationships is lacking in humanity even faint appeal Neither is the novel about HIVAIDS although it certainly evokes some of the terror and bigotry in the air as the first and second waves of infection were breaking Veronica's setting although in a sense specific—Gaitskill paints millennial Los Angeles and 1980s New York in visceral detail—doesn't come off as illustrating an exception but instead as presenting a universal picture In other words Alison is a sick and selfish person not because she fell down the rabbit hole of modeling and drug use but because human beings are generally infirm and selfish and despite this they go from day to day doing the best they can occasionally making genuine yet flawed contact with other human beingsAs opposed to so many meteoric rise and fall stories which deal in if onlys if only she hadn't gotten hooked if only he hadn't been drinking before getting in the car if only their families had realized in time Gaitskill presents struggle compromise and disintegration as inevitable while at the same time according her characters total free will There is nothing pre ordained about Alison's choices to move to Paris or New York to uit modeling or start up again to ask Veronica to the movies She suffers and occasionally triumphs and often slogs because of her choices but based on the evidence of the characters around her she would have faced a similar ratio of suffering and triumph if she had made the opposite choices as well Take Alison's sister Sara who is locked in an uncommunicative battle with her suburban setting and probable mental illness Or Alison's father who attempts to communicate his regrets via music to which nobody listens any Or Veronica who decides that her semi abusive relationship is so much a part of herself that she doesn't stop sleeping with her partner even when she knows he has AIDS All these characters however glamorous they may or may not look from the outside struggle with similar levels of alienation and distress similar levels of discomfort with the world around them and a similarly inevitable downward trajectory Veronica is one of the least moralistic novels I've ever read Only you can decide your own trajectory it seems to say; but whatever trajectory you choose it will be difficult; and whatever trajectory you choose you will stumble and fall This is the problem with Alison's father's refusal to feel compassion for the early AIDS sufferers based on the argument that they had choices Everyone makes choices and everyone suffers for them; and since suffering implies no sin or judgment but only the inevitable process of living a life our imperfect treatment of each other is all we have And indeed that treatment will be imperfect even if we are doing our best Alison's relationship with Veronica is hardly a feel good Sex and the City version of female friendship Alison is often self congratulatory often resentful; she often spews platitudes at Veronica and tells her what to do rather than listening to her Her attempts at communication and communion often fall flat Veronica in turn is often extremely grating and only gets so as she becomes ill Gaitskill has much to say here about privilege—in this case the privilege of the beautiful and the healthy person to whom the experiences of the ill or unattractive are invisible until she too is sick or ugly Looking back Alison can see her own contempt and dismissiveness her belief that she was in some way fundamentally different from Veronica—all things which were invisible to her at the timeI said it with disdain—like I didn't have to be embarrassed or make up something nice because Veronica was nobody—like why should I care if an ant could see up my dress? Except I didn't notice my disdain; it was habitual by then She noticed it thoughIn one way of course all this is a huge downer In another way it's oddly reassuring Because Gaitskill doesn't conclude based on the suspect motives and often unsuccessful results of attempts at human connection that they are not worth making Rather despite Alison's recognition of her own bad behavior of her own suspect agenda and Veronica's own obnoxiousness her relationship with Veronica becomes a pivotal and legitimately redemptive experience Even though most of the time she does a poor job at being Veronica's friend and at general person hood her efforts to connect with Veronica still end up making a huge difference to both women—especially Alison herselfOne of the concepts that struck me most forcibly in Veronica was this combination of the invisibility of the habitual or privileged and the rapidity with which the outward forms of privilege and who possesses privilege can change These two themes are addressed freuently in fiction but I'm not sure how often I've seen them together So often we see the entrenched privilege of race or sex that perpetuates itself from generation to generation and there is certainly some of that here in the form of homophobia and sexual exploitation of women Yet there is also an acknowledgment of how slippery privilege can be; how it can be founded on trivialities and superficialities that we nonetheless mistake for core realities Early on in the novel Alison introduces the concept of a style suit while looking at a series of photographs taken by her friend JohnMost of them don't have good bodies but they are looking at the camera like they are happy to be naked either just standing there or posing in the combination of relaxation and sexual nastiness that people had then They all look like people whose time had given them a perfect style suit to wear a set of postures and expressions that gave the right shape to what they had inside them so that even naked they felt clothedThere is always a style suit or suits When I was young I used to think these suits were just what people were When styles changed dramatically—people going barefoot men with long hair women without bras—I thought the world had changed that from then on everything would be different It's understandable that I thought that; TV and newsmagazines acted like the world had changed too I was happy with it but then five years later it changed againThis is than just an observation about the fickleness of fashion It's an examination of the ease with which people who have lucked into a well fitting style suit assume that the privilege and ease they enjoy inheres naturally in their person hood and that as a result there must be something fundamentally wrong with those who don't fit into the dominant suit And as Alison remarks above it's similarly easy to believe that the suit reflects the way things substantively are—and that when those superficial elements change it means a sea change in peoples' inner beings as well Yet even when the style suit favors looseness and naturalness that preference itself can be very strict and if any one suit actually does happen to fit someone's innate personality the next eually strong suit is almost guaranteed to sueeze and discomfit them transforming them into an outsider and even an object of pity or repulsion in the eyes of those who subconsciously believe the world to have progressed in a meaningful way Together with the idea of invisibility the style suit and the effects of seeing difference play into Gaitskill's many uses of disgustMore on Veronica in a few days; I'm far from done thinking and writing about this book

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