These are difficult stories, but they are not relentlessly sordid. Suffering is everywhere, and Gaitskill's humane impulse is to ask us not to turn away. How much more callous is the exhortation "Don't cry." That's like asking us not to acknowledge what we see. I don't think, as some would have it, that Gaitskill's characters are victims of her pitiless gaze, trapped under the magnifying glass of her voyeurism. She follows them out into the world with an unembarrassed tenderness, a compassionate witness to the terrible trials she puts them through.
MARY GAITSKILL | Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard Ave, Brookline | May 6 at 7 pm | 617.566.6660
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