‘A Dream Of Men’ by Mary Gaitskill


A Dream Of Men by Mary Gaitskill, 1998

The magic trick:

Combining sex and violence and family and daily life

More Mary Gaitskill today, and it’s another dash of darkness mixed with creepiness mixed with bland normalcy. Very strange combination.

Basically the entire story happens within the mind of Laura, our protagonist. Externally, there is some mention of her daily life, things happening at her job, but the heart of the story lies in her thoughts, and it’s an odd place. Her internal monologue is a mix of memories and dreams and memories of dreams. Recurring themes include sex and violence and her relationship with her dead father. So that ought to give you a sense of the kind of mood we’re dealing with here. And that’s quite a trick on Gaitskill’s part.

The selection:

He was so weak he couldn’t turn himself; so two hospice workers had to turn him. When they did, he got angry; his skin had gone so thin that his bones felt sharp, and it hurt him to be moved. “No, leave me alone,” he’d say. “I don’t care, I don’t care.” He would frown and even slap at the workers, and, in the fierce knit of his brow and his blank, furious eye, Laura remembered him as he had been twenty five years ago. He had been standing in the dining room, and she had walked by him wearing flowered pants that were tight in the seat and the crotch. He’d said, “What’re you doing walking around with your pudenda hanging out like that? Nobody wants to see that.”


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