gaitskill200Mary Gaitskill is an original. We are so proud to feature her first published story here at Fictionaut.  “Something Better Than This” was published in an obscure feminist magazine in Canada (now defunct) called Branching Out back in the late 1970s.

Author’s note:

I was 22 when I wrote this.  I can’t remember where it came from except that I did actually sell rhodium jewelry on Yonge St. in Toronto in the mid-70s and it was one of those occupations that could make an already crabby person insanely misanthropic.  Looking at it now, the story seems so misanthropic (albeit skittishly so) that I almost want to apologize to the universe on Susan’s behalf.  But at the time, I imagine I just thought keeping my sense of humor up.  And I probably was.

Previously on Line Breaks:

Line Breaks is a regular feature in which accomplished authors introduce and share their first published stories with the Fictionaut community. Line Breaks is edited by Gary Percesepe.

  1. Terese Svoboda

    I was selling roses on the street in Montreal.

  2. Gary Percesepe

    I’ve recently done some public raving about her and don’t wish to repeat myself or embarrass her further (click and scroll down to see what I am talking about but when I’m feeling sad about the current state of all things literary I pick up a Mary Gaitskill story to remind myself how this thing is done. She’s like Godard in sentence frames, 24 frames of truth per second. I don’t know exactly what “transgressive fiction” is (as I think we ought always to be transgressing something when we write, and in how we live, for that matter—go smash some categories) but she’s been accused of it. Might be some of the “themes” her early work explored: addiction, prostitution, S & M. For younger Fictionauts who may not know her work, let me say this: Bad Behavior (1988), her first story collection, was an astonishing debut, and you should read it—classic case of a fine writer plucked from obscurity—but get her books as well. Because They Wanted To, particularly the title story, is as good as it gets in late twentieth century short fiction. Go read it. Take notes.
    I asked Mary to give us her first ever published story for Line Breaks and she said sure. We played detective and tracked the story down—“Something Better Than This “ was published in an obscure feminist magazine in Canada (now defunct) called “Branching Out” back in the late 1970s. A kind librarian at the University of Alberta found it in the archives and mailed it to me. When I read it for the first time, I was delighted. The voice was unmistakable—I was like, “Yo, Mary! It’s you!”
    I teased Mary about Over the Top “Mayo Man” (Andrew)– with his mayonnaise voice, ham color, ample rear equipment, dandruffy and wet between the legs presence, he’s a grotesque, one that Sherwood Anderson would recognize and love, a character who may have wandered off the set of a Nabokov shoot. I wanted to place a butterfly in his hands (or over him?) and set him loose in Central Park. And will we ever find another of Mary’s stories with the word “thrillishly?” Nabokov again—Mary’s literary hero!—but she insists that when she wrote this story, at 22, she hadn’t yet read Nabokov. More evidence—Mary Gaitskill is an original. We are so proud to feature her first published story here at Fictionaut.

  1. 1 Writezilla

    Fictionaut features Gaitskill’s first story…

    Mary Gaitskill wrote her first published story at 22. Now it seems so misanthropic to her that “I almost want to apologize to the universe.”…

  2. 2 Fiction Writers Review » Blog Archive » Woman to Woman: An Interview with Mary Gaitskill

    […] [in the late 1970s] in a small Canadian magazine called Branching Out. An online publication called Fictionaut recently approached me about republishing that first story of mine and so I gave it to them. It’s […]

Leave a Comment