Bad Behavior

Unknown-1Bad Behavior
Mary Gaitskill
© 1988

A couple weeks ago, I saw Bad Behavior on Flavorwire’s What to Read While You’re Missing Your Favorite TV Shows.  The list says you should read Revolutionary Road if you’re missing Mad Men, so I trusted it.  Foolishly.

Here’s Flavorwire’s caption for Bad Behavior, which it suggests you read if you’re missing Girls: “Look, the girls of Girls wish they were the girls of Bad Behavior — who are twisted and confused and sexy and discontent in the most piercing and authentic of ways.”  I immediately added it to my to-read list.

This weekend, I took a jaunt to Vegas for a bachelorette party.  I needed something to read on the plane that wasn’t too brainy or deep, was a quick read, and was appropriate for the weekend.  This short-story collection seemed to fit the bill.  I mean, just look at the cover.  It screams hot mess.

Based on the Flavorwire caption and my own personal biases as to what “bad behavior” is, I was thinking along the lines of this:

Poor Amanda just can’t win these days.
(photo from

Or this:

Rehab Pool Party at the Hard Rock in Vegas
(photo from

Or this:


No caption necessary.
(photo from

But you may have noticed that this book was published in 1988.  Sooooo . . .  harken back, if you will.   “Bad behavior” in those days looked more like this:

Up to no good.
(photo from

And this:

I know, I know. Pretty Woman came out in 1990. Close enough.
(photo from

And this:

(photo from

It was a different era of bad.

Needless to say, I think my expectations were a little off.  Bad behavior, at least in this collection, revolves mostly around:

  • Hookers
  • S & M
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Cheating
  • Asshole dudes

Most importantly (and disappointingly) the bad behavior in this collection is not a fun variety of bad behavior.  There is no schadenfreude involved in reading these stories.  Instead, they just make you feel kind of sad.  And icky.  Who wants that?

Rating: As a collection, 1.5/5 👎

It seems like the stories were written for shock value.  But it’s twenty-five years old.  And maybe I’m a little jaded.  So, it just wasn’t that shocking (or, frankly, engaging).  Instead, it was just depressing.  And boring.  I almost didn’t finish it.

I rate the individual stories (as they appear in the collection) as follows:

“Daisy’s Valentine”: A depressing tale of love, cheating, and sad, damaged individuals. 1/5

“A Romantic Weekend”: A cheater’s weekend is a disappointment for all, due in large part to their creepy failed attempts at S & M. 1.5/5

“Something Nice”: The age-old tale of lonely married guy meets a prostitute and foolishly thinks they have a real connection. 1.5/5

“An Affair, Edited”: Guy sees a chick that he used to sleep with on the street and does some reminiscing.  Oh, and p.s., he’s a prick. 1/5

“Connection”: Woman goes back to NYC to visit.  She’s on the street and sees a bag lady who looks like an old friend whom she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years. 2/5

“Trying to Be”: Hooker meets john at a whorehouse.  They have a connection.  She quits hooking, but continues to see him.  And he continues to pay her. 2.5/5

“Secretary”: This was made into a movie with my beloved James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal in 2002 (remember?).  It’s about a meek secretary who gets into a weird S & M sexual relationship with her lawyer boss. 3/5

“Other Factors”: Woman catches up with ex-fling, who invites her to a party.  She knows an old friend, whom she hasn’t spoken to in years, will be there. 1.5/5

“Heaven”: A story of bad parenting. 2/5

Who Should Read It: No one.  You’d be better off reading Perez Hilton or watching an episode of the Jersey Shore.

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