Short stories play a crucial role in my literary diet. They serve as a snack, an appetizer, or some kind of tapas-esque dinner situation, where I read at least 10 different ones and feel satiated. There’s no fluff in short stories, which I find most appealing, as there is minimal commitment for great payoffs. They are an art form in their economy of language and immediacy despite their length. These tender, hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking short story collections are sure to be gratifying. The authors, five observant and uncompromising women, offer us unrelenting looks at others and ourselves, with plenty of compassion and wit, in inimitable styles all their own.
This book, with its iconic paperback cover (a woman facedown, possibly falling, maybe pounding at the floor) was in every college dorm bookshelf in the late 1980s/early 1990s. If you wanted to be a writer, you read Mary Gaitskill’s pitch-black, edgy, creepy tales about men and women behaving badly, and you wondered if this was the real world, or just an especially dark version of it.