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Efua Boakye on Bad Behaviour
31 January, 2024
Bad Behaviour consists of multiple short stories. Set in 80s New York, Gaitskill’s narratives capture the essence of the city through the way the characters interact with one another. Not only are the stories in the book about interpersonal relationships and how people treat each other, but the descriptions of the spaces that the characters inhabit adds a sensual quality that quietly bleeds through the dialogue. A few examples of this include this description in ‘Daisy’s Valentine’, a story about infidelity and the lifestyle of young people in New York:
The department was a square tiled space between morose grey metal stacks of books and a dirty wall with thin white pipes running along the bottom of it. There were brown boxes of books everywhere, scatterings of paper, ashtrays, Styrofoam cups, broken chairs and the occasional flashing mouse.
Gaitskill’s description immediately plunges the reader into the claustrophobic environment of the cramped office that Daisy and Joey work in.
There are also references to the structures and the urban environment that surround the characters. In the same story:
She sat down on the even rise of yellow brick in front of an apartment building that was an impression of yellow brick and shadowy grey glass shielding the sad door of a doorman.
The normality of just sitting on a brick wall of a building further emphasises the realism that lies within the story. The spatial commentary alongside Gaitskill’s incisive examination of the human condition makes for an immersive and at times, an uncomfortable read.