The book rewards those looking for a deeper connection to Gaitskill's rigorous imagination.



Gaitskill’s unusual new project creates a collage out of her previous works, connected by the thread of a new short story.

At the age of 7, Ginger goes to hell to steal the Devil’s treasure.  Traveling down the clean, well-lit stairway in her nightie, Ginger passes scenes of degradation which draw her into their torment, lizards the size of dogs growing out of walls, and a room where all the modern conveniences of the world are running all at once. Finally, she comes to a “quiet, old-fashioned room” where the Devil sits reading a book in an armchair, behind which lies his treasure. Ginger steals the sack of treasure only to discover that now she can never put it down; that the treasure has become a part of her; that it is something she needs but does not want and that the truth it speaks is about love and pain and how they will not be separated in this life or the one beyond. In and of itself, this tale treads territory familiar to anyone versed in Gaitskill’s oeuvre: fear and desire intermingle; revulsion and fascination mirror each other. However, this project is not primarily interested in exploring Ginger’s story. Rather, the author intersperses short segments of Ginger’s tale between longer sections of previously published works, spanning from Gaitskill’s first novel, Two Girls, Fat and Thin (1991), through her novel in progress, End of Seasons. The manuscript is color-coded in tones of orange and red which fluctuate page by page (orange for excerpted work; red for Ginger’s story and literary commentary by the author). This creates a flickering effect evocative of the setting Ginger wanders through, an effect reinforced by Gaitskill’s original collages that recall the images hung on hell’s walls; however, the total impact of the book is hard to describe. Devotees of Gaitskill’s work are likely to appreciate the opportunity to revisit her masterworks on something of a guided tour where the author herself is able to instruct us that she is not "captivated" by cruelty, as has sometimes been said, but rather, “stunned by the omnipresence of cruelty, by the senselessness of its infliction, and at the same time by its seeming inevitability, its naturalness, its apparently primary place in our human nature.” Those new to her work would be better served to start at the beginning and work their way up to this more impressionistic construction.

The book rewards those looking for a deeper connection to Gaitskill's rigorous imagination.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73354-015-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: ZE Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

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The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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