VERONICA

Mary Gaitskill

Alison and Veronica meet amid the nocturnal glamour of 1980s New York. One is a young model stumbling away from the wreck of her career, the other an eccentric middle-aged office temp. Over the next twenty years their friendship will encompass narcissism and tenderness, exploitation and self-sacrifice, love and mortality. Moving seamlessly from present and past, casting a fierce yet compassionate eye on two eras and their fixations, the result is a work of timeless depth and moral power.

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Alison and Veronica meet amid the nocturnal glamour of 1980s New York. One is a young model stumbling away from the wreck of her career, the other an eccentric middle-aged office temp. Over the next twenty years their friendship will encompass narcissism and tenderness, exploitation and self-sacrifice, love and mortality. Moving seamlessly from present and past, casting a fierce yet compassionate eye on two eras and their fixations, the result is a work of timeless depth and moral power.

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  • Vintage Books
  • Paperback
  • 2006
  • 272 Pages
  • 9780375727856

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About Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill is also the author of Because They Wanted To, which was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1988. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories (1993), and The O. Henry Prize Stories (1998). Her story “Secretary” from her collection of short stories, Bad Behavior, was the basis for the film of the same name. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she teaches creative writing at Syracuse University. Veronica is a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist. It was also named one of ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review.

Praise

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

“Gaitskill is enormously gifted. . . . [Veronica] is a masterly examination of the relationship between surface and self, culture and fashion, time and memory.”
—The New York Times Book Review

Discussion Questions

What is the significance of the story Alison’s mother told her about the wicked little girl when she was a child? In what ways does it function as a kind of parable, or prediction, of Alison’s life?

Alison’s narrative shifts between past and present, or rather between several layers of the past and the present. What effects does Mary Gaitskill create through this method of narration? In what ways does it mirror the way the mind and memory actually work?

Gaitskill often personifies music in Veronica: “music, lightly skipping in the main rooms, here bumbled from wall to wall like a ghost groaning in purgatory”; “Music fell out of windows, splattered on the ground, got up, and walked away.” Why does Gaitskill emphasize music throughout the novel? Why is music so important to Alison?

Veronica tells Alison: “prettiness is always about pleasing people. When you stop being pretty, you don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t have to do that anymore. It’s my show now.” How does Alison’s beauty enslave her? In what ways is Veronica more free because she lacks such beauty?

What does Alison mean when she says that she became a demon and “was saved by another demon, who looked on me with pity and so became human again. And because I pitied her in return, I was allowed to become human, too”? Why would such a mutual pity enable Alison and Veronica to regain their humanity? What is the source of this pity?

What does the novel reveal about the early days of AIDS? How do people react to Veronica when they learn she has AIDS?

Veronica is an exceptionally painful novel, filled with sickness, cruelty, suffering, and death, and yet it ends with Alison saying, “I will call my father and tell him I finally heard him. I will be full of gratitude and joy.” What has she finally heard? What is she grateful for? Why does she anticipate such joy?