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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 23, 2006

Gaitskill Reads From National Book Award Finalist On WSUI Sept. 5

Fiction writer Mary Gaitskill will read from "Veronica," a finalist for the National Book Award and now released in paperback, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be broadcast on the "Live from Prairies Lights" series on UI radio station WSUI-AM 910. Listen on the Internet at

David Jays wrote in the Washington Post Book World, "Mary Gaitskill's heroines often glide through the world as bemused recipients of attention. If they are cute, it's news to them. Alison, the narrator of Gaitskill's mesmerizing second novel, is different -- she was once beautiful, and (mostly) knew it. Alison treats beauty like a card you either hold or lack. Armored in attraction, you can access all areas; stripped of it, you can find yourself twitching crazily on the sidewalk, like the aging cover girl Alison describes early in the narrative. Where beauty leads you, and where it leaves you, directs the book's trajectory. . . . Gaitskill's implacable refusal of sentimentality is her great strength -- no group hugs here, just baleful understanding."

Author Heidi Julavits wrote, "Gaitskill's style is gorgeously caustic and penetrating with a homing instinct toward the harrowing; her ability to capture abstract feelings and sensations with a precise and unexpected metaphor is a squirmy delight to encounter in such abundance."

And Donna Seaman wrote, in a Booklist starred review, "Gaitskill writes sexually frank and emotionally scouring tales of women on the verge and in the abyss, including her first novel, 'Two Girls, Fat and Thin' (1991). Here, she again posits an improbable alliance between two women who, for all their differences, share a renegade spirit. Alison, the intriguingly ambivalent narrator, discovers at an early age that her prettiness gives her power and leaves her vulnerable. She stumbles into modeling, barely survives a decadent interlude in Paris, then ends up in New York, worried that her modeling days are over.

"She takes a night-shift temp job and meets Veronica, who is older, unbeautiful, not hip, and joltingly cynical. Duncan, the love of Veronica's life, is a rampantly unfaithful bisexual who infects her with AIDS. Gaitskill perfectly evokes the ambience of the 1970s and 1980s: the trance of pop music, the ubiquitous drugs, fashion's sadomasochistic bent, the lust for wealth, and the quiet terror of AIDS. . . . She zeros in on the vagaries of the mind as she considers beauty and disease, betrayal and loyalty, and fear and compassion in a raw-nerves novel that is at once elegiac, funny, and life affirming. "

Gaitskill is the author of "Because They Wanted To," which was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1998. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Esquire, "The Best American Short Stories" and "The O. Henry Prize Stories." Her story "Secretary" was the basis for the film of the same name.

The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she teaches creative writing at Syracuse University.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

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