Headlands Center for the Arts

Mary Gaitskill

new york | writing
Artist in Residence Program 2015

Artist Statement

I don’t have an artistic statement that I can make generally. I just finished a book about a girl and a horse. In that book I tried to work with oppositions of hate and love, what is miserable and where one might find joy and hope. I don’t know if that will show in the book; thematic concerns are often hard to see on the level of conscious analysis even if they can be felt; I found myself wanting to stay as close to a sense-based, experiential way of characterization as possible, to stay in places that the characters (and readers) know through feeling.

The book I will be working on at Headlands involves a more rarified social setting, and the characters opine and analyze like mad people. It will be a challenge to find the raw felt quality of life in these people, but that is what I want to do.

While At Headlands

I will be working on a novel titled The End of Seasons.  The main character is a middle-aged woman named Bettina, a literary editor at a scruffy give-away paper in Manhattan who is depressed by the death of her long-time lover and beleaguered by her increased alienation from the greater culture. She is being pestered by Frank Hamm, a hostile letter-writing nut who is furious about the state of the media; she is also being seduced via the internet by an eccentric, gifted boy from a broken home who longs to become a writer. These characters will collide right on top of September 11, 2001, a moment when their passions and ideas will be dwarfed by a violent assertion of the greater world.

Themes I’m working with are: the nature of primary feeling in a culture of ceaselessly elaborated trivia and the clash between a world of physical weight and bodily emotion vs. a world of electronic abstraction and emotional shorthand.

Selected Texts

The Other Place, 2008-10; published in The New Yorker, 2011 (94.79K)

Lost Cat, 2008; published in Granta, 2009 (174.69K)

The Bridge, 2003; published in Zoetrope, 2005 (105.43K)