Cover Image: Because They Wanted To

Because They Wanted To

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Member Reviews

Such promise but totally misses. The book felt far too bleak and off the mark. Disappointing but it happens. There's definitely scope to improve.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
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This collection of short stories left me feeling a tad conflicted. I loved the first few but I then felt a little bit bored!
These short stories explore sexuality, relationships, and the nitty gritty traumas of being human. They were my first introduction to Gaitskill’s writing and, whilst I did enjoy the first three, I can’t say that I was massively impressed.
As much as I love short stories, they must be able to stand on their own when in a collection as, otherwise, they all blend into one! Sadly, the latter stories just felt too similar to the first few, and it left me feeling a bit bored. I do have to admit that the author sure knows how to write a descriptive story in only a few words. The stories were filled with description and the characters were properly/well fleshed out. 

The first few stories were great, but the whole collection ended up sounding the same. Other reviewers have said that this is probably one of Gaitskill’s weaker works, so I’ll definitely check out her other stuff at some point!

Many thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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This was a good read - strong, fun, memorable short stories. Mary Gaitskill is clearly a good writer. However, overall I feel guilty about not having read "Bad Behaviour" and wish I had started there - because while these stories were good and perfectly competent, but they didn't blow me away and make fee like like "OMG, she is an INCREDIBLE writer and I HAVE to recommend her to people." It was more like, "Wow, these are all very well executed, she knows exactly what she's doing." I agree with the other reviewers who comment that at a certain point they begin to feel very same-y. Maybe that's an unfair barometer with which to judge someone - "wow, this is good, but they're not absolutely brilliant" - but because I'd hears SO much about Mary Gaitskill, for better or worse, that is how I felt when reading this (which is more to do with me than the author). So, I feel like I still need to give Mary Gaitskill another chance, in order to better understand what the 'big deal' is. Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I found this a really interesting deep dive into utterly unlikable people, needy and entitled or just downright weird, as they navigate all sorts of relationships. It's not the most memorable book I've ever read and the stories won't stick with me forever, but they were certainly an entertaining look into the utterly normal strange moments that happen around us every day.
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The title story, Because They Wanted To, gives us a haunting day-in-the-life of Elise, a very young woman who turns from panhandling on the street to what she thinks is a respectable babysitting job for another down-on-her-luck girl called Robin – but once she’s left Elise with two little boys and a baby, Robin doesn’t come back.  In these short stories, Mary Gaitskill’s prose is sexy, transgressive and visceral – everything you’d expect from the woman who brought you Secretary (adapted into the quirkily erotic film with Maggie Gylenhaal) and the underrated novels Veronica and Two Girls Fat and Thin (my personal favourite, some of the details of which appear in these stories – a father and daughter playing with their noses, which happens twice in this collection alone, and the image of a mother’s stumpy legs in her nightgown). A bit rough around the edges, but that roughness keeps things interesting. Deserves its new Penguin Classics status.
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Gaitskill's prose is genuinely one of the best things of this collection of stories, other than the descriptive and poetic writing style, the stories themselves are repetitive and the characters kind of irritating.
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Human foibles, human weaknesses, human kindness, human greatness, emotional volatility & strength, nothing escapes Mary Gaitskill's scalpel when it comes to decorticate and expose to our roving eyes the manifold aspects of human behaviors within a relationship. With her razor sharp character studies, she is and remains one of the best short stories writers in English today, the perfect explorer of the human interactions.
Kudos to Penguin for making her work available to us again.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Penguin for the opportunity to (re)read this wonderful collection of short stories prior to its release date
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A very tepid three stars for me. Honestly, I enjoyed the first three stories in this volume, especially ‘Because They Wanted To’ which is the namesake of the volume. There is a lot of emphasis on human emotions and the inexorable aura of loneliness that the characters embody within them. In ‘Because They Wanted To’, I was so hooked by the problem faced by the main character as she escaped from California to cross the border to Canada illegally and had to live there by begging, while she was still 16. The way Mary Gaitskill presents us with flashbacks is simply touching, a frequent device that we will encounter throughout this volume.

However, I slowly lost interest after reading half of this book as the scenes in each story move more towards sexual scenes with fewer substances than the first few stories. I understand that the author wants to emphasize more on the sexual troubles of the characters who sometimes have to face their confused sexualities while having to conform to the society in which they live. But too much sex scenes kill the mood, and I simply could not get the main messages from several stories.

So for me, Mary Gaitskill is an author who writes some really good prose with an interesting viewpoint on life and creative literary devices. There’s some envy in me reading the way she writes ‘The Girl on the Plane’ which depicts the scene during a short flight, yet expanding it further into a really interesting short story with frequent flashbacks of the lives of the main characters. However, I think the author still needs to explore other themes further beyond sexual encounters (which is my biggest impression of it). This book is good, just not my cup of tea.
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Thank you NetGalley for this ARC.

This was a decent collection of short stories, about people who do slightly messed up things because they feel like it. Not particularly memorable, but just about the ordinary weirdness around us.
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Gaitskill is an excellent observer and writes so open and honestly  about the thoughts and feelings of her characters. I can't help but feel a bit uncomfortable when reading them. I liked all stories in this collection really, but I really loved the first two. I just couldn't get these characters out of my mind and kept wondering whether they would eventually be okay.
Thank you Penguin and Netgalley for the ARC.
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Amazing group of characters of stories.Mary Gatskill is so creative brings a world of people problems in each story.Highky recommend this collection as I do all her stories.Shebhas a very unique look at the world #netflix@penguinuj
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I like Gaitskill's writing of seedy, desperate lives, but her prose is sloppy and doesn't always make sense: an answer machine that 'attacked him with a garbled furred roar', 'shoulders in a tailored jacket of indignation', and the incomprehensible 'she recounted briefly and with hieroglyphic politeness' (??) had me gritting my teeth. 

As a collection this is samey: similar voices, familiar atmosphere, unresolved ending. 

Uncertainty haunts these stories, with melancholy and violence just a step away.
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I picked this book because the synopsis sounded great. An exploration of human relationships and complex tales really grabbed my interest, so I really wanted to love this, but this was not up my alley.

Gaitskill is definitely a great writer. She writes sentences that pack a punch and are beautiful, so she is definitely skill in that. Some of her narrative is wonderful, how she can write complex people and create interesting insights. However...

There’s something hollow about it. For some reason it kind of reminded me about my feelings of Normal People, where all the characters have dark pasts to make them look cool, and ‘in’, but it feels like a cheap trick to make them look deep. Because They Wanted To felt the same, but this was saved by Gaitskill’s superior writing talents.

It just wasn’t for me. I felt more bored, because apparently writing unlikeable people is ‘literary’ and indicative of ‘great writing’, and I am tired of this. Just because it doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean it won’t work for others, because I can see the merit in this.
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This set of short stories started out feeling poignant, sharp, observant and melancholy but, by the time you've read 5 or 6 of them, they began to feel like the same voice and same observations over and over again ...

These aren't those kind of short stories that fill you with despair and end on a hopeful note. They are insightful, painful and that's where they leave you and perhaps for the first few, you read them and find them really intriguing and inspiring. But then the next one comes and it's the same and there's no fixed end point, you just reach the end of the story.

And that was one of the hardest things about reading these stories, was that they kind of trailed off at the end. Nothing was resolved, we were just done listening in on that character.

But they are good. They really reminded me of the kind of sharp observational dark humour that comes with Anais Nin's short erotic stories, and Mary Gaitskill's short stories have a very similar vibe, and content, except that they're a little less 'smutty' and a lot more real-life.

They do indeed explore sexual 'otherness' and people are in some way disconnected with the world in that frighteningly empty Albert Camus way. To have the characters' level of self-narration and self-reflection they need to be disconnected from themselves. But when you've read a few stories like that, of people on the outside looking in, but not actually making any life-changing decisions, they become hard to read.

I wouldn't normally say this, as I often can't get enough of short stories, especially when they're good, but I could have done with about 75% of the ones in this book. And that is purely because the more I read, the less comfortable I became reading them.

Which is why I'm giving them 3.5 for excellent content, but 3 stars for overwhelming me.
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I didn't like this very much because the characters were unlikeable and just kind of irritating and the writing was a bit dry and generally off. I thought this would be better than it was but i was just really disappointed by this overall.
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Because They Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill is a collection of short stories about characters who are often lonely and desperate and flawed.
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This didn’t engage me well, and I didn’t enjoy the book. I felt the way certain people were referred to (including LGBT people, women, those with special educational needs, and people from other countries) was outdated. I appreciate that the book was written in the 90s, but the terminology and somewhat degrading prose felt offensive. 

I didn't really "get" the book and found it uninteresting. It's a collection of short stories - there wasn’t a clear theme within any of them, other than all having disturbing themes and characters you don't warm to.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.
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"They sat and looked at each other, their youth and beauty gone, their selves more bare and at the same time more hidden...He was only thirty-five, and already he walked like an exhausted man in late middle age."

I was tempted by this book through the blurb's description, of "heart-rending emotional intimacy and the delicacy of relationships," and as a devout reader of the NYT Modern Love column, I thought this would be right up my street, but I was left disappointed. 

This anthology is made up of various stories - although that's perhaps too strong a word. Vignettes might be more appropriate. There is no distinctive connection or theme, beyond maybe the title, 'because they wanted to,' at a push I'd might say that each of the stories shows us the consequences of living with the weight of various (mostly sexual) traumas. "She always seemed to be suffering in some, remote, frozen way. He had been so used to it that he hadn't recognised it as suffering. He didn't think she did, either. It seemed to be her natural state." 

This was a melancholic read over thankfully just one evening, with damaged characters eeking out an existence in predominantly unpleasant situations. There also felt like a subtext of characters in gay or submissive relationships. Perhaps when it was written in 1997 this would have been fringe, or daring - along with the frank mention of various sexual acts - but this depiction now felt quite stereotyped and dated. 

I'm afraid I did not gain anything from this read. There felt no overall theme, or lasting message, aside from perhaps the loss of innocence, the weight of time passing, and the difficulty of ever really knowing another person  - "that exquisite blend of happiness and sorrow that life could contain this perfect moment...and into the next day with its loud noise and alarming possibility..."

I was left with an uncomfortable glimpse as to the angst and weight of life in the late 90s when perhaps relationships of all kinds really could be more fleeting and momentary than today. "For a moment, I felt I was in a limbo of shadows and half-formed shapes which would dissolve into nothingness if I touched them. I felt loneliness so strong it scared me."

The book was a glimmer of that now strange and far-off time before the Internet, before 9/11, before MeToo, before COVID but I am at a loss to think why it would be republished and reread just right now.
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This is my first time reading Gaitskill and it really feels like an education. So glad I read it. Learned so much.
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This is a witty and miserable collection of short stories, focusing on some truly terrible and sad people (ranging from selfish to homophobic to lonely to despondent) who do exactly what they want to without thinking of others. Some of the views expressed (on gender roles particularly) date the stories very clearly as from the 20th century, but Gaitskill includes a great deal of feminism to counteract this. I enjoyed it, and will be reading more from her in the future.
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