Veronica by Mary Gaitskill c. 2005 (227 pages—Random House, 2005)

Allison, the narrator, a former model who is now dying of Hepatitis C recalls her friendship with Veronica, a women who died of AIDS many years earlier. Beauty, wealth, identity, mortality and the decentered or postmodern perception of reality seem to be salient themes in the novel.

Sentences Worth Studying

  • “This happens sometimes when I walk along here; my focus slips and goes funny. I think it’s something to do with walking at a slow pace against the speeding traffic, and today the rain blurs everything even more. It’s like I get sucked out of normal life into a place where the order of things is changed: it’s still my life and I recognize it, but the people and places in it are sliding around indiscriminately” (9).
  • “But eventually those feelings got attached to other songs, and those singers didn’t work as signals anymore . . . He didn’t realize that his signals could not be heard, that the men were looking at him strangely. Or maybe he did realize but didn’t know what else to do but keep signaling. Eventually, he gave up, and there were few visitors. He was just by himself, trying to keep his secret and tender feelings alive through these same old songs” (16).
  • “The months in San Francisco were folded up into a bright, tiny box and put down somewhere amid the notices and piles of coupons. I was blended into the electrical comfort of home, where our emotions ran together and were carried by music and TV images” (49).
  • “I used to watch these shows with my family. The black-and-white people were so full of memory and feeling that there were like pieces of ourselves, stopped in a moment and repeating it again and again, until it became an electronic shadow of a fleshy place” (52).
  • “Riding still, out of the roaring night into a pallid day of sidewalks and beggars with the past rinsing through their eyes. Shadows of night sound solemnly glimmer in rain puddles; inverted worlds of rippling silver glide past with lumps of mud and green weeds poking through. The past coming through the present; it happens” (63).
  • “The more withered the reality, the more gigantic and tyrannical the dream” (71).
  • “I bend and kiss her forehead. Ten years from now, I will be a kiss in a great field of faceless kisses, a sweet patch of forgotten territory in her inner country . . . Nice to think that in her dreams Trisha might run through that field and love it without knowing why” (86).
  • “I think of an interview I heard with a religious person who had two kinds of cancer. The radio host asked her if she’d prayed for God to heal her. She said that she had and that it hadn’t worked. When she realized that she was going to die, she asked God why He hadn’t healed her, and He answered. She actually heard His voice. He said, “But I am.” / I am not religious, but when I heard that I said yes inside. I say it now. I don’t know why. There’s a reason, but it’s outside my vision” (108).
  • “His opinions were frivolous, fierce, and exact” (127).
  • “We are a tangle of roots, a young branch, a flower, a moldy spore. You want to say, This is me; this is who I am. But you don’t even know what it is, or what it’s for. Time parts its shabby curtain: There is my father, listening to his music hard enough to break his own heart. Trying to borrow shapes for his emotions so that he may hold them out to the world and the world might say, Yes, we see. We feel. We understand” (128).
  • “When we got back, the house was warm and dark except for the Christmas tree, its burning light making glowing caves in its branches, jeweled with soft colors and the lit intensity of tiny needles” (140).
  • “She talked in and out of the movie, as if its enlarged characters were fragments escaped from her head and willfully acting out on their own, assuming the perfect narrative forms they were denied in life. It was like somebody in church repeating and affirming the minister’s sermon . . .” (146).
  • “The following months were an oscillating loop of dreams—brilliant and blurred, like a carnival ride at night, lighting up and going dark as its cars toss and churn. From a distance, it is beautiful, even peaceful. From inside, it rattles and roars and roughly yanks you by the neck” (153).
  • “I went back to New York just before Christmas. This piss-elegant city wore salt-stained winter clothes and soiled jewels, its colors stunned and mute in the cold” (198).
  • “I drank and bit the rim of my plastic cup and lost myself in the music on the sound system. I had succeeded. I had become like this music. My face had been a note in a piece of continuous music that rolled over people while they talked and drank and married and made babies. No one remembers a particular note. No one remembers a piece of grass. But it does its part. I had done my part” (209).
  • “I imagine Veronica drawing away from everything she had become on earth, withdrawing the spirit blood from what had been her self, allowing its limbs to blacken and fall off. I imagine Veronica’s spirit stripped to its skeleton, then stripped of all but its shocked, staring eyes, yet clinging to life in a fierce, contracted posture that came from intense, habitual pain. I imagine the desiccated spirit as a tiny ash in enormous darkness. I imagine the dark penetrated by something Veronica at first could not see but could sense, something substantive and complete beyond any human definition of those words. In my mind’s eye, it unfurled itself before Veronica. Without words it said, I am Love” (217).

About Kelsey Maki

writer and English professor
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