The Other Place – Mary Gaitskill – Subject Matter and Daring

The Other Place” by Mary Gaitskill is a dark story about parenthood and growing up.  To write is to have courage.  Courage to explore.  Courage to expose.  Courage to be examined.  The story opens with the narrator talking about his son, and more specifically, his son’s love for violent games, movies, and artwork.  In talking about his son, the narrator then examines his past, and his teenage desire to do violence towards women.  To write about that subject takes guts.  A writer needs to leave out thoughts like, what will my friends think about this or how will my mom react?

The reader is allowed to follow the narrator along and see how his past unfolds.  The person telling the store seems to be normal and have a loving family.  We learn secrets he hasn’t told his wife.  Will we discover a grown man who used to be a teenage murderer or a grown man with a troubled past who is trying to be the best father that he can?

Like the title hints at, “The Other Place” is a nightmare landscape of faceless violence and damaged people.  In the end it reaches a conclusion that is satisfying and unexpected, and while the narrator will always be there for his son, readers may ask who will be there for them?

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