Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Good interview with Mary Gaitskill

at Nerve. A few highlights:

Has time softened your view of the film adaptation of Secretary?

I haven't thought about it. My reaction to it, when I saw the rough cut, I thought it was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen. But I just thought, well, whatever. I felt sorry for Shainberg [the director]. I didn't feel sorry for myself. I thought, the poor son of a bitch went through so much trouble, he's never going to find a distributor, that's really sad. But then there became this whole thing with money. I didn't get paid when I was supposed to, and I was concerned that they were going to cheat me, and a lawyer told me they very well could. That was what upset me. I didn't give a fuck about anything else. I just thought, if I don't get my money, I'm going to have to kill somebody.

So I didn't see it for a long time. I got paid, and as far as I was concerned that was the end of the story. Then my sister came to visit, and she wanted to see it. It had been out for some months at that point, and we went to the theatre, and I enjoyed it! Its not what I would have done but it's kind of sweet. My actual character in the story, Debby, she would have loved it. It was too cute and ham-fisted, too 'wanting to create a positive image.' It wanted to make people feel good about themselves. It was so odd, because I read an interview with the screenwriter, who was sort of blathering about political correctness and how awful it was - well, the movie is the epitome of political correctness! It was a positive statement about people who are into S&M, and those who don't understand. Which I find icky. But bottom line, it's great to have a movie of your work no matter what; it's a no-lose situation.

Have you ever read what Nabokov said, that Chekhov wrote sad stories for humorous people, and in order to understand their humor you have to understand their sadness because they're connected? People don't get that now. To me, Secretary was a sad story for humorous people. It's actually very funny. But you have to feel the pain of it before you can laugh at it. I think you can certainly like the movie and like the story too, but I think a lot of people whom the movie would appeal to would not understand that.

And here's another good one:

How were you introduced to sex as a child?

I had very early a sense that sex was very complex and potentially violent. And I don't mean violent in a terrible way, but that it involved a very powerful clash between two people — powerful whether they were male and female or of the same gender. There's a kind of oppositional meeting taking place. I got that from watching cartoons. Mighty Mouse, Popeye and Olive Oyl. Mighty Mouse was my first crush. I thought Mighty Mouse was really virile. And he was. He was always saving some helpless female. I remember one cartoon in which he was saving a female mouse that had been hypnotized by a villain and she was singing in a high voice, "Don't You Remember Sweet Alice," and the villain had placed her on a conveyor belt that was heading toward a buzzsaw. Mighty Mouse came along at the last minute and rescued her and carried her off, still singing. I just thought that was so erotic! And I was probably like eight.

And then on The Three Stooges, women were always getting shot in the butt with nail guns or something. And Olive Oyl was always having incredibly humiliating things happen to her, but being rescued by Popeye in the end, so Brutus would be put down. But it was clear that you needed Brutus. There would be no story without Brutus.

(Thanks to Jimmy Beck for the link.)


  1. An edited version of Secretary played on cable the other night- I hadn't seen it, yet (odd, given my huge crush on James Spader). This first time around, I was sort of disappointed. The style made me feel more like I was watching a made for TV movie, or an episode of Twin Peaks, complete with Badalamenti score. Maybe I'll follow Mary's lead, though, and watch it again when enough time has passed that I can be taken by surprise.