I'm Psychic... with Mary Gaitskill

By Amie Barrodale

Mary Gaitskill is... hmm. I wonder if it is possible that a person reading this does not know Mary Gaitskill. If that is the case, then please go to the bookstore and buy one of her short story collections. You might start with the story "Secretary" in the collection Bad Behavior, because then you'll get an idea of the universe you have been missing. Of course, the movie was based on her story, but her story is darker, sexier, and does not end in a happy connection. From there, please read "The Dentist." Then you're on your own. But I think most people do know that Gaitskill is the author of three short story collections and two novels. Her most recent novel, Veronica, was a National Book Award nominee. I think there are two qualities that are essential to a writer: honesty and compassion. She has both. She's one of the best writers in the world.

VICE: Would you like a general reading, or a love reading, work reading or a question?
Mary Gaitskill:
I'll have a general reading.

Oh, these are really positive. It says you're going through a really good time with your work. It says you should be where you are spending long days writing. You have the Empress card, which is like for fruitfulness and action. Overlying that is the Ace of Swords, and Swords is the writing suit and the Ace is the best form of that.
Are you doing the Celtic Cross?

Yes, this is the Celtic Cross. It says you were happy. It said this phase is coming out of the Ace of Pentacles, which says you're making money and happy and writing a lot. In the fourth position is the Hermit, which I guess is saying to go out and meet people.
What position is the Hermit in?

The Hermit was in the fourth position, which is things to let go of, or things from the past.
OK, and the next one is what?

The next one is your goals, and that one is the Hanged Man, which is like you, according to this, you're having a little bit of trouble right now with letting go of whatever is happening. Next to that is the near future, and it's the Lovers card, but aren't you married?
No, I'm not.

Who was that guy, Peter?
He was my husband, but we're not married anymore. Though we’re still talking. It’s complicated. He’s a lovely person.

I guess it's saying that you're going to meet someone. Or maybe you already have. But that's in your near future. And your next card is the Five of Wands. That's the card of, I don't know, do you know these cards at all?
I know some of them, I don't know the Five of Wands. If you told me the image I would know it.

It's like five men playfully fighting with wands, and it says it stands for friendly competition in several aspects, and the next is the card the Two of Swords, which stands for peacefulness.
The card of what? Peacefulness? The Two Swords is the card of Peacefulness?

It's the one of the woman with the blindfold and she's holding two swords and she's balanced and the crescent moon behind her?
Isn't that the one where she's totally screwed?

No! There are some cards that are like that, but with this one, I don't think so.
The only one image I remember is the woman who is blindfolded is when she's in horrible trouble.

Actually, no, she's not. I’ll look it up. [Pause.] It says on the internet it can also mean denying feelings. I've never thought of it that way.
I just looked it up too, it's not terrible.

The advice to you is the Page of Cups. We're both going to have to look this up. That card can be romantic. It goes with the Lovers card–enjoying romantic feelings, and the outcome is the King of Wands. That’s what you are, it's like an artist.
The King of Wands?

It's natural artistic ability, self-expression, original and inventive. So, it's not negative. It doesn't sound like you're very impressed with my psychic abilities.
No, I'm just too tired and I'm scared, whenever I get human cards as an answer to something, I just don't know what to make of those. I like the Lovers card though, and they are humans.

Lovers… Yeah, it said, that’s the near future. Um, weirdly, I kind of wanted to ask your advice. I can't even ask...I just had the most terrible experience with this guy, and I don't even know what I'm even talking about, I just don't know how to deal with men at all.
Neither do I.

I've never talked to a guy before about what I like--I don't know what I'm saying--in bed... and I don't know why I'm telling you this.
What happened? Did you tell him what you wanted to do and he didn't want to do it?

No, he wanted to, and we did it, and then it just, it made me crazy. Does that make any sense?
Why did you say it was a terrible experience?

I liked it, but I guess I had never done that, so I got really vulnerable, and then I acted crazy. That's what happened.
How did you act crazy?

I started emailing him a little too candidly, I don't know, I just don't know how to deal with men.
Is he like ignoring you now?

Yeah, basically.
Oh, I hate that. It's almost always a bad idea to get emotional with men.

Yeah, do you hide your feelings? I don't really know how to deal with men. 
I am terrible at hiding my feelings, and my male friends have lectured me on how I give too much away, I have to think military. Somebody actually said that to me: “Think military.” But my experience is, sometimes they like you to show feelings, but it has to do with timing. That's what's annoying about it, the timing thing. What I find with men, they can really like pouring out of emotion, but it has to come out at the right time, and it can't be too much or they get upset. But pour it on at the right time? You can pour as hard as you want. But it’s hard to figure out the right time when you're feeling a lot, it ruins it for me to plan it out.

You're not writing anything right now?
No, though I just finished something. I have to teach now. I'm just exhausted because I feel like I'm constantly in the subway and dropping bags off, and picking bags up. I'm not going to be able to write for a while because of this. But, I did just turn in a piece of my new book, but I haven't heard back, so God knows what they think of it, but it's a book that's really different for me, and it's probably going to get me laughed at.

Oh, I doubt that.
Do you want to hear what it's about? A young girl learning to ride a horse.

That is different.
I don't know anything about horses. I'm not a horse person.

Where did the idea come from?
Well, when I was married we used to be part of [an organization that sends inner city kids to camp], and we had these same kids come up every summer, and sometimes at Christmas and on their birthdays. It went on for seven years. And the girl really loved horses. We used to live next to a stable and she completely loved horses. And so that relationship went on for years and years, but it ended kind of, not badly exactly, but sad.

Why?
It had to; it was doomed. There was no place it could fit. And I was once watching a clip of National Velvet. And I thought she should see a story like that, about a girl like her.

What is National Velvet?
It was Elizabeth Taylor's first movie, she starred in it when she was 15 years old. She was a working-class girl but she was an incredible horse rider. Unbeknownst to the authorities, she enters a national race and she wins, until they find out she's a 15-year-old girl and she's disqualified. It's going to be laughed at because I didn't know anything about horses when I started. I was afraid of them. Still am, really, but I've been working at a stable. I've gotten to know these really hardcore horsewomen and also I’ve gotten to know some horses I really like.

Do you ride horses now?
I've taken lessons, I know how to ride horses a bit, a tiny bit. I'm not completely terrified of them, like I was. It's going to be a work of romantic ignorance, basically. Anything else I say will be putting a “KICK ME” sign on me so I'd rather not.

 

Previously - I'm Psychic... with Gesar Mukpo

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