Thursday, September 1, 2011

On "Tiny, Smiling Daddy" by Mary Gaitskill (5436 words) ****

Mirroring certain themes in Mary Gaitskill's other stories, "Tiny, Smiling Daddy," the lead tale in her second collection, Because They Wanted To, starts off with real promise. A man receives a phone call from a friend. His daughter is in a magazine called Self. So begins the father's reflections on this woman he hardly knows anymore and on his own fatherhood, for the article is in fact about him. What makes the story so powerful is the clash of lifestyles, values, and generations. Here are parents who try to "raise their daughter right" but who nonetheless end up with a lesbian. Their rejection of her, their slow halfway acceptance, it's all right here in Gaitskill's piece. And that tiny, smiling daddy--let's just say there's a parent in each one of us we're supposed to get in touch with. Get it? Yeah, neither does the narrator. But we get glimpses of an answer in the relationship we see recounted between the father and the father's own dad. Read the story here or listen to Gaitskill read part of it here.

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