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The Devil's Treasure

Published by McNally Editions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A rare work of criticism, memoir, and mythography from an author “aware of all the hidden chambers of the heart.” (Greil Marcus, New York Times Magazine)

Mary Gaitskill is unique among American novelists in “her ability to evoke the hidden life, the life unseen, the life we don’t even know we are living.”* In this searching biography of the writer’s imagination, Gaitskill excavates her own novels, revealing their origins and obsessions, the personal and societal pressures that formed them, and the life story hidden between their pages. Using the techniques of collage, The Devil's Treasure splices fiction together with commentary and personal history, and with the fairy tale that gives the book its title, about a little girl who ventures into Hell through a suburban cellar door.

The result is an answer to Gaitskill’s critics and, simultaneously, the best book we have about contemporary fiction, the forces ranged against it, and the forces that bring it into being.

“Even among other artists attracted to weakness as a theme, [Gaitskill] is rare in being able to look at it on its own terms. She doesn’t treat it like a curiosity, like Diane Arbus, or a chink in the armor that might let in faith, like Flannery O’Connor. She isn’t afraid of it, like Muriel Spark; nor does she insist its depictions rouse us to action, like Sontag. She looks—just looks—and sees everything.” —Parul Seghal, New York Times Magazine*

About The Author

Mary Gaitskill is the author of Bad Behavior; Two Girls, Fat and Thin; Because They Wanted To; Veronica; Don’t Cry; The Mare; Somebody with a Little Hammer; and This is Pleasure.

Product Details

  • Publisher: McNally Editions (August 15, 2023)
  • Length: 280 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781946022837

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Raves and Reviews

“Gaitskill is an era-defining talent, one of the best American fiction writers working today, and the book is a collage of fiction, autobiography, and fairy tale that seeks, through ‘ordered disorder,’ to approach a fundamental thing about making art—one that defines Gaitskill’s oeuvre . . . The method of her genius has always been radical truth-telling . . . Few people have written as well about broken, dystopian America, both urban and suburban . . . Ugly things are done to Gaitskill’s characters, and they do ugly things in return, all rendered in language that is continually fresh, startling, precise . . . The sum of Gaitskill’s work is the opposite of cruel. Her form of radical truth-telling recovers her characters’ shattered dignity. This mechanism—or mysticism, or alchemy—is the essence of art, and makes the best argument that we ought to place no limits on it.”

– Valerie Stivers, Compact Magazine

“This superb book is for more than just super fans. Gaitskill speaks about the opposition inside us, the doubleness of human nature, and a longing for unity."

– Michael Silverblatt, KCRW Bookworm

“A challenging and affecting puzzle . . . In time, you come to see how everything melds together, how it all intersects . . . Everything under consideration in this unique project is somehow beautiful, even when seemingly pained. The Devil’s Treasure is an absorbing exercise — a chance to see deeply into Gaitskill’s world and, at the least, a fine introduction to her oeuvre . . . This is one book that deserves more readers.”

– Drew Hart, Arts Fuse

“The medium of collage emerged to challenge the difference between the real and the artificial. Similarly, The Devil’s Treasure draws attention to the line—increasingly blurred—between fiction and nonfiction… Gaitskill, too, likes to peer into Hell, always with the utmost empathy.”

– Mia Levitin, Times Literary Supplement

“Gaitskill has produced a body of work so acutely observant of human behavior that it’s frequently described in the language of violation: a vivisection, a dental drill, a flogging... But the real danger is elsewhere: It’s in glances and gestures and sudden silences, in craving contact and being rebuffed... Gaitskill isn’t scary because she conjures monsters; monsters, she points out, are almost always in fashion. What makes her scary, and what makes her exciting, is her ability to evoke the hidden life, the life unseen, the life we don’t even know we are living.”

– Parul Sehgal, New York Times Magazine

“What is most amazing about Gaitskill is her ability to portray the heart of human longing and suffering, and to see in each gesture of our lives the disturbing and conflicting pool of drives that marks our every gesture.”

– Sheila Heti, The Believer

“Gaitskill is something special. She doesn’t grandstand; she lacks self-pity. She has an intuitive sympathy for people acting on their worst impulses and a gift for portraying cruelty without condemnation. She manages to be an erotic writer without being, precisely, a sex writer.”

– Emily Nussbaum, New York Magazine

“About sex she is an especially distinctive writer. She catches cruelty and inexplicable desire, what she has called “the dirt within,” as well as any writer we have. Once you’ve read her, her little hammer continues to tap in your head.”

– Dwight Garner, New York Times

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