A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day eight – Tiny Smiling Daddy

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day eight – Tiny Smiling Daddy, by Mary Gaitskill

Read it online here:

Tiny Smiling Daddy

Mary Gaitskill is a polarizing writer. Either you like her or you don’t – but you can’t say she lacks courage.

Today’s story, Tiny Smiling Daddy is from her second collection of short stories – Because They Wanted To.

It isn’t as “out there” as a lot of her work – even though her favorite theme – female characters dealing with sexuality and fitting in somewhere – is here. What makes it different is the point of view. It’s told by a father that has had a phone call from a friend to tell him that his grown daughter has published a confessional piece about him in Self Magazine.

The father then goes on a quest, first to find a copy of the magazine, and then to think back over the years and his turbulent relationship with his daughter. He is clueless, he doesn’t understand how much damage his lack of acceptance of her has done… for everybody.

Even though the story is told through him, and by him, mostly in remembering, his daughter is the most memorable character in the story. You can feel her, through her father’s eyes, in her struggle to find herself and her place in the world.

Instead, he watched her, puzzling at the metamorphosis she had undergone. First she had been a beautiful, happy child turned homely, snotty, miserable adolescent. From there she had become a martinet girl with the eyes of a stifled pervert. Now she was a vibrant imp, living, it seemed, in a world constructed of topsy-turvy junk pasted with rhinestones. Where had these three different people come from? Not even Marsha, who had spent so much time with her as a child, could trace the genesis of the new Kitty from the old one. Sometimes he bitterly reflected that he and Marsha weren’t even real parents anymore but bereft old people rattling around in a house, connected not to a real child who was going to college, or who at least had some kind of understandable life, but to a changeling who was the product of only their most obscure quirks, a being who came from recesses that neither of them suspected they’d had.

There is real life in this story. I read it on my Kindle, stretched out under a tree in the park and it was able to pull me in from the warm, pleasant surroundings around me.

What more can you ask?

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