Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior and the Bad Nutrition that Followed

After recovering from a near brain implosion at my residency—-so. many. good. things. happening!!—-I return to A Lit.eral Interpretation inspired and hungry. Good news for your belly, and bad news for your pant size.

Mary Gaitskill is a name that’s been circling in conversations involving awesomeness and literature, and for damn good reason.  Her collection of short stories, Bad Behavior, doesn’t hold any punches.  Where some books flirt with human folly and the resulting repercussions, she serves it to you raw. Without a chaser.  The characters are contradictory and rich, and as Alice Munro said of it, it has “fine moments that flatten you out when you don’t expect it.”

The term bad behavior is somewhat relative, but it seems to boil down to acting on one’s most base desires—-a disregard of self-control and morality.  When those terms are applied to food, they are a flip-of-the-bird to counting calories.  A moonwalk across the nutrition label. In the spirit of being truly self-indulgent, I’m offering up two recipes instead of one.  Here comes the naughty fix:


Maple Caramel Bacon Crack 

*find the original recipe here

Note—- I know that the whole bacon craze has been done to death, but ask yourself this: do you ever really get sick of it?

  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 pkg Pillsbury crescent rolls
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet (like a 15×10) with foil and liberally (Seriously. It will seem like too much) grease the foil with cooking spray. Unroll the crescent rolls into one single plane of dough and pinch any perforations together to seal. Stretch the dough out to fit the size of the pan with your hands so it’s even. Prick the dough with a fork all over. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your bacon. Cook it until it’s technically safe enough to eat and just about done, but still lighter in color and not quite crispy. You don’t want it fully cooked and crispy as it will continue to cook in the oven. I pulled mine out of the pan right when they were a medium-pink color. Drain the bacon on a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Drizzle ¼ cup of the maple syrup over the crescent roll dough. Sprinkle with about ¼ cup of the brown sugar. Top with torn pieces of the cooked bacon (I used kitchen shears to cut mine into pieces). Drizzle the remaining maple syrup on top of the bacon pieces, and top with the remaining brown sugar.
  4. Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until bubbling and caramelized. Remove from the oven and allow the pan to come to room temperature or warm to the touch before cutting or breaking into pieces. You can serve this at room temperature or slightly warmed. It tastes best the day of, but can be eaten the next day if stored airtight.

If that didn’t rev your inner glutton, here comes round two.


Hot n’ Easy Cocktail

*Find the original recipe here.  I changed the name of the drink to better suit the story collection.  It will be listed under “Crazy Horse’s Neck.”


  • 1 part Fireball Whisky
  • 3 parts ginger beer
  • Long spiral peel of lemon
  • Orange bitters

*If you’re like me, you’ll try to cut out ingredients you deem unnecessary.  It might be tempting to ax the lemon peel and bitters, but DON’T!  They’re the difference between a good drink and a mind-blowing beverage.


Place a long spiral of lemon peel into a Collins glass. Secure one end of the peel over the lip of the glass. (The peel should run from the bottom of the glass to over the top) Add ice cubes. Pour in Fireball and ginger beer. Add a dash of bitters. Stir well.

Now sit back, relax with your crack n’ booze, and enjoy this tidbit from the story “A Romantic Weekend.”

“The store was clean and white, except for a few smudges on the linoleum floor.  Homosexuals with low voices stood behind the counter.  Arranged stalks bearing absurd blossoms protruded from sedate round vases and bristled in the aisles.  She had a paroxysm of fantasy.  He held her, helpless and swooning, in his arms.  They were supported by a soft ball of puffy blue stuff.  Thornless roses surrounded their heads.  His gaze penetrated her so thoroughly, it was as though he had thrust his hand into her chest and begun feeling her ribs one by one.  This was all right with her…None of this felt stupid or corny, but she knew that it was.  Miserably, she tried to gain a sense of proportion.  She stared at the flowers.  They were an agony of bright, organized beauty.  She couldn’t help it.  She wanted to give him flowers.  She wanted to be with him in a room full of flowers.  She visualized herself standing in front of him, bearing a handful of blameless flowers trapped in the ugly pastel paper the florist would staple around them.  The vision was brutally embarrassing, too much so to stay in her mind for more than seconds.”  

This is your brain on drugs.  Literary crack, that is.



The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield

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This is where I do some gender-bending.  I’ll admit I was a bit out of my depth here.  The eyebrows? To five-o-clock shadow or not to five-o-clock shadow? (I obviously went with the latter, as I have no facial hair tricks up my sleeve other than the old coffee grounds method—-not terribly realistic.) There was also a great deal of debating over how a male would hold a cigarette.  In short, I have very little knowledge about being a dude.

So here it is: Holden in the red hunting cap, chain-smoking (as usual), still in prep school tie and oxford, pondering where the ducks in Central Park go in the winter, or whether Jane Gallagher still keeps all her kings in the back row, or why everyone is a goddamn phony.

While Holden is escaping school, I’m heading out to it for the second residency of my MFA program.  Readings will be attended.  Writing will be workshopped.  Lectures will be held.  Swooning over the collected talent will be (hopefully) kept to a respectable minimum.  And then I’ll return with a new list of required reads to play with here on A Lit.eral Interpretation.

In the spirit of good literature and good writing, I’ll leave you with this quote from Mr. Antolini’s conversation with Holden near the end of the novel:

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”