Very recently I learned that one of my favorite Mary Gaitskill stories, “The Nice Restaurant”, has never been collected. I still have the issue of the New Yorker it appeared in, and while I do own Mary Gaitskill’s work, it had never occurred to me she wouldn’t have collected it yet until a friend mentioned it in passing on Twitter and I was reminded, again, why for at least 20 years now, I save stories from magazines.

The woman inspects her hand. She holds it away from her face and looks at it as if it does not quite belong to her, as if its history is something she had read. Thirty-two years before the hand had gone into her mouth regularly. Sixteen years before, it had unbuckled the belt of a young man who was watching television nervously in the basement of her parents’ home. Eight years before, it had enveloped the tiny hand of her son as he put his lips around her nipple for the first time. Four years before, it had opened up the mailbox at her home, and everything had changed.

Why did you write this book?

Most of the time, it’s difficult to identify the exact moment that a work of art springs to life. In this case, it’s a little easier. At the end of 2008, I did a special limited-edition art book project with Hotel St. George Press called Correspondences: it was a beautifully constructed box with fold-out flaps, and the stories in it mostly concerned letters and letter-writing, and the way they affected (mostly doomed) relationships between people. I always knew that it would have a second life as a more traditional book, and when Harper Perennial approached me about exactly that, I was ready with nine more similarly themed stories.

These days, it can be hard to believe in corporate publishing.The proliferation of pink-covered chick-lit beach reads, of C-list celebrity memoirs, of “literary fiction” seeming to have morphed into “morally inspirational books that appeal to middle-aged-lady book clubs”—well, it’s enough to all but make a girl give up on the galleys she receives from the Big Boys of New York publishing.I mean, sure, the occasional intimidatingly-smart, ultra-hip book by a twenty-or-thirtysomething white boy with shaggy hair still slips in among the drivel now and again to give us all a thrill; sure every year or so one or two foreign-born writers get championed as that season’s exotic thrill . . . but these moments can seem not only fewer and further between, but somewhat repetitive in and of themselves.Is there, for god’s sake, anything new and daring happening at the big conglomerates these days?