January 27, 1997 12:00 PM

by Mary Gaitskill

The Dentist,” one of nine stories in this pungent collection, opens with a description of an Obsession perfume billboard model: She has eyes that were “fixated, wounded, deprived” and a starved body that displays “the strange, arrested sensuality of unsatisfied want.” Gaitskill could be talking about Kate Moss—or the cast of compulsives she has created here, nearly all of them mad with longing and consumed by feelings they would much rather tamp down.

The 30ish book illustrator in “The Blanket” tells herself she has taken up with a younger fellow just for the sex, and in “The Girl on the Plane,” a middle-aged man disgorges his shame about a date rape in college to the girl seated next to him. Gaitskill plumbs the psyches of people who think they’re acting only out of want and not need. (Simon and Schuster, $22)

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