The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant

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9780679448860: The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant

With irony and an unfailing eye for the telling detail, Gallant weaves stories of such intricate simplicity and spare complexity that critics have rightly compared her with Henry James and Anton Chekhov. Readers will discover, or rediscover, the pleasure of reading one of the finest writers of our time.

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Review:

In these 52 stories, which were written in over almost as many years and published mostly in the New Yorker, Gallant shows herself to be one of the century's most accomplished, and least conventional, writers of short fiction. Gallant was never afraid to push the boundaries of the form: many of her longer stories stray into novella territory, and even her shortest pieces often defy the expectations created in the first few pages. Gallant's characters are almost all exiles of one sort or another, 20th century seekers often marked by World War II and its aftermath. Gallant, a Canadian expatriate, spent much of her life in Paris, and that city of exiles and emigres provides the setting for some of her most memorable stories.

From Publishers Weekly:

A reporter determined to write fiction, Gallant left her Montreal home in 1950 and settled in Paris a decade later. By the time she took up residence on the Left Bank, she'd already been publishing in the New Yorker for nearly 10 years, and she's continued to appear there all but exclusively. Of the 119 stories she's contributed over a span of five decades, 51 are collected here in the kind of volume that causes an author's reputation to take quantum leaps?even if that reputation is already, like Gallant's, sterling. (A 52nd story first published in Mademoiselle completes the mix.) A preface in which Gallant ruminates about her life and the source of her tales shimmers with the same crystalline prose as the stories themselves. It's clear that Gallant's own expatriate history has dictated her fictive concerns. Her characters seem to wander through her stories carting battered valises that hold their various eccentricities, complicated political affiliations and quirky nationalistic tendencies. Drawn from a population roughly the size of Charles Dickens's and set down on the page with a Jane Austen-like wit, Gallant's actively inactive protagonists always endeavor to do the best they can with what they've got. If that's not good enough, they trick themselves into believing it'll do. Carol in "The Other Paris" agrees to marry Howard because she thinks he'll make her life magical. When he doesn't, she sticks by him because she knows that, years later, she "would think, once more, 'Paris,' and after a while... she would remember it and describe it and finally believe it as it had never been at all." Gallant arranges the stories by decade, with four additional sections devoted to recurring characters. Perhaps the most vivid of these is Linnet Muir, an autobiographical figure who often describes her girlhood. In "The Doctor," Linnet, remarking sardonically on her strict upbringing, says: "Whatever I was doing, I would be told to do something else immediately.... Parents in bitter climates have a fixed idea about driving children out to be frozen." Another repeater is Henri Grippes, a "French man of letters" whose self-possession is satirized elegantly in four stories. In "Grippes and Poche," the intrepid author confounds himself by using his taxman?to whom he thinks he's quite superior?as the hero of a series of novels. For years it's seemed that Gallant was designing her stories as exquisite homesteads for readers to inhabit at their leisure. The publication of this important book makes it apparent that what she's actually been constructing is a gleaming skyscraper on the literary landscape. 15,000 first printing.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Gallant, Mavis
Editore: Random House (1996)
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