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The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant (1996)

by Mavis Gallant

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1361148,001 (4.29)2
"This generous collection of fifty-two stories, selected from across her prolific career by the author, includes a preface in which she discusses the sources of her art. A widely admired master of the short story, Mavis Gallant was a Canadian-born writer who lived in France and died in 2014 at the age of ninety-one. Her more than one hundred stories, most published in The New Yorker over five decades beginning in 1951, have influenced generations of writers and earned her comparisons to Anton Chekhov, Henry James, and George Eliot. She has been hailed by Michael Ondaatje as "one of the great story writers of our time." With irony and an unfailing eye for the telling detail, Gallant weaves stories of spare complexity, often pushing the boundaries of the form in boldly unconventional directions. The settings in The Collected Stories range from Paris to Berlin to Switzerland, from the Riviera to the Côte d'Azur, and her characters are almost all exiles of one sort or another, as she herself was for most of her expatriate life. The wit and precision of her prose, combined with her expansive view of humanity, provide a rare and deep reading pleasure. With breathtaking control and compression, Gallant delivers a whole life, a whole world, in each story"--"A hardcover edition of a collection of short stories by Mavis Gallant, with a preface by her (reprinted from the first edition of 1996), plus a new introduction by Francine Prose and a new bibliography and chronology of Gallant's life and times"--… (more)

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» See also 2 mentions

“The Moslem Wife” (1976): 9.25
- It's less that these stories 'struggle' with an ending, than that they're not designed to 'end,' meaning that would require some sort of discernible structure, rather than the seemingly randomly generated empathy and observation machine at operation here and in Gallant. Her emotional laser focus moves in and out without seeming concern for the superficial Movers of Plot: ie the wonderful move here, where we have intricate, sometimes overwrought interiorizing and small-scene setting through the first twenty pages, covering the early years of this marriage, and then, after just a line break, we have a "Five years later" which moves right over the whole war!). Her stories could, in theory, go on forever. The story: man and wife run hotel in France, he's a small-time depressive cad, she's a besotted loner, they're inadvertently separated during WWII, they reunite, against her better judgment, it seems like they'll get back together. That's it. Some quotes: "He often told Netta, 'I'm not holding on to you. You're free,' because he thought it needed saying, and of course he wanted freedom for himself. But to Netta 'freedom' had a cold sound. Is that what I do want, she would wonder. Is that what I think he should offer?" ... "Those he attracted were a puzzling lot, to Netta. She had already cataloged them--elegant elderly parties with tongues like carving knives; gentle, clever girls who flourished on the unattainable; untouchable-daughter types, canny about their virginity, wondering if Jack would be father enough to justify their sacrifice." ... On Jack being simple: "Jack woke up quickly and early in the morning and smiled as naturally as children do. He knew where he was and the day of the week and the hour. The best moment of the day was the first cigarette. When something bloody happened, it was never before six in the evening. At night he had a dark look that went with a dark mood, sometimes. Netta would tell him that she could see a cruise ship floating on the horizon like a piece of the Milky Way, and she would get that for an answer." ...

“The Four Seasons" (1975): 7.5
- This suffers from the cumulative effect of it's ordering in the anthology -- coming so soon, as it does, after a story hitting on the very same aestheto-emotional tick-tock between discrete, subdued domestic dramedy of manners and big-picture, right over/on the horizon large geopolitical concerns. That said, in terms of the collection itself, it's quite novel to have it open with the climax, so to speak, as there are fascists and war right off the bat -- if only ever looked at circumspectly. Otherwise, those precise emotional beats were less effective here than they were in the other stories here -- inhabiting an Italian, rather than Anglophone character, worked less as a realistic portrayal of this habitus (like, would she pick up English so quickly? A kind of stupid, pendantic question -- and one you never consider even caring about with a Gallant story -- but that it's relevant here at all is itself a sign of the drop off).

"The Chosen Husband" (1985): 8.75
- Again, maybe it’s the story or maybe it’s the sheer diversion of coming back to lit fic after so much short sff, but there’s something especially life-affirming in these small literary fictions. Something that reiterates the vitality and beauty of literature itself, rather than the vitality and beauty of imagination and expansion that the best sff fic can do. They’re different creatures as much as they’re the same. The piece: small-means widower in Montreal works to marry off her youngest to a bore, as her wiser, worldlier older daughter looks upon knowingly. That’s it. Yet, it’s filled with such precise analysis of place and the limits of social comprehension — but those enforced by others and ourselves — that so much is there. Grazia Merler observes in her book, Mavis Gallant: Narrative Patterns and Devices, that "Psychological character development is not the heart of Mavis Gallant’s stories, nor is plot. Specific situation development and reconstruction of the state of mind or of heart is, however, the main objective." There it is.

"The Fenton Child" (1993): 10
- I know, I know. I just can't envision a short story. of this type, trying to do these things, being better than this.
  Ebenmaessiger | Oct 6, 2019 |
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"This generous collection of fifty-two stories, selected from across her prolific career by the author, includes a preface in which she discusses the sources of her art. A widely admired master of the short story, Mavis Gallant was a Canadian-born writer who lived in France and died in 2014 at the age of ninety-one. Her more than one hundred stories, most published in The New Yorker over five decades beginning in 1951, have influenced generations of writers and earned her comparisons to Anton Chekhov, Henry James, and George Eliot. She has been hailed by Michael Ondaatje as "one of the great story writers of our time." With irony and an unfailing eye for the telling detail, Gallant weaves stories of spare complexity, often pushing the boundaries of the form in boldly unconventional directions. The settings in The Collected Stories range from Paris to Berlin to Switzerland, from the Riviera to the Côte d'Azur, and her characters are almost all exiles of one sort or another, as she herself was for most of her expatriate life. The wit and precision of her prose, combined with her expansive view of humanity, provide a rare and deep reading pleasure. With breathtaking control and compression, Gallant delivers a whole life, a whole world, in each story"--"A hardcover edition of a collection of short stories by Mavis Gallant, with a preface by her (reprinted from the first edition of 1996), plus a new introduction by Francine Prose and a new bibliography and chronology of Gallant's life and times"--

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