The Selected Stories of Mavis Gallant
In her preface to this book Mavis Gallant describes her life as a writer of fiction: "I still do not know what impels anyone of sound mind to leave dry land and spend a lifetime describing people who do not exist. If it is child's play, an extension of make-believe--something one is frequently assured by persons who write about writing--how to account for the overriding wish to do that, just that, only that, and consider it as natural an occupation as riding a racing bike over the Alps? Perhaps the cultural attache at a Canadian embassy who said to me 'Yes, but what do you really do?' was expressing an adult opinion." What Mavis Gallant really does is write some of the finest short stories in the English language. She has been doing so since 1950, the year that The New Yorker accepted one of her short stories and changed her life. Over the years, as her stories in book form reached a wider audience she--like Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood--has made Canadian short stories a presence on the world's literary scene, and on our bestseller lists. Her reputation is best described by the American writer Fran Lebowitz, who recently wrote: "The irrefutable master of the short story in English, Mavis Gallant has, among her colleagues, many admirers, but no peer. She is the standout. She is the standard-bearer. She is the standard." In tribute to her extraordinary career this elegant 900-page volume brings together the work of her life-time. It contains no fewer than 52 stories written over four decades and grouped according to the periods in which they are set, starting with the 1930s. Predictably, selecting from her work for this volume was no easy task. Writing in praise of Mavis Gallant in 1993, Robertson Davies made an interesting estimate: "She has written many short stories. My calculation suggests that she has written in this form at least the equivalent of twenty novels." That extraordinary life's work is well represented here, demonstrating on every page what Alice Adams has called "the astounding precision of her language, the range and generosity of her intelligence, her marvellous wit." Even Mavis Gallant's most devoted admirers will find stories here that they do not know, or stories that they rediscover like long-lost friends. For newer admirers this is a treasure trove, a remarkable book by a modern Canadian master that deserves to be read again and again.
Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c1996
xix, 887 p. ; 25 cm