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The Collected Stories (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics Series)

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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 Ne 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 Italian Riviera to the Cote 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.


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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 Ne 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 Italian Riviera to the Cote 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.

30 review for The Collected Stories (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics Series)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I read this a while ago but am always re-reading it, and every time I go back it amazes me. Gallant really was one of the greats, and if you haven't yet had the pleasure of these mordant, razor-sharp, disturbingly clairvoyant stories then I urge you to try just one, maybe 'Lena', after which you'll probably read at least a few more. "It was shortly before her removal to the hospital that Magdalena learned about Juliette’s death. One of her doddering friends may have seen the notice in a newspape I read this a while ago but am always re-reading it, and every time I go back it amazes me. Gallant really was one of the greats, and if you haven't yet had the pleasure of these mordant, razor-sharp, disturbingly clairvoyant stories then I urge you to try just one, maybe 'Lena', after which you'll probably read at least a few more. "It was shortly before her removal to the hospital that Magdalena learned about Juliette’s death. One of her doddering friends may have seen the notice in a newspaper. She at once resumed her place as my only spouse and widow-to-be. In fact, she had never relinquished it, but now the way back to me shone clear. The divorce, that wall of pagan darkness, had been torn down and dispersed with the concubine’s ashes. She saw me delivered from an adulterous and heretical alliance. It takes a convert to think “heretical” with a straight face. She could have seen Juliette burned at the stake without losing any sleep. It is another fact about converts that they make casual executioners. She imagined that I would come to her at once, but I went nowhere. Juliette had asked to be cremated, thinking of the purification of the flame, but the rite was accomplished by clanking, hidden, high-powered machinery that kept starting and stopping, on cycle. At its loudest, it covered the voice of the clergyman, who affirmed that Juliette was eyeing us with great goodwill from above, and it prevailed over Juliette’s favorite recordings of Mozart and Bach. Her ashes were placed in a numbered niche that I never saw, for at some point in the funeral service I lost consciousness and had to be carried out. This nightmare was dreamed in the crematorium chapel of Père Lachaise cemetery. I have not been back. It is far from where I live, and I think Juliette is not there, or anywhere. From the moment when her heart stopped, there has been nothing but silence."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan Oleksiw

    I got this book because of an excerpt in The New Yorker of her forthcoming memoir. I hadn't heard of her and thought I should know who she is. I was hooked after the first page. This woman is an amazing, careful, perceptive writer who crafts in-depth stories about people who feel so real I could imagine them walking past my house. She is never never sentimental, but she isn't falsely tough either. Her writing is precise, not the least bit showy, and always perfect. Her stories are really charact I got this book because of an excerpt in The New Yorker of her forthcoming memoir. I hadn't heard of her and thought I should know who she is. I was hooked after the first page. This woman is an amazing, careful, perceptive writer who crafts in-depth stories about people who feel so real I could imagine them walking past my house. She is never never sentimental, but she isn't falsely tough either. Her writing is precise, not the least bit showy, and always perfect. Her stories are really character studies, close looks at the way people who have been through difficult times will behave, how hard times change them, how they grow or don't grow. I'm looking forward to reading many more of her stories.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Because I loved her stories in The New Yorker, I felt I really needed to explore the totality of Gallant's short fiction. I'm glad I did. It was a dense, daunting read (887 pages). It took me nearly 6 months. One of the things that kept me going was the fact that her stories improved with (Gallant's) age. Her best work was in the twilight of her career, where she really learned how to trim things down to their bare bones--i.e. the essence of good short story writing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maike

    one of the best short story writers

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard McDonough

    Mavis Gallant is an extraordinary writer whose work is alarmingly underestimated. Her point of view is particular, her prose flawless, and her forthcomingness in interviews annoyingly stingy. But she will be recorded in history as a writer in English in the twentieth century of extraordinary gifts. Read her.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda Michel-Cassidy

    Mavis is my comfort reading, something to go to after Gary Lutz or Sharon Olds have blown my head off. She was such a great storyteller. I find myself reading one or two of her stories every now and then (esp the Paris ones!) almost to relax. That said, since this book is about 3,000 pages long, I can'r imagine I'll ever finish it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Loreen Niewenhuis

    Gallant is a master of the short story, but often overlooked.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This is an excellent collection of stories that introduces the reader to the work of one of Canada's greatest short story writers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    j n g

    The short story writer I wish I could be. 💚 Slowly making my way through this gorgeous collection.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vel Veeter

    There is an introduction to this collection written by Gallant where she states: “There is something I keep wanting to say about reading short stories. I am doing it now, because I may never have another occasion. Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait.” I both agree and disagree with Gallant on this point, but I take it nonetheless. I tend There is an introduction to this collection written by Gallant where she states: “There is something I keep wanting to say about reading short stories. I am doing it now, because I may never have another occasion. Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait.” I both agree and disagree with Gallant on this point, but I take it nonetheless. I tend to blur stories together and read them one after another, especially in big collections, where I take one or two of the long stories (over 30 pages) then a bunch of the shorter stories (under ten), and work my way through the medium stories (in between). Sometimes this works for me and often it doesn’t. Because I am so fixated on reading through the stories and because so much of my reading was developed in college where we’d have more reading assigned than we could possibly cover in class time, I got used to things. Last year was a prime example of letting that philosophy take hold. This year I am trying to do something a little different. I am going to be reading more demanding, longer books in general. The goal will be to slow down and keep a steady but no longer hearty pace. The idea will be to read more carefully and thoughtfully and try to strike a balance. To not treat the long stories (or books) like obstacles to get past, and to not treat short stories (or books) like boxes to check off. I will still allow myself to plow through books I am not super enjoying or that seem like I should read them but for ones I actually like, I need to pace myself. I know that the obvious solution is to no waste my time with books I don’t like. I know that’s more or less sound advice but I do get something out of reading things I don’t like or I feel are somewhat offensive because it still gives me things to think about and consider. I will not force myself to read books I am bored by. And I still won’t allow myself to feel smug about having put a book down. I read a review of a different Gallant collection and the reviewer was so proud of himself for “having her number” as it were and so smug about it. He was super defensive when people even asked him questions or suggested anything additional to consider. His attitude was deeply unpleasant, and more so, he was wrong. Mavis Gallant is great. Her stories here are just so genuinely good as a rule that while not every single story reached me in that way you might look for, there wasn’t a dud among the whole collection. And this collection is 900 pages and contains 50+ stories. Also, there’s not a single gimmick among them. At all! There’s one story (out of a 50 year career) written in the second person, a thing I often hate, but here it was done so beautifully. It’s called “Mlle. Dias de Corta” and it’s among one of the last stories Gallant published. In the story, our narrator, who is writing in a kind of both first person and second person voice (narrated back forth with “I”s and “You”s) telling both her story and “our” story in the body of Mlle. Dias de Corta, an actress of sorts who stayed with the family of the narrator in her youth and had a short and dramatic romance with the narrator’s son. The narrator is telling the story of a changing Europe through her understanding of the actress’s career, as well as understanding the loss she feels at no longer knowing the young woman, now much older. It’s a siren song kind of story, and it’s really very good. That’s just one. Each story more or less embodies a richness that uses Gallant’s station as an outsider in Paris to be able to carefully understand post-war Europe, as well as Canadian and American life as an ex-pat. Just when you think that Gallant sees all Americans and Canadians as rednecks in the culture and grace of Europe (she lived in Paris for some 50 years and many if not most of the stories take place within or from without Paris), she turns the tables to allow a shifty gallery curator to be owned by a Canadian expat in a pseudo-religious cult. Along a certain set of lines, she has a story for every occasion. These are very much not American (or North American) stories, save a few, but somehow she has contained within them every version of myself from my teens on as well as every person I have ever dated. It’s a weird and uncanny read to be sure. Here’s a sampling: From “New Year’s Eve” “On New Year’s Eve the Plummers took Amabel to the opera. “What happens tonight happens every day for a year,” said Amabel, feeling secure because she has a Plummer on either side. Colonel Plummer’s car had broken down that afternoon; he had got his wife and their guest punctually to the Bolshoi Theater, through a storm, in a bootleg taxi. Now he discovered from his program that the opera announced was neither of those they had been promised. His wife leaned across Amabel and said, “Well, which is it?” She could not read any Russian and would not try. She must have known it would take him minutes to answer, for she sat back, settled a width of gauzy old shawl on her neck, and began telling Amabel the relative sizes of the Bolshoi and some convert hall in Vancouver the girl had never heard of. Then, because it was the Colonel’s turn to speak, she shut her eyes and waited for the overture. The Colonel was gazing at the program and putting off the moment when he would say that it was Ivan Susanin, a third choice no one had so much hinted at. He wanted to convey that he was sorry and that the change was not his fault. He took bearings: He was surrounded bu women. To his left sat the guest, who mewed like a kitten, who had been a friend of his daughter’s, and whose name he could not remember. On the right, near the aisle, two quiet unknown girls were eating fruit and chocolates. These two smelled of oranges; of clothes worn a long time in winter; of light recent sweat; of women’s hair. Their arms were large and bare. When the girl closest to him moved slightly, he saw a man’s foreign wristwatch. He wondered who she was, and how the watch had come to her, but he had been here two years now–long enough to know he would never be answered. He also wondered if the girls were as shabby as his guest found everyone in Moscow. His way of seeing women was not concerned with that sort of evidence: Shoes were shoes, a frock was a frock. The girls took no notice of the Colonel. He was invisible to them, wiped out of being by a curtain pulled over the inner eye.” This is a pretty typical kind of passage. Oddly funny, incisive, interior, and full of little moments of understanding with the character’s perspective and the audience, but not always with those others around them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Simon Bullock

    It's exciting read the familiar names of streets and parks brought to life with such timeless prose. The unique interactions known only to Montreal of fluent conversations flipping between french and English, the underlying canvas of religion and class, and the new and world all woven together are near to any Montréalais.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ann Harleman

    FINE FORGOTTEN WRITERS... A toast to Mavis Gallant (1922-2014)! 🙌(I promise, not all of my FFWs are dead!). Let Gallant speak for herself: “Like every other form of art, literature is no more and nothing less than a matter of life and death.” It always strikes me as magical that writers can speak to us from beyond the grave. 🎈

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andy Quan

    A university lecturer named Francine Prose praised Mavis Gallant's short stories effusively, yet precisely, in this article in the New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-t... This article, among other reviews, and curiosity, and living in Paris for a time, a Canadian in Paris, made me want to get to know Mavis Gallant's work. I confess though, that her Selected Stories, which spans – decades, overwhelmed me. I was impressed to be introduced to so many social contexts that I was unfamiliar w A university lecturer named Francine Prose praised Mavis Gallant's short stories effusively, yet precisely, in this article in the New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-t... This article, among other reviews, and curiosity, and living in Paris for a time, a Canadian in Paris, made me want to get to know Mavis Gallant's work. I confess though, that her Selected Stories, which spans – decades, overwhelmed me. I was impressed to be introduced to so many social contexts that I was unfamiliar with. One was sort of an urban counterpart to Alice Munro's farm stories, and yet even more specific, Anglophones living in French Canada in the 30s and 40s, and then various kinds of Europeans, often travelling to another part of Europe or immigrating there, living in different cultural enclaves or in different social strata. Bureaucratics, intellectuals, critics and writers, poor hoarders and those who'd inherited wealth, women in unhappy marriages, or waiting to get married. It is quite a dizzying cast of characters, and often introduced with very specific cultural details. Woven often with satirical social observation and a sharp tongue, I was drawn into some of the stories, particularly interested in the lives of women aiming to be independent, or find love, or a partnership. She was no prude either; characters are remarkably frank in their affairs. And yet, at other times, I found it hard to engage with some of these unlikeable characters: a literary critic described at great length, mostly in relation to a rival, for example, was a character study but with little story. But I do think that I chose the wrong format to meet Ms Gallant. Too many stories made me rush through them, which is against Ms Prose's advice, and downloading it to read on my iPad also gave the stories less weight, made them more ephemeral than they are, and less likely for me to stay with them, return to them. Certainly an interesting writer though and I'm glad for those who are fond of her gifts. The thesis that she wasn't recognised because no country could claim her properly as her own seemed correct – and she does seem to be the patron saint of global citizens who have lived in different cities and cultures, observing life keenly as an outsider.

  14. 5 out of 5

    G

    I've found when I carry around a large 800+ page book like this, I'm bound to get looks. "Is he really reading THAT?" I suppose it is no different than the look I give to people carrying around "Infinite Jest" or "War and Peace." I guess it is an impressive undertaking...but is it worth it? In the case of The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant, no. No, it isn't worth it. Ms. Gallant was a fine writer and used language well, but she wasn't a very engaging story teller. Only a handful of stories he I've found when I carry around a large 800+ page book like this, I'm bound to get looks. "Is he really reading THAT?" I suppose it is no different than the look I give to people carrying around "Infinite Jest" or "War and Peace." I guess it is an impressive undertaking...but is it worth it? In the case of The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant, no. No, it isn't worth it. Ms. Gallant was a fine writer and used language well, but she wasn't a very engaging story teller. Only a handful of stories here interested me - "Baum, Gabriel, 1935 - ( )" and "Scarves, Beads and Sandals" to name two. The strongest stories are those collected under the "The Carette Sisters" and "Edouard, Juliette, Lena" headings which weave several separate short stories into what is almost a novella. Overall though, there isn't much here to recommend. In the Preface, Gallant suggested that these stories are not to be read all at once, and recommended that the reader enjoy one, then put the book down and come back to it later. Maybe I should have listened.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dick Harding

    It took several years to finish this book as I would read a story after finishing another book. I think the slow reading made it even more pleasurable. Mavis Gallant is my favourite short story author having read her for decades in the New Yorker. I can see why some would not care for her stories; many of the characters seems strangely disassociated and dissatisfied with life. I really wish I could put a finger on why her writing seems to strike me to the core. I can say her writing is wonderful It took several years to finish this book as I would read a story after finishing another book. I think the slow reading made it even more pleasurable. Mavis Gallant is my favourite short story author having read her for decades in the New Yorker. I can see why some would not care for her stories; many of the characters seems strangely disassociated and dissatisfied with life. I really wish I could put a finger on why her writing seems to strike me to the core. I can say her writing is wonderfully crafted. Often, I would pause and reread a sentence, marveling at its construction and meaning. I read the book in order. The best stories to me were the ones toward the end of the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    This lengthy book of well-written and perceptive short stories lean towards the Canadian, French and feminine (though some have a male voice rather well done) and are somewhat dated unless you are looking for a taste of some of the culture of past decades. They eventually began to test my (U.S. male) attention until the last quarter, which reads as more overtly autobiographical, is much more interesting, and brings this collection close to five stars, which is how Canadian or French women are li This lengthy book of well-written and perceptive short stories lean towards the Canadian, French and feminine (though some have a male voice rather well done) and are somewhat dated unless you are looking for a taste of some of the culture of past decades. They eventually began to test my (U.S. male) attention until the last quarter, which reads as more overtly autobiographical, is much more interesting, and brings this collection close to five stars, which is how Canadian or French women are likely to rate it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ilse Wouters

    Collection of short stories written over a large part of the 20th century. At first, the stories mainly talk about foreigners living in post-war Europe and their interaction with the locals. Later on, the themes adjust to the modern times. Mavis Gallant is able to sketch emotionally complicated situations in few pages, and more tan often, the end offers a surprising turn to the story. It makes for some enjoyable reading although most of the stories can´t exactly be said to be warm stories with w Collection of short stories written over a large part of the 20th century. At first, the stories mainly talk about foreigners living in post-war Europe and their interaction with the locals. Later on, the themes adjust to the modern times. Mavis Gallant is able to sketch emotionally complicated situations in few pages, and more tan often, the end offers a surprising turn to the story. It makes for some enjoyable reading although most of the stories can´t exactly be said to be warm stories with warm characters.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    The stories aren't arranged chronologically, but looking at their publication dates, I find retroactively that almost all of the stories I found luminous, arresting, or just downright splendid were published after 1985 or so. And among the early ones there were several so displeasing to me that I almost gave up on slogging through. So I would recommend that one definitely seek out the Linnet Muir cycle, and any of her later collections, but not so much this giant tome of All the Stories Ever.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mauberley

    Upon learning of her death earlier this week on Feb 18, 2014, I re-read the Linnet Muir stories in this overflowing treasure chest of a volume. I fell in love all over again with Gallant's wonderful ability to evoke a mood and create a character. Interesting to compare 'Varieties of Exile' and its portrait of a 'remittance man' with any number of stories by Somerset Maugham. RIP, madame. Thank you for all that you have left us.

  20. 4 out of 5

    astried

    I must've read this in the spam of more than 2 years. It's really to heavy to read several stories in one go. Which made the last stories in the book rather annoying. It's those continuing stories featuring the same people. though one of the arc is really interesting they made it more difficult to break the reading. Plus, i've read some of them in the other collection. The best story would be the first which I've chewed so many times and still tasty. 4 stars.

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Wood

    At 887 pages this is a daunting project to read and builds your arms up at the same time. Mavis Gallant was a talented writer who clearly improved as her career progressed. Her stories are based in France or French Canada and take place from the 30's to the 90's. So, this collection offers great insights into different times and cultures. Although there is a variety of characters and situations, I had some trouble following the stories and remaining interested.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This hardcover book is HUGE and daunting at first, but once you start reading it is nearly impossible to put down. Her short stories are so full and rich and the characters so well drawn that you are sorry when their story ends -- except then you get to start a new one and meet a whole new set of characters.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ineke van Mackelenbergh

    A total pleasure to read her style and get into a completely different era. As she says it herself: short stories should be read each on their own merit and each in their own time..... However, they become much of a muchness halfway through and I had to put the book down - perhaps to come back to, or not? I have lost interest.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katya

    I read about half of this tome. And stopped only because I had to return to the library. She's surely one of the masters of the short story form. Although there is a cold, shrewdness in her voice that's hard to shake.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    I'm still reading this book. I loved Mavis' preface to the book - she recommended reading one story at a time, putting the book down, and then coming back to another. So, that's what I'm doing - one story at a time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shanlie

    She paints such a detailed picture you lose yourself in the moment...tasting every detail, living in that moment along with the characters in the story. What a gifted author: Canada is blessed to have her. We are nourished indeed by her graceful prose so precise it vibrates.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    Close to 900 pages, 52 stories and not a dud among them. They may puzzle or mystify at times, but they're always intriguing at the least, and terribly well written as a matter of course, as though it doesn't take any effort.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Creal

    Another great short story master, like Munro. Gallant is also from Canada. I've read some of these but not all.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Great short stories that span the twentieth century. Most of the stories deal with people living away from their birth places and the migrants experience through unique circumstances.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kallie

    Few books make me laugh aloud. Gallant has an amazing eye and ear for absurdity in human behavior, yet she is not cold . . . not sure how she manages that.

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