Also on the must-read list for the summer, Going Ashore, new stories from Gallant. And what about those selected letters I hear about? That will be interesting. Gallant is, like Elizabeth Smart, a writer Canadians can't quite come to terms with. She's not nice in the way we seem to want our writers to be, not nice enough, not predictable enough. She has opinions. You can't quite guess what she'll say next.
Don't believe me? Here are a few random comments I found on line. This first from a piece on her in Walrus:
Her name elicited high regard in both Canadian and American settings. But across the board, there was comparatively little in the way of particulars. “I love ‘The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street.’ It was in an anthology. I really should read more of her stuff.” “I enjoy her stories. They used to come in the New Yorker all the time, years ago. But I never knew what to make of them by the end.” “Gallant? Oh yes, she’s one of those writer’s writers...”More from random places, blogs:
"I kind of don't like Gallant, but don't tell her that."--Toronto writer
"She carries into every encounter a reputation of ruthlessness, of one who doesn't suffer fools at all — gladly or otherwise."--part of excerpt chosen by BookNinja from a globe piece.
Here from the Toronto Star:
Neither a Leon Rooke, a Glover, an Atwood, nor a Mavis Gallant made the list. (The latter name is not as surprising an omission as it may seem – Gallant being one of those writers whose work is universally respected and admired, yet which nobody – be honest – really likes.)Here's John Metcalf on Gallant via Steven W. Beatty:
"Alice Munro’s career has been more visible but many readers and writers think that Mavis Gallant’s rather cold eye and stringent intellect will age better.."Also from Steven W.Beatty, Alex Good who thinks the latter description of Gallant is “dead on:”
“I respect Gallant, but that cold eye, the way she seems to despise so many of her characters, puncturing their selfishness and snobbery in disdainful, ironic prose (a bit of the New Yorker house style?), gets to me.”Here, thankfully, in response to this, a comment:
Is it fair to say gender is somewhere at the root of this? I would think. It seems quite acceptable to couch any discourse around Gallant in terms of her person, her perceived person. Imagine framing discussion of Ondaatje, Carver, Ford, Richler, that way?
And by the way, the Montreal Stories audio book from Rattling Books makes a round trip from Toronto Montreal downright manageable. It's about 11 hours of listening.