Oh, Mavis.

Read Mavis Gallant’s “When We Were Nearly Young” with my students on Friday, my first time teaching her work since she died, and maybe it was a little too soon, because I got all verklempt! My students looked a little worried, but it’s probably good for them that I can’t hide how her stories have only grown in their importance for me since I was their age, and how surprised I’ve been that while every MFA student in the USA knows Alice Munro’s work, very few know Gallant’s. The one American friend I have who is a great reader of Gallant–and, not coincidentally, a great American short story writer who now also writes about the short story–is Peter Orner. Thinking about Gallant and about Peter made me remember to check if he wrote about Mavis following her death, and he did, here, and he said the thing I’ve been saying to my students, only better: “Gallant reminds us, that our job as fiction writers is to, for once, and always, forget about ourselves.”

(I also wrote about Gallant for The Rumpus, once upon a time and maybe not so well as Peter, but well enough to let you look: The Cost of Living)

One Response to “Oh, Mavis.”

  1. Elizabeth Evans

    Gallant’s “My Heart is Broken” and Margaret Atwood’s “Rape Fantasies” are two of my all-time favorite stories. Both come at the subject of rape “at a slant”–and wind up being not only top-notch models of narration, but devastating comments on the ways in which we try to “accommodate” ourselves to the brutal. (Padma, I often have gotten verklempt discussing Gallant.)


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