All posts tagged: Mavis Gallant

February

February. I’m not so sure about February. January is so stark and clean: the year stretching ahead, the diary empty, the slate wiped & resolve high. Then February comes along & things start to get muddied by reality. Who knows whether I’m achieving everything I wanted to when the year began? Certainly not me because I’m not opening my diary to find out. (This is also how I found myself running back to school with a hastily made packed-lunch yesterday morning after forgetting that it was the day of the Moose’s school trip to the science centre.) Still. Here’s what I know I have done. I finished Anna Karenina last Saturday night. I loved it & keep waking up thinking about it. Whenever I read a classic I find myself thinking oh! that’s why it’s so famous & beloved! and wondering why I didn’t read it years ago. My mind is still fizzing with remembered connections and echoes, and it seems the kind of book that needs to be revisited at different stages of life. (Clearly I’ve already missed some angles!) …

short story collections | edge of evening

#shortstoryaday

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. Mavis Gallant, 1996 (Preface to her Selected Stories, Bloomsbury 1997) I love short stories. I read them. I buy them. And I really love what Mavis Gallant has to say about them too (so much so, that I’ve quoted her here before). Yes, stories can wait. But then I noticed just how much waiting some of the collections on my short story shelf (you have one too, right?) were doing. Waiting and waiting and waiting. I blame the intimidating heft of some of those collected/selected volumes. What a commitment to start ploughing through all of Cheever or Carver or Maxwell, or even dear Mavis herself. A short story collection works best for me when I read a story a day until it’s done. There’s enough space left around each story (Read one. Shut the book.), but there’s also the sense of …

Postcard from now

Last weekend we celebrated Bonfire Night with friends. Six children sat around our table eating pizza, while at the other end of the room a group of adults tried to chat over the laughter and fun. I moved between groups, happy as I always am when the children are mainly looking after themselves: all carefully counting the sausages to make sure that no-one took too many, helping Pops when someone took his glow stick, amusing themselves by trying to learn from the oldest among them how to make rabbit ears from their napkins. When we went out to the fireworks on the fields beside our house it was so mild that the children were taking their coats off. Two of them were even in shorts. It’s colder today, the sky blue between showers. I had a conversation earlier in the week with someone who felt just as I do. How, he asked, can it be nearly the end of the year? The last thing I remember it was just coming up to the summer holidays. I thought that …

Stories can wait

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. Mavis Gallant, 1996 (Preface to her Selected Stories, Bloomsbury 1997) Last night I read that Mavis Gallant had died. And then I took up Carrie’s recommendation & read ‘The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street’ for the first time. I think I’d passed over this story before because of the opening paragraph with its mention of ‘world affairs’. I’m also burdened by a beautiful, but incredibly thick copy of Gallant’s selected stories. The kind of volume that never feels quite right in the hands. Anyway, I was wrong. The story is wonderful – and its ending is just incredible. Here, there. Past, present. Connection, and the ways in which we can never truly understand another. All in a single, dizzying paragraph. I can certainly promise Carrie at least another nine visits to this one. And, when I wanted to …