First of all: Just look at Mavis Gallant. She’s adorable.
More importantly, she’s a damn fine short story writer — every bit as extraordinary as fellow Canadian Alice Munro, though Munro tends to show up more on the Can Lit canon. (Please, if you haven’t read Gallant, go immediately to buy her tremendous collection Paris Stories, and find in it great humour and pathos, and intimately revealed truths.)
But most surprising for me — since I knew Gallant through her stories, not her interviews — is that she’s a fabulously independent woman. Moved to Montreal on her own at 18. Moved to Paris on her own a decade later. Married in her 20s, divorced soon after, and was never tempted to try it again. Says Gallant: “I didn’t like being half a person with half of another person attached. As a couple you only ever see other couples. It was so boring, I was so bored.”
Not that she hasn’t had her fun. In a wonderfully candid interview with The Guardian,
“[H]er chat is scattered with recollections of flirtatious exchanges, as light and colourful as confetti: giving bothersome Italians the slip by vanishing into art galleries; going gambling in Monte Carlo; even being asked out to dinner over the coffin at a funeral by the brother of a Jewish poet who had killed himself.”
I want to give bothersome Italians the slip! I want to be asked out in the most inappropriate way ever!
My other favourite moment from the interview:
“She recalls how, reading one of her stories, ‘The End of the World,’ to a group of bored schoolchildren, she started to cry because she had forgotten the ending and suddenly realised one of the characters was going to die – and her eyes, just a minute before creased with laughter, fill with tears across the table. ‘I could only stop myself by saying: It’s only a story, pull yourself together.’”
It’s a lovely article, and well worth a read. As for me, I’m off to move to Paris and publish nearly 100 stories in The New Yorker and leave a trail of heartbroken men in my wake — just like my girl Mavis.
— Danielle Groen
Photograph: Paul Cooper, The Guardian