Varieties of Exile (New York Review Books Classics Series)
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Mavis Gallant is the modern master of what Henry James called the international story, the fine-grained evocation of the quandaries of people who must make their way in the world without any place to call their own. The irreducible complexity of the very idea of home is especially at issue in the stories Gallant has written about Montreal, where she was born, although she has lived in Paris for more than half a century.
Varieties of Exile, Russell Banks's extensive new selection from Gallant's work, demonstrates anew the remarkable reach of this writer's singular art. Among its contents are three previously uncollected stories, as well as the celebrated semi-autobiographical sequence about Linnet Muir—stories that are wise, funny, and full of insight into the perils and promise of growing up and breaking loose.
with Protestant prudence and gravity, making the remark that Lily should cover her hair. I looked around and saw no red glow, no Presence. For the sake of the concert the church had been turned into a public hall; in any case, what Lily chose to do was her business. Either God existed and was not offended by women and their hair or He did not; it came to the same thing. Mr. Chadwick was telling David about design and decoration. He pointed to the ceiling and to the floor. I heard him say some
calling some new argument to the Biesels; Mr. Chadwick was busy with a waiter; and David was lost in his private climate of drizzle and mist. “What shrimp?” said Edie. “You mean Harry?” “If I say ‘the rest of your life,’ I must mean your husband.” “We’re not really married,” Edie said. “I’m his common-law wife, but only in places where they recognize common law. Like, I can have ‘Lapwing’ in my passport, but I couldn’t be a Lapwing in Quebec. That’s because in Quebec they just have civil law.
Chadwick said, in a despairing voice. David had not touched the fish soup or the fresh langouste especially ordered for him. He stared at his plate, and sometimes down the table to the wall of candlelight, behind which Lily and Hagen-Beck sat talking quietly. Mr. Chadwick looked where David was looking. I saw that he had just made a complex and understandable mistake; he thought that David was watching Hagen-Beck, that it was for Hagen-Beck he had tried to keep the empty chair. “Great idea,
every day for the repose of her late husband, and the unlikelier rest of his Freemason brother, but a tone of briskness caused her own words to rattle in her head. Church was a hushed annex to home. She prayed to insist upon the refinement of some request, and instead of giving thanks simply acknowledged that matters used to be worse. Her daughter Berthe had been quick to point out that Rue Saint-Hubert was in decline. Otherwise, how could the Carettes afford to live here? (Berthe worked in an
at seven o’clock, after the supper dishes were cleared away. They played hearts in the dining room, drank Salada tea, brewed black, with plenty of sugar and cream, ate éclairs and mille-feuilles from Celentano, the bakery on Avenue Mont Royal. (Celentano had been called something else for years now, but Mme. Carette did not take notice of change of that kind, and did not care to have it pointed out.) Louis, eating coffee éclairs one after another, told stories set in Moncton that showed off his