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Across the Bridge
     

Across the Bridge

by Mavis Gallant, Robertson Davies (Afterword)
 

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A new collection of stories by Mavis Gallant is always a major publishing event. For this is the writer who–like Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro–has made Canadian short stories a presence on the world literary scene, and on our bestseller lists.

In Across the Bridge four of the eleven stories are connected, following the fortunes of the Carette

Overview

A new collection of stories by Mavis Gallant is always a major publishing event. For this is the writer who–like Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro–has made Canadian short stories a presence on the world literary scene, and on our bestseller lists.

In Across the Bridge four of the eleven stories are connected, following the fortunes of the Carette family in Montreal. In “1933” their widowed mother teaches Berthe and Marie to deny that she was a seamstress and to say instead that she was “clever with her hands.” In “The Chosen Husband” the luckless suitor Louis has to undergo the front-parlour scrutiny of Marie’s mother and sister: “But then Louis began to cough and had to cover his mouth. He was in trouble with a caramel. The Carettes looked away, so that he could strangle unobserved. ‘How dark it is,’ said Berthe, to let him think he could not be seen.”

We then follow their marriage, the birth of Raymond, and Raymond’s flight from his mother and aunt to his eventual role as a motel manager in Florida. “‘The place was full of Canadians,’ he said. ‘They stole like raccoons...’”

With the exception of “The Fenton Child,” an eerie story set in postwar Montreal, the other stories take place in the Paris Mavis Gallant knows so well. “Across the Bridge,” the title story, begins with the narrator’s mother throwing her reluctant daughter’s wedding invitations into the Seine. “I watched the envelopes fall in a slow shower and land on the dark water and float apart. Strangers leaned on the parapet and stared, too, but nobody spoke.”

This is a superb collection of stories by a writer at the top of her form.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“There isn't a finer writer in the English language.”
Books in Canada

“She is a very good writer indeed.”
The New York Times

“Mavis Gallant is a marvellously clear-headed observer and a rare phrase-maker.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Mavis Gallant writes some of the most superbly crafted and perceptive stories of our time.”
Globe and Mail

“One of the best writers of our language, an artist who is above fad and fashion.”
Saturday Night

New York Times Books of the Century
...[O]ne of the best collections of fiction in years. @#@1993)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 11 stories in this collection demonstrate Gallant's capacious knowledge of human nature, refracted through her ironic views of the battle of the sexes and of the conflict between generations. Penetrating and insightful, these tales reflect the sensibilities of conservative Catholic Montrealers and Parisians coping with the crises of modern life. The husbands and fathers portrayed here prefer their women placid, pretty and without intellectual ambition. And with few exceptions the women are compliant, either out of a general inbred dreaminess or a pathetic lack of opportunity or gumption. The most captivating characters are women who evade this fate. Berthe Carette, whose family is the subject of four interlocked stories, defies the church, remains unwed and independent and sleeps with married men. (Her purposefully helpless, blandly demanding sister Marie also gets her own way, however.) Bright, perceptive Nora Abbott, the teenaged protagonist of ``The Fenton Child,'' cleverly deals with the Montreal-Anglo disdain of French-speaking natives, and also learns how to handle her scheming father. The French heroine of the title story, romantic, naive Sylvie, regrets her moment of rebellion until she finds the ``true life that was almost ready to let me in.'' Gallant's sharp tongue cuts through churchly cant, moral hypocrisy and the myth of male superiority; her finely honed prose captures the small details that illuminate a life. This collection will add to her deserved reputation as a superb practitioner of her craft. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Gallant's elegant, witty tales of place and person weave together small domestic moments described in careful detail. Her characters are either on the fringes of Parisian or Canadian gentility, or are Eastern European immigrants, well out of it; their choices of dress, address, words, restaurants, even the dishes served to dinner guests, reveal the subtleties of unalterable social status that circumscribe their lives. They care greatly and elaborately about appearances: sisters Berthe and Marie, who are featured in several of the stories, are cautioned by their widowed seamstress mother never to reveal her occupation but to say only that she was ``clever with her hands.'' In the title piece, a perceptive but passive young woman moves not unhappily toward a probably loveless marriage. Gallant beautifully structures her stories (most of which appeared in The New Yorker ) and depicts characters and situations with insight and irony. Recommended for most collections.-- Eleanor Mitchell, Arizona State Univ . West, Phoenix
Brad Hooper
Gallant is a widely read and appreciated short story writer, a Canadian now residing in Paris. The odd thing about her work is that she doesn't know how to--or at least doesn't choose to--write real short stories. She writes condensed novels, giving the reader all the major facts about a person's life up to the point of the story, rather than letting a brief but resonant slice of that particular life imply the whole. The first four stories are perfect examples of this "violation." They form a cycle about a Canadian family. The first, "1933," evokes the stress of a new widow with two young children trying to make a living; then, in "The Chosen Husband," set in 1949, we see the widow attempting to get one of her daughters "acceptably" married; "From Cloud to Cloud" is about the Americanized son of the aforementioned daughter; and finally, in "Florida," we see the same son explore the disappointment he's become to his mother. Poignancy aside, empathy notwithstanding, Gallant in these four stories and all the rest that follow squeezes so much information about the past and present into their few pages they each seem like a wrung-dry novel. Ironically, this tendency makes Gallant's stories very easy to read, since you don't have to work very hard to "get" the point. It's all spoon fed. Nonetheless, expect high demand, based on her reputation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780771034596
Publisher:
McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
Publication date:
04/01/1997
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Born in Montreal in 1922, Mavis Gallant left a career as a leading journalist in that city to move to Paris in 1950 to write.

Since that time she has been publishing stories on a regular basis in The New Yorker, many of which have been anthologized. Her world-wide reputation has been established by books such as From the Fifteenth District and Home Truths, which won the Governor General’s Award in 1982. In that same year she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, becoming a Companion of the Order in 1993, the year that she published Across the Bridge and was the recipient of a special tribute at the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors in Toronto. In 1996, The Selected Stories of Mavis Gallant was published to universal acclaim. Paris Stories, a selection edited by Michael Ondaatje, appeared in 2002, and was followed by the companion volume Montreal Stories, edited by Russell Banks, in 2004.

Gallant is a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She has received several honorary degrees from Canadian universities and remains a much-sought-after public speaker. In 2001 she became the first winner of the Matt Cohen Award, and in 2002 she won the Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix and the Rea Award for the Short Story.

She continues to live in Paris.

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