By my side

MAVIS Gallant’s stories have been with me for the past days. Paris Stories, selected by the writer Michale Oondatje and published by NYRB, has kept me entertained during my moments of “idleness.” (Rest has been a part of my itinerary, which is why I cannot stand paid three-day tours with a crowd. The itinerary is regimented, with hardly room for sipping tea comfortably. And I probably won’t afford them.) Consider, for example, the 11-hour train ride I had subjected myself in a few days ago, and the quiet moments at the cafés, both in Paris and Vienna.

What she does with the stories is nothing short of magical. She comes from a position of omniscience. She tells stories, sometimes in hushed tones, so one must pay attention. It helps that the stories in this collection are set in Paris—at least I got the imagery right. Miss Gallant doesn’t insult the reader by telling everything: one just knows.

For instance, this line from the story, “In Plain Sight,” about an old romance that never came to be.

Years of admiration, of fretting about his health and, who knows, of love of a kind have been scraped away; yet once she had been ready to give up her small and neater flat, her wider view over Boulevard du Montparnasse, the good opinion of her friends (proud widows, like herself, for the sake of moving downstairs and keeping an eye on his diet.

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