I don’t think I found Mavis Gallant through anybody—one day I just picked up My Heart Is Broken, somehow, on my own. It had a girl on the cover, that much I remember. The first story I read is called “The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street.” It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it changed my reading life forever. The story is about how the love of a couple changes over a long period—from early hope to beautiful, even comic, resignation. No, all their dreams didn’t pan out, but hell, we’ve got our stories and they’re good stories, and nobody can take those away from us. Rather than belittle her characters’ failures, Gallant celebrates them. It’s the sort of story that makes you pause, breathe, and take in all that you have as opposed to worrying over what’s missing.
Gallant’s work reminds you to think more deeply about the people you deal with—as a writer, with your characters, and in your life. She reminds us of how fathomless we are, how there is always more to know.
So it’s character that moves me about Gallant’s work. It isn’t her plots—which are wonderful—but her obsession with the infinitely strange ways we people behave. Gallant’s characters are complex and inconsistent: Their most deeply held beliefs easily dissolve in the face of what it takes to simply get through the day. And lets be honest, don’t they? In the morning, yes, we’ll wake up and do our best to believe again…And Gallant has faith in that too, in our ability to pick ourselves back up. But she’s peerless at showing all the ways we fall apart.
Via The Atlantic
“The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street” by Mavis Gallant
Perhaps one reason why I so love the ending of Mavis Gallant’s story “The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street” is that I’ve never quite understood it. I always think that if I reread it one more time, its meaning will disclose itself. Like the story it concludes, the ending seems perfect, mysterious, profound. It is also wildly original, almost “experimental.” I can’t think of anything else, in fiction, remotely like it.
And, of course, read Jason DeYoung’s interview with Gallant at Numéro Cinq.
From Facebook discussion: