“To take up residence in the mind of Mavis Gallant, as one does in reading her stories, is a privilege and delight,” writes Phyllis Rose, to begin her review of Overhead in a Balloon in the March 18, 1987 issue of The New Yorker.
She speaks of Gallant’s ability to conjure up Paris “more knowingly than any other fiction writer in English” and believes her to be “very likely the Colette of our time”.
She describes the author’s work and conversation as being “full of laughter”, the stories possessing a “wicked humor that misses nothing, combined with sophistication so great it amounts to forgiveness”.
All of this I share with you here, because not only does Rose praise this Paris collection, but she also astutely observes and describes the intricacies of the interconnections between these twelve stories, and perhaps you would prefer to discover those via your own reading. (If not, enjoy!)
Perhaps you would prefer to begin by wandering into Amandine’s the bookstore described on the second page of “Speck’s Idea”, which sounds like it contains “shelves of calm regional novels and accounts of travel to Imperial Russia signed ‘A Diplomat’”.
Alas, it’s not that kind of store.
This is also not the kind of story in which characters say ‘Alas’.
Here we meet characters like the mother who is sitting near the radiator, “crouched all winter looking like a sheep with an earache”. Characters considering life’s unanswerable questions (“why money slumps, why prices climb, why it rains in August, why children are ungrateful”) only to determine that the “answers might easily come from a man with a box of slides”.