(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Concert Party” begins with the first-person narrator named Burnet, a Canadian academic, identifying with a colleague named Harry Lapwing while they are both graduate students in France. Lapwing and his wife, Edie, and Burnet and his wife, Lily, become a social unit, attending dinners and parties together. The concert party of the story’s title is given by a man named Watt Chadwick, a novelist who is trying to figure out a way to socially elevate his nineteen-year-old, part-time gardener, David Ogdoad, a pianist, to the position of being his lover.

The situation at the party becomes complicated when David is attracted to Lily, and another Canadian named Fergus Bray, a playwright, is attracted to Lapwing’s wife, Edie. During the party, Bray invites Edie to leave Lapwing and come to live with him in Madrid. When Lapwing humiliates Edie at the party, she decides to go. In a parallel action, Lily goes off to London with David.

Burnet knows that he romanticized the experience in France. If he had said that Lily had left for Detroit and Edie for Moose Jaw, leaving him and Lapwing stranded in a motel, they would have seemed foolish. However, the words “Madrid” and “London” and the fact that the event involved a musician, a playwright, and a novelist tinges the story with fiction and gives it an alien glow, making him and Lapwing appear as actors in a Technicolor film. However, he recognizes that the story is really that of men’s humiliation, “bleached and toneless.”

The Concert Party Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Canadian Fiction Magazine 28 (1978). Special issue on Mavis Gallant.

Essays in Canadian Writing 42 (Winter, 1990). Special issue on Mavis Gallant.

Gadpaille, Michelle. “Mavis Gallant.” In The Canadian Short Story. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Grant, Judith Skleton. “Mavis Gallant.” In Canadian Writers and Their Works, edited by Robert Lecker, Jack David, and Ellen Quigley. Toronto: ECW Press, 1989.

Keith, William John. “Mavis Gallant.” In A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada. Toronto: ECW Press, 1988.

Kulyk Keefer, Janice. Reading Mavis Gallant. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Schaub, Danielle. Mavis Gallant. New York: Twayne, 1998.

Simmons, Diane. “Remittance Men: Exile and Identity in the Short Stories of Mavis Gallant.” In Canadian Women Writing Fiction, edited by Mickey Pearlman. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993.

Smythe, Karen. Gallant, Munro, and the Poetics of Elegy. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992.