Like her Canadian colleague Alice Munro, Gallant has always given her primary literary allegiance with the often-unappreciated short-story form. In her preface to Collected Stories, Gallant insists that short stories are not chapters of novels and should not be read one after another as if they were meant to follow along. Although a number of her stories focus on the same characters as they develop over time, it would be exhausting to read a great many of Gallant’s stories one after another; with their careful and precise style, each demands close reading.
Gallant is often referred to as “a writer’s writer,” an epithet suggesting an author whose writing is so polished that it is best appreciated by other authors. On the other hand, this label can suggest someone whose work is seldom read by anyone but other writers. Gallant is not widely enough read for any of her stories to be considered well known. Her stories are often irresolute and seemingly plotless. When she was writing a weekly column about radio for the Montreal Standard in the late 1940’s, she once described one writer’s plays as being unlike the usual radio play because they did not come to a traditional fictional climax. She further defended this practice by arguing that real problems are not always resolved in tidy ways and that if stories seem incomplete, that is because they may be true. However, in spite of this seeming allegiance to the ragged nature of...
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