Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, April 26, 2019

Between Zero and One - A Short Story by Mavis Gallant - first published Devember 8, 1975 in The New Yorker

"Between Zero and One" by Mavis Gallant

As I watched Norte Dame on fire, I thought of a so very happy Mavis Gallant on her first visit to the cathedral, letting hundreds of years of French history impact her, knowing she was where she was meant to be.

April 11, 1922 - Montreal

1950 - moves to Paris

September 1, 1951- publishes, in The New Yorker, her first short story.  She would go onto publish 116 stories in The New Yorker. ( I greatly enjoy looking at the covers of the issue in which a story was published.)

February 18, 2014 - passes away in her beloved Paris

In the collection Home Truths there are six linked stories centering on Linnet Muir.  The stories are structured as Linnet when older looking back on her life.
She is a very independent person, very into a reading life, with no real family ties. From Montreal, she is now maybe twenty-one, World War Two is well underway.  She works in office where most of the men are World War One Veterans.  There are other women in the office but they are typists.  She is the first woman hired to do the work the men do.  The office is very much a civil service place where no one works to hard while waiting for their pension.  There  is resentment against her for taking a job from a man. All the men come across as bland grey unemotional time servers.  The war is somehow made to seem not of great concern to Canads

These six stories made look for clues as to why Gallant moved from Canada to France.  Montreal seems a boring city with no real identity and little culture.  

The only future there for Linnet is to marry.  All the married men in her office advise her against marriage.  When she announces she intends to marry a young soldier scheduled to be to Europe, everyone advises her not to marry.

"“Don’t do it, Linnet. Don’t do it.” Bertie Knox said, “Once you’re in it, you’re in it, kiddo.” I can’t remember any man ever criticizing his own wife–it is something men don’t often do, anywhere–but the warning I had was this: marriage was a watershed that  transformed sweet, cheerful, affectionate girls into, well, their own mothers. Once a girl had caught (their word) a husband she became a whiner, a snooper, a killjoy, a wet blanket, a grouch, and a bully."

When not working, she writes.
We go along when she submits one of her plays to a producer. There is an interesting segment on Linnet's day at the theater.  

1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

I felt like she painted the office environment in such a way that you could feel the sense of a prison sentence in the rooms. And, yet, she also recognized that she was supposed to feel a particular sense of accomplishment or achievement for being allowed into that sphere. Which was a very big deal in some ways and in other ways did not matter a bit and did not change anything. I imagine a lovely future (in Paris) for Linnet!