Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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The fourth installment of a new column on New Yorker fiction, past and present, by writer and editor Benjamin Chambers.

I’m threatening to become a walking Department of Amplification. In my first post, I erred about Updike’s unmatched output for The New Yorker, and I just remembered that Deborah Eisenberg introduced me to the works of Alice Munro (50 stories in TNY, through April 2007) and—much more significantly for my own later reading—Mavis Gallant, short story writer nonpareil, which contradicts my recollection about Jean Stafford in my second post. Oh well.

I expect to say more in the future about why Gallant (114 short stories in TNY) deserves to be compared, as she has been, to Chekhov and James, but right now, I’ve got an even better treat in store for you: seeing and hearing her do that herself.

Thanks to a post from Andrew Saikali over on The Millions, you can take a peek at this brief, abruptly truncated 1988 interview with Gallant in Aurora.

Through Saikali, I also learned about an audio interview Gallant did recently for Canadian radio, now available for download. In it, you can hear Gallant read from her story, “The Moslem Wife” (published in TNY, August 23, 1976), talk about a crooked agent who was publishing her stories in TNY and pocketing the proceeds, and more. (By coincidence, Deborah Eisenberg’s interview for the same show the week prior is also available on the same page.)

No time to listen to the full hour? You can also get shorter fragments from the interview and an appreciation by one of my favorite Canadian short story writers, Lisa Moore. Or you can hear Antonya Nelson read Gallant’s 1960 story, “When We Were Nearly Young” over at newyorker.com. Still not enough for you? Rattling Books has 11 hours of Gallant’s fiction on CD. I’d jump on it.

Gallant, who is Canadian, has lived in and written about France for decades—which conveniently puts me in mind of TNY’s incomparable Adam Gopnik (359 pieces in TNY through April 2007, of which four were short stories), who has also written so charmingly about France. Only a few days ago, he was interviewed in San Franciso—a half hour of this wide-ranging conversation is now available at the always fascinating Fora.TV.

Though I was glad to learn what Gopnik looks like, there’s nothing visual about the interview otherwise—treat it like an audio interview, and let it roll while you do your deep knee bends or whatever it is you do while listening to podcasts. But do check it out: you’ll be glad you did.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree