The Cost of LivingEarly and Uncollected Stories
by Mavis Gallant, introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri
Mavis Gallant is renowned as one of the great short-story writers of our day. This new gathering of long-unavailable or previously uncollected work presents stories from 1951 to 1971 and shows Gallant’s progression from precocious virtuosity, to accomplished artistry, to the expansive innovatory spirit that marks her finest work.
“Madeleine’s Birthday,” the first of Gallant’s many stories to be published in The New Yorker, pairs off a disaffected teenager, abandoned by her social-climbing mother, with a complacent middle-aged suburban housewife, in a subtly poignant comedy of miscommunication that reveals both characters to be equally adrift. “The Cost of Living,” the extraordinary title story, is about a company of strangers, shipwrecked over a chilly winter in a Parisian hotel and bound to one another by animosity as much as by unexpected love.
Set in Paris, New York, the Riviera, and Montreal and full of scrupulously observed characters ranging from freebooters and malingerers to runaway children and fashion models, Gallant’s stories are at once satirical and lyrical, passionate and skeptical, perfectly calibrated and in constant motion, brilliantly capturing the fatal untidiness of life.
Often, her fiction drew its energy from contradictory qualities: her stories were minutely observed but also suspenseful, matter-of-fact but also fanciful, reportorial but also imaginative. They were broad-minded, and so felt real...it feels as concrete as anything you might read in the newspaper or see with your own eyes. Gallant had a rare gift: a solid imagination.
—The New Yorker
One of the finest practitioners of the short story in the English language.
— The New York Times
One of the great story writers of our time.
— Michael Ondaatje
The irrefutable master of the short story in English. She is the standout. She is the standard-bearer.
— Fran Lebowitz