rough notes

Gallant and Hemingway

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the threads to hemingway continue.

I found myself caught up watching a TVO documentary on Mavis Gallant this week. It was a great little feature, filmed at some point in the early to mid 1990s, I imagine. The doc featured both Gallant-the-person, that “great Canadian writer in exile,” as well as Gallant and her work – viewers were afforded a small glimpse into her own writing process, which was interesting, if not a little voyeuristic.

Gallant told the camera through the course of the doc that she was well-aware of all the comments about the similarities between her work and Hemingway’s. She didn’t mind this criticism, however, as she reasoned that that obviously Hem knew what he was doing, so if her work resembles this great prose writer, then all the better. She applauded Hemingway’s ability to always cut straight to the point in dialogue, and to write his dialogue using the same everyday language his characters would use if they were Real People rather than fictions. Gallant summed it up nicely by saying that great writers don’t explain how a character says something, but simply writes the the dialogue as the character says it. (Or something to that effect – the moment is lost on me now, but not totally lost. Promise.)

The fact that Gallant is aware of the references to Hemingway, and the fact that she raised them for a Canadian documentary filmmaker is hardly special. What is, however, is that I’ve been thinking about Gallant and this Hem connection all week. A prof once noted to me long ago that Gallant’s work has often been criticized for being “cold” or “icy” (yes a great academic word – “icy” – so be it). I remember this moment because when he asked the class what they thought of the Linnet Muir stories, I was ready to say that indeed, they felt like some something written in Hemingway’s hand. I don’t think Hemingway would ever be considered “cold” or “icy”, though.. (that is to say, I’m sure Gallant’s sex surely has something to do with this criticism.)


Written by mitchellirons

March 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm

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