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Book News: Mavis Gallant, Master Of The Short Story, Dies At 91

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Short story author Mavis Gallant died Tuesday in Paris. She was 91. Born in Montreal, she spent most of her life in Paris. More than 100 of Gallant's short stories were published in The New Yorker. The magazine's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, told The Associated Press: "[H]er voice was a defining one for New Yorker fiction: clear, sharp, penetrating, often breathtaking in its ability to dissect human emotions, motivations, flaws, and moments of grace. She was an observer, a portraitist both of social niceties — no gesture went unnoted — and of the brutality of what can happen in our own minds." Margaret Atwood told The Globe and Mailthat "Mavis Gallant was a wonderful writer, a sharp observer of human nature, a formidable conversationalist, and an indomitable spirit who made her own way, often uphill. She was funny, quirky, and prickly if you crossed her, but kind underneath it, especially to underdogs. Her unique voice will be much missed." You can read Gallant's 1956 short story "In Italy" over at The New Yorker.
  • Haruki Murakami's next novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, will be published in English in the U.S. on Aug 12, according to Knopf, his publisher. It will be translated into English by J. Philip Gabriel. The book sold more than a million copies its first week in print in Japan.
  • Dissident Chinese writer Yu Jie, who lives in the U.S., told The New York Timesthat he is having an increasingly hard time finding a publisher in Hong Kong for his most recent book, which is critical of Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to the newspaper, "One Hong Kong publisher who planned to issue the book was arrested when he visited mainland China, and now a second has abandoned plans to publish it after receiving a menacing phone call, Mr. Yu said."
  • A collection of poetry written by science fiction authors Iain Banks – who died last year — and Ken MacLeod will be published in February 2015 by Little, Brown. Banks said in an interview shortly before his death, "The poems are a part of the desperate urge to get things that were supposed to be long-term projects out the way. I'm going to see if I can get a book of poetry published before I kick the bucket. I've got about 50 I'm proud of."
  • Rachel Kushner talks to Jonathan Lee of The Rumpusabout her novel The Flamethrowersand the perception that she writes about "subjects that some readers will consider to be largely the preserve of male writers." She said, "[M]aybe now is as good a moment as any to point out that there might be no 'feminine' or 'masculine' literary sensibility, or sensibility generally. I'm happy to be a woman but much of it was learned over the course of life. Really thudded into me. You learn it. It's a kind of mastery and artistry. The deeper person underneath the scent of Diptyque Philosykos or whatever is much less gendered. Every person has a range. In fiction, you get to be it all. I'm as much the men in my book as I am the women. I write how I write and there is no mission to stake a claim."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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