OVERHEAD IN A BALLOON by Mavis Gallant

OVERHEAD IN A BALLOON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Twelve supple, ironic tales--all but one harvested from The New Yorker--about endings and renewals; from the acclaimed author of Home Truths and The Other Paris. Gallant, a native Canadian, moved to Paris in 1950; light friction between expatriates and Parisians pervades most of these quicksilver stories. For instance, in the leadoff and longest story, ""Speck's idea,"" a smug art dealer determines to revive his fortunes by ""discovering"" and displaying paintings of obscure French artist Hubert Cruche. But Cruche's widow, possessing scores of Cruche canvases, is Canadian-born and seemingly impenetrable to art-dealer Speck's well-honed French wiles. At first she stubbornly refuses to lend out her paintings, but, after rounds of banter and barter, she finally relents on a point of conscience: Speck puffs up like a rooster, his future restored. The next (and title) story features a minor character from the previous tale, Speck's Swiss-born assistant, Walter, who gives up his apartment to start a new life by moving into a cheaper space partitioned off from a huge apartment owned and occupied by a large Parisian family. But when a family member marries and needs extra space, Walter is tossed out. Most of the other 10 stories, like the first two, share characters. Several are devoted to the ultra-wealthy Pugh family (the best of these, ""Larry,"" details the stresses of an American Pugh's stay at the shuttered mansion belonging to the French branch of the family); four of' the remaining tales link together to form a slender, first-person novella about lives sundered and loves lost during WW II. As dry and subtle as expensive champagne, these tales, shy in their emotional impact, will appeal to only a minority of palates; but they are measured models of the contemporary art of the short story.

Pub Date: March 9th, 1987
Publisher: Random House