Reviews

Going Ashore

Stephen Osborne

Among the questions that inevitably follow a satisfying first day in Paris, according to the Revised Guide to that city included in Mavis Gallant’s new book, Going Ashore (McClelland & Stewart), are: “How can I get on the Anglo-American volleyball team?” and “When are the Ana­baptist Church sing­ alongs held?”

The same book contains the full text of the Republic of France Toothbrush Tax Form, and the following wonderful passage from a literary memoir: “I decided to sell the inkpot to H.G. Wells. Many young writers were doing this.” Other excurses composed by Gallant in the 1980s and collected for the first time in Going Ashore include a note on General Achille Stifflet, who, having subjugated America, observed that “a little crenellation won’t hurt them now,” a remark that confused some of the women, who, “not knowing what crenellation was for, wore it in their hair.”

A passage from Sieg­fried’s Memoirs provides the template for windy memoiristes of all times: “For a long time I used to go to bed early wondering if Siegfried von Handelskammern would ever complete his long-awaited memoirs of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where from June, 1940, when he made his first, much remarked appearance in Café Flore, until August, 1944, when he departed without having finished his glass of fine (patiently distilled from salvaged boot tops), he was the hub of an unparalleled intellectual revival.”

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Stephen Osborne

Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.


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