Monday, December 03, 2007

Reader's Diary #315- Mavis Gallant: When We Were Nearly Young

Short Story Mondays

To change things up a little, I've decided to link to an audio post this time around. Mavis Gallant's short story "When We Were Nearly Young," as read by Antonya Nelson, is available here courtesy of The New Yorker (you can download or stream it). I've listened to very few books on cd but after listening to a few short stories and poems, I think I'll give it a go.

In the meantime, Antonya does a passable job with the story. She's a little too flat at times, but the story was enough to hold my interest. Plus, I enjoyed getting her perspectives on both Gallant and the short story itself, wisely included as a intro and conclusion.

Perhaps it seems somewhat hypocritical that I enjoyed Gallant's story but referred to Elizabeth Taylor's "Miss A and Miss M" as boring. At first glance (or listen, in this case), both stories are pretty on par with one another in terms of action (or lack thereof). In fact, "When We Were Young" was more character study than story, but still, something about it held my attention much more.

Last week one of my co-workers remarked about a depressing underside of Christmas. "When you're young," she said, "families seem so close at Christmas. Then when you get older, and more aware of all the tensions, some of the magic is gone." Perhaps there are some of you that disagree, but I thought it was a pretty accurate perception. That it came from someone in their young 20s, ties in with Gallant's story.

"When We Were Nearly Young" is a fantastic title for this story, capturing the edge that defines this story: the edge between youth and adulthood (One character's fears of turning 30 rubs off of all of his younger friends). But while I think it would be very easy to write the story off as depressing, I didn't think of it that way. Yes, it shouts most loudly about magic disappearing, but I think Gallant's narrator is a little unreliable (in fact, she refers to herself as "ill-defined"). Magic is simply believing that the impossible is. This could manifest itself in the naivete of youth (as my co-worker mentioned), the idealism of 20-somethings... or in the old that forget the stresses of the past and paint their memories with cloudy Norman Rockwell versions. Just as children have their own unique versions of magic, they have their own worries too. The narrator in "When We Were Young" seems to recall the time leading up to an end, when really it was just the passage to another stage.

It definitely left me with much to consider. That the characters are on the cusp of something is but one idea of many I could have discussed. Hunger plays a pretty significant role as well. However, I wanted a post shorter than the story itself!

(Did you post about a short story today? Let me know in the comments below.)


1morechapter said...

Mine is here.

Stephanie said...

I know exactly what your co-worker means about the holidays. Especially now that I'm privvy to all the family tensions! The magic just sort of drifted away. Seems unfair, but I guess that's just growing up!!

I posted a short story Monday too!!

raidergirl3 said...

I'm still here:
It was in a book, but I think it can still count as a short story.
You can read between the lines in Thomas' story about the different perspectives of Christmas between children and adults.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Listening (sort of) to this made me remember why I rarely listen to audiobooks. Because I then feel the need to multitask and consequently miss most of the story. Was it good?