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Nathaniel Bellows Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 2.08.12

“Usually when I need to work something out in a poem or a piece of fiction, I go on a walk. If I’m at home I go to one of the parks—Riverside or Central Park. But, walking—and interior conversations in general—can only accomplish so much, so when I’m seeking literary inspiration, I turn to my heroes, one of whom is Mavis Gallant. I read and reread her fiction for the clean, precise, astounding concision of her storytelling, which captures both the vivid atmosphere of the places she’s been, and the bare, grim, beautiful human experience that takes place within them. Sometimes her writing can feel prim and distanced, but she can be very funny, and there is an overarching wisdom in her voice that is at once soothing and dauntingly assured. When she drapes the inevitable shadows, which fall on all her character’s lives, it’s with a gentle and aching grace that leaves you feeling both gutted and gifted. No matter the position of her narration, she always gives the reader everything they need to know in the most astonishing ways, and never with the expectation of applause. She is an intelligent writer who teaches me about economy, humanity, and a female’s view of the world.

“From ‘The Legacy: ‘They stared out of the car at brick façades, seemingly neither moved nor offended by the stunning ugliness of the streets that had held their childhood. Sometimes one of them sighed, the comfortable respiration of one who has wept.’”
Nathaniel Bellows, author of Why Speak? (Norton, 2007)

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