If Mavis Gallant won’t be remembered as a hockey writer, can we agree that it’s probably hockey’s fault, for not doing enough to catch her interest before she departed Canada in 1950? Gallant, who died on February 18 at the age of 91, lived most of her life in Paris, which is where she worked her beautiful, bleak, unforgiving prose into stories. She did return home now and then, in person and on the page. Latterly, there were, in particular, five Linnet Muir stories that drew on Gallant’s childhood in Montreal. In “Voices Lost In Snow” (1976), her young alter ego recalls walking through the crowded city with her father, crossing Sherbrooke Street on the way to catch an evening train:
One day we heard a mob roaring four syllables over and over, and we turned and went down a different street. That sound was starkly terrifying, something a child might liken to the baying of wolves.
“What is that?”
“Who is it? Are they chasing him?”
“No, they like him,” he said of the hockey player admired to the point of dementia. He seemed to stretch, as if trying to keep every bone in his body from touching a nerve; a look of helplessness such as I had never seen on a grown person gripped his face and he said this strange thing: “Crowds eat me. Noise eats me.”