I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly by Mary Ladd Gavell

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Synopsis

It is the stuff of fiction: A collection of stories, never made public, is lost in a drawer for thirty years until, miraculously, the stories are discovered and published. It is also the true story of the book you are holding in your hands.

Mary Ladd Gavell died in 1967 at the age of forty-seven, having published nothing in her lifetime. She was the managing editor of Psychiatry magazine in Washington, D.C., and after her death, her colleagues ran her story "The Rotifer" in the magazine as a tribute. The story was, somehow, plucked from that nonliterary journal and selected for The Best American Short Stories 1967. And again, thirty-three years later, "The Rotifer" emerged from near obscurity when John Updike selected it for The Best American Short Stories of the Century. In his Introduction to that collection, Updike called Gavell's story a "gem" and said that her writing was "feminism in literary action."
"The Rotifer" has remained, until now, Gavell's only published work.

The sixteen stories collected here include the anthologized classic "The Rotifer," in which a young woman learns the extent to which a bit of innocent interference, or the refusal to interfere, can change the course of lives. "The Swing" depicts a mother's strange reconnection to her adult son's childhood as she is summoned outside, night after night, by the creak of his old swing. "Baucis" introduces a woman longing for widowhood who is cheated of the respite she craves and whose last words are tragically misunderstood by her family. The title story, based on the last-minute announcement by Gavell's own son that he was in a school play, is infused with the gentle humor and vivid insights that make all of Mary Ladd Gavell's stories timeless and utterly beguiling.

With the publication of I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly, Mary Ladd Gavell takes her rightful place among the best writers of her, and our, time.
 

About Mary Ladd Gavell

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Mary Ladd Gavell was born in Cuero, Texas, in 1919 and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1940. She married Stefan Gavell in 1953, and the couple had two sons. They lived in Washington, D.C., where Mary Gavell worked at Psychiatry magazine. She died in 1967.
 
Published August 14, 2001 by Random House. 240 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly

Kirkus Reviews

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Dubiously substantial enough for an entire volume, though two or three well worthy entrants help carry the rest along.

Aug 21 2001 | Read Full Review of I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly

Kirkus Reviews

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Kaye Gibbons calls Gavell’s work “magnificent,” places it in the “ageless, classic grand era” of the American short story and declares its life-blood to come from its use of “our regional language.” It’s true that the pieces—all perfectly honed—do evoke the classic tones of, say, Eudora Welty or ...

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The New York Times

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These stories, written decades ago by Mary Ladd Gavell, are filled with women who know more than they say

Aug 26 2001 | Read Full Review of I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly

Publishers Weekly

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The story was chosen for 1968's Best American Short Stories and then tabbed last year by John Updike for the Best American Short Stories of the Century, standing alongside those of Cather, Fitzgerald, Bellow, Carver and others.

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Entertainment Weekly

''The Rotifer'' was selected for an anthology in 1967, after her death, and again for last year's ''The Best American Short Stories of the Century.'' Now 16 of Gavell's portraits of family life have been gathered for the first time in I Cannot Tell A Lie, Exactly, tales that dissect the internal ...

Aug 17 2001 | Read Full Review of I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly

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