Saturday, March 05, 2011

Alice Munro: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

Alice Munro has totally flown under my radar all these years. I might have heard the name, but that's it. I certainly wouldn't have been able to place her as a Canadian author, for example. Now, my book club decided to read Alice Munro, and the week after that it turns out that a woman who wrote what was, I believe she said, the first ever dissertation about L. M. Montgomery's books goes to my pilates class and is generally a bit of an expert in Canadian literature, so another woman there asked her if she could recommend Canadian books for her book club who were considering having Canada as a theme for a while, and they mentioned Munro "obviously" (I was like, Atwood - now that's obvious). So there you go, coincidences make up the weave of life and so on.
So what do I think of Munro now that's she's blipped on my radar? Well, I'm not sure. I feel a bit like when I read Jhumpa Lahiri - something not quite absorbing about it. Munro has a very cool style, she's quite distanced. And the stories don't feel in any way specifically Canadian. This makes them more universal in a way - she's writing about everyone, not just Canadians. Nonetheless ... I'm usually quite fond of this type of short story, but these lack some sort of flesh-and-blood feeling about them. So I'm not in love. Not really bothered. I've left off writing this for about a week to see if they mature and grow on me, but they haven't. Hm.

I think I'll read another Alice Munro sometime though, because there is something about the way she describes the lives of these 1960s and 1970s (mostly) women that manages to show clearly how shut-in and limited they and their choices were. She manages to point very clearly at this without shouting about it or making it the main point (to me it becomes the main point, but she tricks me there). So I think she'd good. I'm just not sure she's for me.

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