Alice Munro is the only Canadian with the exception of Saul Bellow, to win the Nobel prize for literature. She was described by the Swedes as " Master of the short story." Alice Munro reminds me of a forensic pathologist unearthing truth under each gravestone, and dissecting each bit of tissue she comes across. Her pathology reports gleam with the clarity of presentation. My new project is to study her collected works over time, but my colleagues are afraid I will become depressed from the reality she displays. I am unafraid because I relate to her inasmuch as she was a pretty, small town girl, unmoneyed, but with determination that amongst other things succeeded to win her the Nobel prize for literature. Who would not take advantage to a study of the wordsmith skill seen in the stories? Who, Canadian, also unmoneyed, determined but not pretty, near her age and a small town boy wouldn't want to read her?
My friend Fran, who reads fiction extensively says she has generally avoided Alice because the work is dark. I suppose in a sense all forensic pathology is dark but also embodies the interesting truth that the ordinary is so often extraordinary. I suppose in a sense all forensic study of humanity is dark but also embodies truth. As she writes she continues to exhume the troughs of her youth, seeking the answers in the flesh of what is buried that gives rise to new feelings from old shadows. She respects her reader enough to permit their own resolution of her story within their own shadows. That is respect for your reader and invites engagement. That can't be depressing. It's therapeutic. It is however a writing scenario that doggedly and consistently records the faltering of humanity or the ordinary despair accepted that surrounds us.
Classification of Alice's autopsy findings should be, Adult Only.
Alice the second.
I have an inkling however, that Alice Munro does not write of men who can have significant and lasting relationships with other men. Curiously , her capacity to examine relationships as a whole is so acute and perceptive, so why is this so mysterious? Her men appear to be either solitary or only connect to other men mediated primarily through their women. They often appear transient in their relationships. I must confess I have only read about fifty of her stories so far so I may be proven wrong in the end, but this is my early conclusion. I mean this as no criticism but merely the observation that the capacity of men to have warm, meaningful, lasting relationships with one another is not part of her purview. It may be that she does not have a deeper understanding of men. Is this in fact a characteristic of many women authors? I haven't given this much thought but I am going to.
What she does clearly understand is her home country of her youth. Her portrayal of rural Ontario is so striking to me. She is about six years older than me but the descriptions of the small towns and mine on the prairies is so identical and so rich it is a goldmine of feeling.I am going to read all the rest of her stories; fettered men or otherwise.