Thursday, May 18, 2006

Alice Munro

I’ve heard and read a great deal of praise for Alice Munro, and so I had her in the back of my mind. Usually I have a habit of writing down author’s names on small scraps of paper and losing them for a few years. On my last rummage shopping trip I happened to see two collections of her short stories, Runaway, and The Progress of Love; so I picked them up, and have finally just finished reading them. I think I am a little disappointed. The stories were surely beautifully written. The protagonists were all women, in ordinary lives. They were perfectly drawn and photo-real. The stories were mostly set in small Canadian towns that reminded me of the small Midwestern towns I grew up near. There was a clarity and an unfulfilled quality about each of the women. Perhaps I read them too quickly, or too close together, but they seemed to blend together a little, as if there were really only a few characters stretched out with assumed names into all the stories. I was also strangely reminded of A. S. Byatt – not exactly in writing style – Munro is a craftsman that Byatt certainly isn’t – but maybe in perspective? Her female characters seem to share this distance from their own lives. And an clinical attitude about sex. I mean she writes about passion, but without emotion. Maybe it is only a timeframe similarity, as I get the impression that the women in both authors’ work are from the same decades. I do want to read her full length novels. The short story format usually leaves me a little disappointed. There is so little resolution in a short story, and so little time to get to know the people in it.
(I also posted this on myspace- http://blog.myspace.com/gwendyphx - I think I am going to make this site just for books)

1 comment:

Mom said...

I see what you mean about Alice Monroe. Do you think her lack of passion about things might have smething to do with the character's conflicts about being a woman set in the time period? Those stories have stayed with me for the past few weeks, since I have read them. Especially the one about the woman in the corn field (the one who solved the mystery of her family's stalker) the one with the Mom that really reminded of your Aunt Cath (Todd's wife). The setting was so beautifully portrayed and the situation (actually the whole span of her life) so easy for me to identify with. It was so clear in what it wanted to say about people's perceptions of eachother. Mom