Friday, March 23, 2007

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

I was introduced to Alice Munro in high school and read her Selected Stories. In Canada I think she's pretty much required reading (that's the impression I've always gotten anyway) but not so much in the US. Something in her writing that is sufficiently un-American I think, in outlook or mode of expression. I've never thought anything of it beyond that. What I love is the completeness of the world she creates in each small story; I always believe completely in her settings and in the reality of her characters. They feel like bone and blood and flesh despite what I think of as a certain kind of reserve in her writing. I can't think of anyone who handles the short story better. I didn't actually love the stories in this book the way I loved some of her others, but despite that, the way she limns the relationships between people is brilliant. This is from The Bear Came Over the Mountain:

Over a year ago Grant had started noticing so many yellow notes stuck up all over the house. That was not entirely new. She'd always written things down--the title of a book she'd heard mentioned on the radio or the jobs she wanted to make sure she did that day. Even her morning schedule was written down--he found it mystifying and touching in its precision.

7 a.m. Yoga. 7:30-7:45 teeth face hair. 7:45-8:15 walk. 8:15 Grant and Breakfast.

The new notes were different. Taped onto the kitchen drawers--Cutlery, Dishtowels, Knives. Couldn't she have just opened the drawers and seen what was inside? He remembered a story about the German soldiers on border patrol in Czechoslovakia during the war. Some Czech had told him that each of the patrol dogs wore a sign that said Hund. Why? said the Czechs, and the Germans said, Because that is a hund.

He was going to tell Fiona that, then thought he'd better not. They always laughed at the same things, but suppose this time she didn't laugh.

Anyway, I'm glad I had someone to introduce me to her writing.

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