“Fragile, terrifying, and true”: Alice Munro

Alice Munro’s
Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (I)

Toronto: Penguin, 1974.
When I spotted the April issue of “Quill & Quire”, I was pleased to see that it included Alexander MacLeod chatting about an Alice Munro short story; I’ve been reading and re-reading Alice Munro’s stories this year and am always pleased to feel that I have company in admiring her work.

Alexander MacLeod chose to focus on “Child’s Play”, from her 2009 collection, Too Much Happiness.

Even though the magazine’s editors warned him that, with this series of articles on “Best Canadian Short Stories”, not all the authors who’d been invited to contribute could choose an Alice Munro short story.

With that restriction, and only two others (the story must have been published in 2000 or later and it must not have been written by a friend of the contributor), you might think it would have been easy to NOT choose an Alice Munro story.

I mean, Alice Munro is only one writer, and writers can be rather anti-social. How hard could it be?

But…setting aside the question of whether Alexander MacLeod is the anti-social sort, he couldn’t help but choose an Alice Munro story anyway apparently.

He looks back to “Walker Brothers Cowboy”, “Friend of My Youth” and “Family Furnishings”, but ultimately decides that this new story is even better.

“All her normal concerns are present in this story — intimacy between women, hints of that Southern Ontario Gothic, plus there’s a crime I won’t give away,” he states. And he suggests that the story touches something “more fragile and terrifying and true”. She is merciless and compassionate at the same time.

Too Much Happiness is a re-read for a later time for me, but this description fits the opening story in “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” too. In the title story, readers meet Et and Char, sisters, and various residents of Mock Hill, and there is something quiet and dark simmering beneath the story, something that is only fully understood as the story nears its end.

It’s subtly shocking.
And I know that sounds impossible.
But it’s extraordinarily ordinary…in Alice Munro’s stories.

Quotes:

From “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You”:
“She felt afterwards the bumpy pressure of his fingers as if they had left dents just above where her skirt fastened. It felt like somebody absent-mindedly trying out the keys of a piano.”

From “Material”:
“I believed that writers were calm, sad people, knowing too much. I believed there was a difference about them, some hard and shining, rare intimidating quality they had from the beginning…”

Posting Dates for this third Alice Munro read for 2011:
Munro’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974)

Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You; Material (above)
How I Met My Husband;  Walking on Water; Forgiveness in Families SEPT2
Tell Me Yes or No; The Found Boat; Executioners; Marrakesh SEPT3
The Spanish Lady; Winter Wind; Memorial; The Ottawa Valley SEPT4

2014-03-13T20:45:23+00:00

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