If I was trying to convince readers to try Alice Munro, choosing this sampling of three stories might not be the best way to approach the matter.

Each is stuffed with sadness, with resignation and despair to season the blend.

But it’s as though there is also a dash of cinnamon — which is so often difficult to spot in the way in which it influences other flavours in a dish; these stories — hard as they are — do contain a hint of resistance, refusal, even rebellion.

The Time of Death
One of the sharpest images in this story, for me, is actually one of the softest: the bed in Allie McGee’s house. “The bed they slept in had a feather tick and smooth ironed sheets; the blankets were pale and fluffy and smelled faintly of mothballs.”

This is where Irene and George go to stay after their little brother, Benny, has died. It’s a subtle means in which to consider the socioeconomic complications of life in the Maitland Valley. “Mr. McGee did not work in the mill like the other men, but in a store.”

Day of the Butterfly
Class issues are also at work in this story. That’s something of a play on words because not only is there a question of families’ rankings in the community, but also of the relative positioning of girls in the sixth grade class at school. The question of what is of value is important, whether it’s a ring from the Cracker Jack box, or a friendship, or a life.

“We began to talk of her as if she were something we owned, and her party became a cause; with womanly heaviness we discussed it at recess, and decided that twenty-five cents was too low.”

Boys and Girls
One of the reasons that I responded so strongly to this story is because of the narrator’s belief in the power of storytelling. It seems to be an inherent act of recognition, but at night, after the lights are out, she and her brother sing themselves to sleep and, then, because she stays awake longer, she tells herself stories.

In the beginning, this is how it is:
“These stories were about myself, when I had grown a little older; they took place in a world that was recognizably mine, yet one that presented opportunities for courage, boldness and self-sacrifice, as mine never did.”

But things happen. And the stories change.

Then, this is how it is:
“I still stayed awake after Laird was asleep and told myself stories, but even in these stories something different was happening, mysterious alterations took place. A story might start off in the old way, with a spectacular danger, a fire or wild animals, and for a while I might rescue people; then things would change around, and instead, somebody would be rescuing me.”

The events that change her so. Those which result in the stories’ mysterious alteration. That’s the stuff of this story.

And, what about you? Are you reading along? Surprised by what you’re thinking? Thinking about joining in? (The schedule is below. Lots of room for other reading.) There’s a lot more we could say about any single one of these stories.

Walker Brothers Cowboy; The Shining Houses; Images  JAN19
Thanks for the ride; The Office; An Ounce of Cure JAN26
The Time of Death; Day of the Butterfly; Boys and Girls  (above)
Postcard; Red Dress – 1946; Sunday Afternoon  FEB23
A Trip to the Coast; The Peace of Utrecht; Dance of the Happy Shades MAR2