Alice Munro’s 
Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (II)
Toronto: Penguin, 1974.

At some point I started to wonder if I couldn’t simply fit my response to all of these stories into a single post.

I mean…long and complicated books like Nicole Krauss’ Great House? Classics like Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure? Still squeezed my thoughts into a single post.

But there is so much you could say about any single one of these stories:  “The Spanish Lady”, “Winter Wind”, “Memorial”, and the oft-anthologized “Ottawa Valley”.

The notes that I made detailing the plot of “The Spanish Lady” are longer than notes I make for some complete novels. Even though really, when you think about it, nothing happens. It’s about what’s really happened between a woman and her husband, what’s happened between that woman’s best friend and that woman’s husband. And what hasn’t happened.

Relationships are at the heart of these stories, this one included:

“The unhappiest moment I could never tell you. All our fights blend into each other and are in fact re-enactments of the same fight, in which we punish each other — I with words, Hugh with silence — for being each other. We never needed any more than that.”

And here’s a glimpse of “Winter Wind” that treads the same territory (unhappiness and happiness: not as far apart as one thinks):

“And all this wildness, crudity, hilarity, was as far as possible from my private dreams, which were of most tender meetings, chaste embraces melting into holy passion, harmony shadowed by the inevitable parting, high romantic love.”

And that old tried-and-true (er, tried-and-untrue) combo: secrets and lies.

“Why is it a surprise to find that people other than ourselves are able to tell lies?”

It’s all those close-mouthed existences that make “Winter Wind” a fascinating read. Well, at least I think so. But I’m sure some readers think of these stories like this:

“They have to believe that more is going on than seems to be going on; that is part of the trouble.”

Except that the trouble referred to is not a reader who makes a grand plot out of a little happening, but the way that women in burgeoning relationships are always looking intently at what’s happening and — arguably — seeing things that aren’t there to be seen.

But sometimes there is just too much to be seen. Sometimes relationships (and their ebb and flow) can preoccupy entire lives: no wonder they can hardly be contained in a single story.

Like readers learn when they turn to “The Ottawa Valley”.”And she is the one of course that I am trying to get; it is to reach her that this whole journey has been undertaken. With what purpose? To mark her off, to describe, to illumine, to celebrate, to get rid, or her; and it did not work, for she looms too close, just as she always did. She is heavy as always, she weighs everything down, and yet she is indistinct, her edges melt and flow. Which means she has stuck to me as close as ever and refused to fall away, and I could go on, and on, applying what skills I have, using what tricks I know, and it would always be the same.”These stories stick as close as ever. They refuse to fall away. And I could go on, and on.Whose stories make you feel as though you could go (er, read) on and on and on?

Munro’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974)
Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You; Material SEPT1
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 (above)