August 11, 2013

Dear Life - Alice Munro

Last weekend was a long weekend, so I decided to spend at least part of it binge-reading the newest Alice Munro collection of short stories.  I don't know what it is about Alice Munro, but I always associate her with summer-time reading, even her stories that are set in the dead of winter.  This is possibly because of the summer 12-ish years ago that I spent reading everything written by her that I could get my hands off!  But for whatever reason, as soon as I start reading something by Alice Munro, I think of hot summer days.  And so an August long weekend was perfect to spend curled up with a new collection.

It is hard to write a review of a short story collection, as each story is individual unto itself.  An Alice Munro short story is like a snapshot in time.  Sometimes you get a bit of background of what came before, and sometimes you get a hint of what might happen afterwards.  But generally, you are just thrown right into the middle of the action which will end 20-30 pages later.  I find her writing to be very vivid that it only takes a couple of paragraphs before I am right there with the characters.

This collection was no different.  I was able to relax, knowing that I was safe in the hands of a master storyteller.  That doesn't mean no plot twists, it just means that I know that I am not going to be left hanging at any point, I am going to be immersed in the setting and the action, and that the characters are going to be realistic and true to themselves.

Interestingly, the last 4 stories in the collection she referred to as the most autobiographical stories she ever had written or will write.  And yet they still had the feel of an Alice Munro story.  The only thing is that as I started each one, I knew who the narrator, who the "I" of the story was going to be.  But each story was an independent snapshot, not dependent on one another.  And I guess that can be interpreted as a compliment on her short stories.  If the non-fiction felt like the fiction, then the fiction is so true-to-life that it could have happened.

I think that it was Shelagh Rogers who said that she has a bittersweet feeling with each new collection of Alice Munro stories, as she is unsure if this is going to be the last collection due to the author's advancing age and health concerns.  I can echo that sentiment - I truly hope that there are more stories to come from this Master of the English Language; but even if she never publishes another story, this would be a good collection to go out on.


kris said...

I didn't read this book yet but after your description I want to add it to my list to do...

BTW I see you have a lot to offer with your knowledge and passion to books. You should start promote yourself on donook website as a jurnalist or critic. I would love to follow you there.

Thanks for sharing you passion. All the best Kate!

Chelsey said...

This is fantastic!