I’m on the Alice Munro bandwagon. On Thursday morning my friend texts me that Alice Munro won the Nobel prize. First we banter about the relative merits of the Margarets – Atwood and Laurence – then we both admit that we haven’t read anything by Alice Munro. In the past, I looked at her books, but for some reason decided that they weren’t for me.
We decide to make a noon outing to the closest large bookstore. The small stores in the financial district have a sprinkling of bestsellers and not much else. It’s a beautiful day and the walk could even be longer, just to extend the time outside. In the bookstore the smell of Starbucks is so powerful that everywhere you go, you’re breathing in the smell of coffee, like second-hand smoke.
In our permanently fatigued state, we can’t find Munro books and actually have to ask the clerk to point us to them. I pick “Runaway”, my friend takes “Dance of the Happy Shades”. We walk back to work and find out later in the day that Munro books are disappearing off the bookstore shelves.
It’s been a quiet weekend. I read the first four stories in “Runaway” and surprisingly discovered that Munro land although so different from own is easy to enter. I guess what I’m trying to say, it’s very relatable.
The bandwagon is full. Even my mother’s frenemy asked her if she could borrow a Munro book from her. She saw one a while ago, and wasn’t in the least bit interested. Now she mentions to mu mother that Munro reminds her of Chekhov. I guess she read the accolades in the newspapers.
Now that I’m older, the short story has an appeal. It requires no lesser amount of focus than a novel, but it can be read in one sitting. There is something satisfying in these escapes, pleasures or whatever you call them, that are brief.
I liked Juliet, the character in three of the stories, shown in various stages of her life. She seemed like the kind of person that one could meet, be friends with.
Not that art always has to initiate life. Sometimes it can show something imagined, not rooted in experience. But most of the time, it’s easier to understand stories that reflect something known to us.