Sunday, August 3, 2014

More on Alice Munro

Regular readers of this blog know that I – like so many others, including the Nobel Prize committee – love and admire Alice Munro’s fiction, especially her short stories. I recently listened to a collection I had already read more than ten years ago, “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” (BBC Audiobooks America, 2002), and was just as entranced with and impressed by it this time as I was last time. What can I say that I haven’t already said about Munro’s insightfulness about human nature, carefully observed details, surprises around some corners, and fine, fine writing? Perhaps the strongest story is the last and longest, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.” It is a love story, a story of the ways love and marriage change with time, especially in the various contexts of one’s surrounding society. And the love story becomes an even more complicated one when wife Fiona is affected by dementia and falls in love with another man, not her husband, at the institution where she has moved, and husband Grant finds himself facilitating that love because it makes Fiona happy. This Munro story was made into a terrific 2007 film, “Away From Her,” starring Julie Christie. To show that life, once again, is not so very different from fiction: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor faced a similar situation at about the same time, when her husband, affected by Alzheimer’s, fell in love with another woman; O’Connor stood by him, and even felt happy that his newfound love pulled him out of the depression he had been suffering. Getting back to this story collection: I recommend it as one of Munro’s best, which is to say: the best of the best.

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