I was introduced to Alice Munro in college, and while I loved her work, had an unfortunate end to my experience with her because of a teacher who felt a master’s in education wasn’t a legitimate degree and teaching a class full of them was a waste of her summer.
However, I’ve periodically come back to Munro, thinking of her when I read short fiction, and so I recently purchased Runaway, a collection published a few years ago.
Ahh. Short stories. While there is no doubt that I love a good novel – one that sucks you in, calls you back & makes you find 15 minutes here and there to indulge – there is something very simple and refreshing about a short story.
Kind of like white wine. I’m a red wine girl. Love it, crave it, study it, would bathe in it. Today with brunch (more about that in another post), I had the most delicious crisp and fruity white wine. It was the 2008 Plentitude from Wolf Mountain. But I digress.
I guess my point is, sometimes it takes taking a break from something to realize how much you enjoy it. In my limited days of writing, the short story was my choice of genre. I love the pointed characterization, the conciseness of the narrative, the lack of waste. In a short story, everything counts.
Munro is a gem. The NY Times quote on the cover of this collections says she has “strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America.” I can’t disagree. I’ve finished 5 of the 8, and they are all really good. Poignant, memorable characters – women – whose complex relationships create bittersweet ghosts that stay with you after the reading. No love relationship is left unturned – parent, child, lover, in-law, friend.
While I am boasting the virtues of short fiction, three of the stories have been about the same character in three different stages of her life, and I really enjoyed those. While they are separate and have individual merit, the emotions crescendo when read together.
In short (insert smiley face here), it feels like coming home.
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