August 28, 2008

Undeserved blessings and spontaneous remissions

Per old records, I had read 3-4 stories from Runaway by Alice Munro in August 2005 and although I do not remember the stories, I do not think "Silence" was one of them. I just read the story, included in the 2005 Best American Short Stories compilation and was reminded of why readers everywhere (and critics, based on how many times her stories from the New Yorker make it to the Best American Short Stories series) love Munro's short stories. Despite her prolific writing, she manages to deliver a punch every time. Like the author Mona Simpson wrote about her, she..

“understands reality in a complex, capacious way, leaving intact its dimensions of dream and wonder, its shadings of the fantastic.”

Or as another great exponent of the short story genre, Lorrie Moore wrote in her review of Runaway,

There are no happy endings here, but neither are these tales tragedies. They are constructions of calm perplexity, coolly observed human mysteries. One can feel the suspense, poolside, as well as any reader of The Da Vinci Code; one can cast a quick eye toward one's nine-year-old on the high dive and get back to the exact sentence where one left off. The thrilling unexpectedness of real life, which Munro rightly insists on, will in her hands keep a reader glued -- even if that reader is torn by the very conflicts (work to do, kid on the high dive) dramatized therein.

Or in Munro's own words from an earlier story, that Moore quotes from in her review:

Unconnected to the life of love, uncolored by love, the world resumes its own, its natural and callous importance. This is first a blow, then an odd consolation. And already I felt my old self—my old devious, ironic, isolated self—beginning to breathe again and stretch and settle, though all around it my body clung cracked and bewildered, in the stupid pain of loss.

I have long wanted to sit down with a book of Munro's short stories and hope to do just that starting this Friday into the long weekend. Right now, I feel the urge to get Runaway again and read the other two stories "Chance" and "Soon" that narrate earlier stories from the life of the central character of Silence, Juliet but what I will be reading is some of her earlier work, compiled as Selected Stories in 1996. Another compilation of her stories will be published later this year with a foreword by Margaret Atwood - Alice Munro's Best: Selected Stories.

Speaking of her recent work, you can read her most recent story in the New Yorker, Deep-Holes here. (What's with hyphenated story titles. Just heard last month of a good Jhumpa Lahiri story from the New Yorker called Hell-Heaven, which I believe is included in her recently published 2nd collection of short stories, The Unaccustomed Earth.)

P.S. The title of this post comes from the last line of the story:

She hopes, as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings, spontaneous remissions, or things of that sort.

P.S. S. I did not realize that Alice Munro is 77 years old!

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