Tag Archives: Alice Munro

387 Days of Short Stories: Story 1: Day 1: The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro

The Bear Came Over the Mountain
Alice Munro
Taken from the collection: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories

I had read this story earlier. I do not remember when, but I remembered the story as I started reading it again with the start of this project. Why did I choose this one as the first story? Because I wanted this entire experience to be memorable and only a story by Alice Munro for a start, could ensure that.

“The Bear Came over the Mountain” according to me is the best story she has ever written. That is just my opinion though. There is Grant – the husband. There is Fiona – the wife. There is also memory – instrumental to the entire story. Fiona is losing her memory. There is no indication that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s. There is this tact with which Munro presents the condition of her characters. She has to be put in a care centre. Grant is aware. Grant has been infidel in the past. Fiona is aware. Now perhaps she remembers or she doesn’t. At Meadowlake, Fiona meets someone new and forgets she ever had a husband. That and more is the crux of this heartbreakingly beautiful short story.

Alice Munro’s style is just hers. I don’t think anyone can either match or copy it at any point. Her stories brim with irony, angst and above all they are just real – they remind you of you at some point. Her characters are dealing and going through life as you and I – they just do not know how to deal with situations, again like you and I. They struggle through emotions, the awkwardness, trying to fill gaps, silences, and want to know what love or essence of it all is.

“The Bear Came over the Mountain” moves you, intimidates you and above all makes you want to reach out to the ones you love and if any author is capable of doing that, then you must read her, again and again and perhaps again.

You can read the story here: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2013/10/21/131021fi_fiction_munro

Book Review: New Selected Stories by Alice Munro

New Selected Stories by Alice Munro Title: New Selected Stories
Author: Alice Munro
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House
ISBN: 978-0701179885
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

If there is one short-story writer I would like to meet and know more about, it would be Alice Munro. Her skill and magnificence of the craft have always left me speechless. She writes without caring, without knowing and without expecting or so it seems every time I read her collection of stories. There is something about them which maybe cannot be defined. It can only be felt by the reader. It will be felt by you if you pick up and read any of her short stories. She is that wonderful and adept at what she does. I am only humbled every time I read her works.

“New Selected Stories” is a collection of stories from five books spanning from 1998-2009, almost a decade, depicting the key aspects of her writing. Why is she so good you ask? Or for that matter, why do I revere her the way I do? That is because she knows how to notice human beings. She sees them in their weakness and strengths and puts it down in the form of a simple story sometimes, with only too complex characters and how their lives are led, day by day and as the years pass on.

The stories never lose momentum. She always knows what to say and when to say it. For instance, “Chance” is all about fate and what role it plays in a person’s life, when she meets a stranger on a train. On the other hand, “The Bear Came over the Mountain” is about a woman and her husband dealing with her Alzheimer’s. “The Love of a Good Woman” is all about what it means to love and more so what it means to lose.

I do not know why but every time I read a short story by Alice Munro, I am forced to introspect and think of events in my life. If a writer manages to do that, then maybe there is something about her. Her stories are just like life – bittersweet and often unexpected. You cannot put down her collection and do anything else. The only problem sometimes is the length of the stories, but I guess that is okay, because once you get engrossed in any of them, you do not want it to end. And honestly I do not know of how many authors I can say that? I can say that about Alice Munro for sure. All my money on her writing skills. She is beyond super. These fifteen stories will dazzle you every time you read them. You will reread for sure.

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Book Review: Runaway by Alice Munro

Runaway by Alice Munro Title: Runaway
Author: Alice Munro
Publisher: Vintage Books
ISBN: 978-0-099-47225-4
Genre: Short Story
Pages: 335
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

When you read a collection of stories by Alice Munro, you need to give yourself a lot of time to intake what you have read. To so to say, “soak in” the experience. Her stories speak to you, they communicate in a manner you never thought they would. They astound you, they leave you speechless and sometimes they also wrench your heart – that is the power of Alice Munro’s short stories.

“Runaway” by Alice Munro is the first read of the year for me and I could not be happier for choosing this one. Her characters are lost and sometimes miserable. They are regular people, spread across the terrain she knows best – Canada. Having said that, the emotions and situations almost remain the same. It could happen to anyone, what happens to her characters – they fall in love, they experience the disappearance of a loved one, they are unsure and above all they are just human.

Alice Munro’s writing is of a quiet kind. Nothing monumental happens at the start of the story. It is just a build-up to what takes you by surprise or sometimes shock at the end of the story or in the middle. There are layers to her short stories, which sometimes cannot be found in a novel.

“Runaway” is a collection of stories about men and women who while appear sane and normal on the surface (so to say), there is a lot of emotional burden seething under. At the same time, they flow with the tide and give in to situations. Be it a housewife who wants to run away from her husband and life in the title story to a collection of three inter-linked stories about a woman Juliet and her life as it spans across time and relationships. Or it could also be of a girl grown up with her hippie and care-free parents, and waits as life unfolds in front of her, in an unexpected manner.

There is no other short-story writer I have loved more in recent times than Munro. Maybe Lydia Davis but that’s that I guess. A short story according to me anyway is more difficult to write a novel. As Jonathan Franzen, says in his introduction to the book, “I like stories because they leave the writer no place to hide”. This is so true. Short stories demand a lot from writers and sometimes only a master at her craft like Munro can deliver almost every single time. I would also highly recommend Franzen’s introduction to the book, which is a superb insight to the art of short-story telling and available only as a part of the UK edition.

I am very happy that I have read only two of her collections, because there is so much more to read of hers, so much to take in – the charm and lives of small cities, of how life goes on, of how it unfolds, little by little and does not stop there. Munro’s characters take a shape and form of their own. Her words get formed, slowly and steadily, till they become solid structures, which readers can go back to time and again. Here is one writer, who I hope continues writing, a lot more.

Also by Munro which I read and reviewed:

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

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Book Review: Dear Life by Alice Munro

Title: Dear Life
Author: Alice Munro
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House
ISBN: 978-0701187842
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Alice Munro writes and if you are ardent fan, you ensure that you read the book in almost a sitting, cherish it, reread it and only then you feel satiated. This always happens to me when I read a collection of stories by Munro. I have to reread it for solid and sometimes inexplicable reasons. There is no any other way. That is my personal connect with her, as there are other quirks when it comes to reading other writers. However, that is for a later date.

“Dear Life” is the new book by Alice Munro. Munro writes of people, emotions, and links what is familiar to her – the Canadian terrain, which almost becomes the core of each story. She captures the essence of life, the daily humdrum of living, and what it is to be human and make your mistakes over and over again.

“Dear Life” is a collection of ten stories and four autobiographical pieces, that center on Munro’s childhood. The others are written in typical Munro style – not giving away too much and at the same time letting the reader know exactly how much is needed to get into the thick of the story. A poetess in an unknown territory, who wants more from her life eventually and decisions are made for her. A soldier who is on his way home to his fiancée steps off the train before his stop, only to find himself in love with another woman. A woman grieves over the past and its consequences.

The four autobiographical pieces were the ones that stayed with me the longest. I guess that was maybe because they were written with a little more emotion than the others. According to me, Alice Munro’s craft is unlike the rest who fall in the category of the short story. Her writing is sometimes with heavy weight attached to it and then at others there is this lightness to it, which makes you wonder about how she does it so effortlessly (or so it seems).

Stories are formed. Stories are told. The writer needs to be strong enough to do that. Alice Munro is a storyteller par genius. She knows exactly when to write what word, which emotion fits in what context and what should the characters do or not do. Her stories are almost like watching a concert – they reveal themselves bit by bit, sound by sound and word by word. That is precisely why you must read, “Dear Life”.

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