Munro short stories earn long praise

She’s from Canada (which, if you check an atlas, isn’t too far from Minnesota). And she won a Noble Prize for her writing.

So I thought I ought to check out author Alice Munro, even though I don’t normally read short stories. Or at least, not Short Stories in the formal term (if you think about it, some Facebook posts might be considered short stories).

Vintage MunroMy parents gave me Vintage Munro for Christmas, and like a long winter’s nap, I settled in. And I must say, I liked it.

Of course, I loved Munro’s lovely descriptions of ordinary things, like trying on clothes: “The fit was all right–the skirt shorter than what she was used to, but then what she was used to was not the style. There was no problem with the suit. The problem was with what stuck out of it. Her neck and her face and her hair and her big hands and thick legs” (from “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”).

Her works are like puzzles. They end ambiguously, and you find yourself turning to the beginning to figure out how the title applies to the story. I went a little crazy after reading “Carried Away” when a character appears in the story 30 years after he was decapitated. How did that happen? What did that mean? I turned to Google to discover the symbolism. Munro is a thinker like that.

“If you read a lot of Alice Munro’s works carefully, sooner or later, in one of her short stories, you will come face to face with yourself,” said Professor Peter Englund in the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony. “This is an encounter that always leaves you shaken and often changed, but never crushed.”

I found that line in “Differently,” a story of a woman who finds a lover, then finds herself: “Trouble began, perhaps, as soon as they said that they loved each other.”

Like a short story writer who earns Noble Prizes, Munro writes of small things and big things: health care decisions and death, letters and love, errands and endings. She is worth picking up.

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