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Nine stories, most displaying the depth of a novel
on March 14, 2002
Alice Munro is the eminent Canadian award winning author of international fame. It is remarkable to find that Alice Munro is the only living author with a full-time professional career spent in writing short fiction. Her standards and her talent are quite breathtaking.
She pours into each of her short stories the feeling of various Canadian regions and their characters, while offering appurtenance to the lives of her readers around the world. This is definitely not provincial writing, but worldly.
In addition, she delivers the depth of a novel into many of her short works. Her new collection contains seven stories of roughly the same length,each around thirty pages,with two novellas of around 50 pages each serving as bookends. They are a treat.
First off, Marriage, takes place in a small town when trains still joined communities and people wrote letters. It starts with a woman, Johanna, who wants to ship furniture to Saskatchewan. For why? Everyone is curious. Half the town knows the stationmaster personally, and guesswork pours over coffee cups. By end of the story we learn Johanna could have benefited from the advice a Toronto judge recently gave a neophyte lawyer, Don't ever assume anything.
Floating Bridge is next. An Ontario woman named Jinny examines the reasons for her petty anger, out of which she comes to terms with her cancer. In a story called Comfort, religious-right creationists edge their way into a school, and begin to make life uncomfortable for a science instructor teaching evolution.
What is Remembered, set in Vancouver and Victoria concerns the chance meeting between a bush pilot-doctor and a woman who has just attended the funeral of her husband's friend who may have committed suicide. Here, while telling a slight story, Munro's writing brilliantly captures the unease between the two.
Most of the stories appear to occur in the immediate past, when rental cars had no radios, and many people smoked and spoke of ciggie-boos. Yet, they deal with current high-profile issues such as euthanasia, and coping with old age deterioration.
Five of these first appeared in the New Yorker. All are of
consistent high quality.