Monday, October 14, 2013

The long and short of it

I've mentioned here before that I'm not really a fan of the short story. Earlier this year I ventured into the genre to read the much acclaimed short story collection Tenth of December by George Saunders, but it, frankly, left me cold except for a couple of the stories. I couldn't really see what all the shouting was about. Still, since all the critics raved about the book, I had to consider that perhaps my disaffection for it was due to something lacking in myself rather than in the book itself.

Mostly, I am not even tempted to read short stories, but, over the years, there is one short story writer that I have been drawn to and about whose writings I have been curious, even though I have to admit I've never actually read any of them. Now that that writer has been awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Literature, it becomes even more urgent that I rise above my unreasoning prejudice and read the works of Alice Munro.

From what I know of Munro's writing, her theme seems to be women and their concerns. She writes about the mundane life of ordinary women. Women like myself. Her topics cover the range of the stuff of our lives: love, security, jealousy, lust, housework, husbands, ambition, aging, boredom, children, and regret. Always regret. She writes of women in poverty and of financially secure and successful women. All of these are subjects that interest me, so why haven't I read her before now? The only excuse seems to have been that aforementioned "unreasoning prejudice" against short stories.

People who give advice to writers always tell them to "write what they know" and Alice Munro knows very well the life of an ordinary woman. She's been a wife and a mother, struggling to carve time out of her busy days for her writing. When her kids were young, she and her husband owned a bookstore. Her life was always full of family concerns. She was 37 before she published her first collection of short stories. She is now 82 and her stories are widely read and loved. She is a best-selling author with a well-balanced life that we might all envy, a woman who seems supremely comfortable in her own skin. She has won practically every literary prize on offer, and now she has capped it all with the Nobel.

No more excuses or delays. I must read this woman's writing. It goes on my "to be read" list for the coming weeks.

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