Sunday, February 12, 2006

Alice Munro's Latest

I just finished Alice Munro's Runaway. I can't say it's my favourite bit of Munro that I'v read, but this is pure talent, nonetheless. I'll still label Lives of Girls and Women as one of my favourite books ever, but this book is definitely worth a nod.

The last short story (60 pages is hardly a short story, BUT) did a good job of taking my mind off my nausea this morning. It's kind of hard to just pull quotes from Munro's stuff and say "this part is so good" because there's something lacking in meaning, especially with her stuff when you do that. Still, there are some elements in this book that reminded me of why I like Ms. Munro's writing so much.

The details. The odd details...the observations of observations...that's what makes this stuff special:

Mr. Travers never told stories and had little to say at dinner, but if he came upon you looking, say, at the fieldstone fireplace, he might say, "Are you interested in rocks?" and tell you where each of them had come from, and how he had searched and searched for the particular pink granite, because Mrs. Travers had once exclaimed over a rock like that, glimpsed in a road cut. Or he might show you such not really unusual features as he himself had added to the house design--the ocrner cupboard shelves swinging outwards in the kitchen, the storage space under the window seats. He was a tall stooped man with a soft voice and thin hair slicked over his scape. He wore bathing shoes when he went into the water, and though he did not look fat in his usual clothes, he displayed then a pancake fold of white flesh slopping over the top of his bathing trunks. (162-163)

or this one:

A Japanese boy with the sweetly downcast face of a young priest was chopping fish at a terrifying speed behind the counter. Ollie called out, "How's it going, Pete?" and the young man called back, "Fan-tas-tic," in a derisive North American voice without losing a bit of his rhythm. Nancy had a flash of discomfort--was it because Ollie had used the young man's name and the young man hadn't used Ollie's? And because she hoped Ollie wouldn't notice her noticing that? Some people set such store on being friends with people in shops and restaurants. (316)

At some level, I read this book guility. It felt like reading trash. The stuff is just so...far-fetched on some level, and at the same time so very...accurate? Impossible and believable at the same time. Both and intellectual and superficial entertainment at the same time. And perhaps that's why it's so fascinating?

One final quote that sums up the whole reflective, wise old woman quality of the book:

Her children say that they hope she has not taken to Living in the Past.

But what she believes she is doing, what she wants to do if she can get the time to do it, is not so much live in the past as to open it up and get one good look at it.


lyndsaybee said...


The paperback cover is interesting: I always think it's odd when the author's name is larger than the book title text. (Brand name literature, baby.)

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