I was mopping the floor when I heard Alice Munro had won the International Man Booker Prize. I carried on mopping, listening to Jane Smiley enthusing about her work. When I started my Phd research on Munro in the early 90s no one had heard of her - except for the writers. She was more widely known by the time I published Alice Munro (Writers & Their Work). But it seemed as though Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2002) would be her final book. In interviews she said she'd stopped writing, and and there was a valedictory feeling about the stories; and so I grimly entitled my last chapter 'Ageing, Decay, Abjection'. Two collections later, and with a third on its way this October, she is coming to Dublin to get her prize.
Articles on Munro stress small town life, relationships, the domestic. They sometimes make her sound comfortable and nice. She is not. This is from the title story in The Love of a Good Woman (1998):
In the dreams that came to her now she would be copulating or trying to copulate (sometimes she was prevented by intruders or shifts of circumstances) with utterly forbidden and unthinkable partners. With fat squirmy babies or patients in bandages or her own mother. She would be slick with lust, hollow and groaning with it, and she would set to work with roughness and an attitude of evil pragmatism.
Alice Munro's stories are full of dreams, misconceptions, deceit and distractions. Distraction is an art, I think, listening while mopping (inadequately - there's still plaster dust, only now it's more like runny foundation). What I learnt from her is that stories can go off at a tangent. They don't have to have a theme or to hang together, symbolically or otherwise. Now I'd better go and rinse the mop.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Sunday, 17 May 2009
The Real Louise and Other Stories (Headland Press) was launched at the Bluecoat, Liverpool, on 7th May, during the Writing on the Wall Festival. Here I am, reading 'November' and with my publisher, Gladys Mary Coles, answering questions. The whiskey helped, and so did the wine, not to mention the glasses of mineral water.
Pics by Tim Power http://www.flickr.com/photos/gonzopix/
The miniature made big, frighteningly big: this is what short stories should be. – Rob ShearmanBrilliantly detailed, intimate, and often darkly funny. - Graham MortThe Real Louise is available from Headland Press, 38 York Avenue, West Kirby, Wirral, Merseyside CH48 3JF. UK orders £10.99 inc. p&p. Or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.