Master of modern short story

25 October 2013 10:39 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A

I hadn’t heard of Alice Mun­ro un­til last week, which is ac­tual­ly my fault, not hers.
The Cana­di­an short story writ­er was awar­ded the No­bel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture be­cause the com­mit­tee con­sid­ered her to be a “mas­ter of the mod­ern short story.”
It came as a sur­prise. How come I hadn’t heard of her be­fore? Now in­to her 80s, (she was born in 1931) Mun­ro re­tired re­cent­ly from writ­ing, but has been at it since her first short story col­lec­tion was awar­ded the Cana­di­an Gov­er­nor Gen­er­al’s Award for fic­tion in 1961. She has won it three times al­to­geth­er, along with the 2009 Man Book­er In­ter­na­tion­al Prize for a life­time’s work. One Cana­di­an crit­ic con­sid­ers her to be “our Che­khov.”
My on­ly ex­cuse is that one can’t pos­si­bly get to know all the good writ­ing, fic­tion and non-fic­tion, that have been pub­lish­ed all over the world over the past few dec­a­des. Far from be­ing threat­ened with ex­tinc­tion faced with the ebooks threat, more and more books keep get­ting pub­lish­ed in Eng­lish each year.

Not hav­ing read her work, I can’t make any crit­i­cal as­sess­ments. But fel­low Cana­di­an Mar­gar­et At­wood was full of praise fol­low­ing the No­bel an­nounce­ment. She writes: “Alice Mun­ro is among the ma­jor writ­ers of Eng­lish fic­tion of our time. She’s been ac­cor­ded arm­fuls of su­per-su­per­la­tives by crit­ics in both North Amer­i­ca and Brit­ain. She’s won many awards, and she has a de­vo­ted in­ter­na­tion­al read­er­ship. Among writ­ers, her name is spo­ken in hush­ed tones. She’s the kind of writ­er about whom it is of­ten said – no mat­ter how well known she be­comes – that she ought to be bet­ter known.”

Mun­ro has pub­lish­ed ten col­lec­tions of short sto­ries, to­ttal­ing 90-100 sto­ries al­to­geth­er. Her No­bel makes one aware that the short story me­di­um can be as pow­er­ful as the nov­el, though it has al­ways lan­guish­ed in the shad­ow of its more pres­ti­gious sib­ling. Most of the best-known nov­el­ists have dis­tin­guish­ed them­selves with short fic­tion, rang­ing from Tol­stoi and Dos­to­ev­sky to Jo­seph Con­rad, Wil­liam Faulk­ner, D.H. Law­rence and Ra­bin­dra­nath Ta­gore.
But Mun­ro be­longs to a se­lect group of writ­ers who have spe­ci­al­ised in the short story genre, though she has pub­lish­ed one nov­el (a group which in­cludes Cath­er­ine Mans­field and H. H. Mun­ro, or ‘Sa­ki’). That ex­plains why it has tak­en her so long to get the rec­og­ni­tion she de­serves. Apart from any­thing else, she was born in­to a so­cio-eco­nom­ic mi­lieu in which earn­ing a liv­ing from writ­ing (par­tic­u­lar­ly short sto­ries) was im­pos­si­ble. Can­a­da it­self was some­thing of a back­wa­ter when it came to fic­tion. Even in the 1960s, there were very few Cana­di­an pub­lish­ers.

Mar­gar­et At­wood sums up the sit­ua­tion suc­cint­ly: “Or you could do art as a hob­by, if you were a wom­an with time on your hands, or you could scrape out a liv­ing at some poor­ly paid qua­si-ar­tis­tic job. Mun­ro’s sto­ries are sprin­kled with wom­en like this. They go in for pia­no play­ing or write chat­ty news­pa­per col­umns. Or – more trag­i­cal­ly, they have a re­al though small tal­ent, like Al­me­da Roth in ‘Me­ne­se­teung,” who pro­du­ces one vol­ume of mi­nor verse called Of­fer­ings, but there is no con­text for them.”

Mun­ro was born in a re­gion sprin­kled with small towns. As At­wood notes: “Through Mun­ro’s fic­tion, So­we­to’s Hur­on Coun­ty has joined Faulk­ner’s Yo­kna­pa­taw­pha Coun­ty as a slice of land made leg­en­dary by the ex­cel­lence of the writ­er who has cele­bra­ted it, though in both ca­ses “cele­bra­ted” is not quite the right word. “Ana­tom­ised” might be clos­er to what goes on in the work of Mun­ro, though even that term is too clin­i­cal.”

"A good writ­er pro­du­ces uni­ver­sal lit­er­a­ture, no mat­ter where the desk and com­put­er might be placed on the globe. Af­ter read­ing the above pas­sage, I re­al­iz­ed that Mun­ro’s Hur­on coun­try de­scribes us, as well as peo­ple liv­ing in the sub­con­ti­nent, be­cause this re­gion ranks high in the list of those  where ‘si­lence and se­cre­cy are the norm in sex­u­al mat­ters.”
But we don’t have a sin­gle writ­er who can write about it with the hon­es­ty of Alice Mun­ro"


At­wood says fur­ther: “Mun­ro’s ar­tis­tic char­ac­ters are pun­ish­ed for not suc­ceed­ing, but they are pun­ish­ed al­so for suc­cess. Hon­es­ty, in Mun­ro’s work, is not the best pol­i­cy: it is not a pol­i­cy at all, but an es­sen­tial el­e­ment, like air. The char­ac­ters must get hold of at least some of it, by fair means or foul, or – they feel – they will go un­der.

“The bat­tle for au­then­tic­i­ty is waged most sig­nif­i­cant­ly in the field of sex. The Mun­ro so­cial world – like most so­ci­et­ies in which si­lence and se­cre­cy are the norm in sex­u­al mat­ters – car­ries a high erot­ic charge, and this charge ex­tends like a ne­on pe­num­bra around each char­ac­ter, il­lu­mi­nat­ing land­scapes, rooms and ob­jects. A rum­pled bed says more, in the hands of Mun­ro, than any graph­ic in-out, in-out de­pic­tion of gen­i­ta­lia ev­er could. Mun­ro’s char­ac­ters are as alert as dogs in a per­fume store to the sex­u­al chem­is­try in a gath­er­ing – the chem­is­try among oth­ers, as well as their own vis­cer­al re­spon­ses. Fall­ing in love, fall­ing in lust, sneak­ing around on spou­ses and en­joy­ing it, tell­ing sex­u­al lies, do­ing shame­ful things they feel com­pel­led to do out of ir­re­sis­ti­ble de­sire, mak­ing sex­u­al cal­cu­la­tions based on so­cial des­per­a­tion – few writ­ers have ex­plored such pro­cess­es more thor­ough­ly, and more ruth­less­ly.”
A good writ­er pro­du­ces uni­ver­sal lit­er­a­ture, no mat­ter where the desk and com­put­er might be placed on the globe. Af­ter read­ing the above pas­sage, I re­al­iz­ed that Mun­ro’s Hur­on coun­try de­scribes us, as well as peo­ple liv­ing in the sub­con­ti­nent, be­cause this re­gion ranks high in the list of those  where ‘si­lence and se­cre­cy are the norm in sex­u­al mat­ters.”
But we don’t have a sin­gle writ­er who can write about it with the hon­es­ty of Alice Mun­ro.
See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

  Comments - 0

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

 

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment




Employees’ health and safety our top-most priority - Brandix

When inquired, Brandix Apparel Limited said that health and safety of employe

“Workers who fainted had water sprinkled on their faces and had to work again”

Health authorities believe the first reported Covid-19 infected worker from t

“Social media ruined us” - husband of Minuwangoda Brandix factory worker

The Minuwangoda Brandix factory worker who first tested positive for Covid-19

Last rites far from home

The body of the Sri Lankan migrant worker Bandu who died of coronavirus in Du

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.