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Selected Stories, 1968-1994 Paperback – November 11, 1997
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"Too many things," a creative writing instructor tells the narrator of "Differently." "Too many things going on at the same time; also too many people. Think, he told her. What is the important thing? What do you want us to pay attention to? Think." What does Alice Munro want us to pay attention to in her Selected Stories? Everything, really, and so her narratives loop back on themselves, jump decades backward and forward in time, introduce characters who later drop out of the action, and generally break every rule in the short-story-writing book. In "Carried Away," for instance, a dead character makes a sudden, inexplicable appearance in what is otherwise the thoroughly naturalistic account of a librarian's disappointment with love. "The Albanian Virgin" is two stories in one: the first--the fanciful tale of Ghegs kidnapping a young Canadian woman--is told within the second, about a bookstore owner who has lost her own bearings after a divorce. There are stories that begin with their endings, and several more that end with beginnings; others are told from three or four different angles, each with varying degrees of reliability. Taken together, they form an intricate web of relationships and connections, falsehood and anecdote, a kind of fictional palimpsest laid over the faint traces of plot.
And yet Munro trusts her readers; she believes that we will pay attention to all these things and more. She aims to create the illusion that everything in her fiction has been left in, and it is this very capaciousness that sets her work apart, making possible the keen psychological insight of her stories about marriage as well as the cool violence of "Vandals" or "Fits." Hers is an unusual sort of realism, technically innovative and amenable--especially in the later work--to loose ends. (It also possesses a quick, flinty wit: "This was the first time I understood how God could become a real opponent, not just some kind of nuisance or large decoration," says the narrator of "The Progress of Love.") To call Munro the Canadian Chekhov is by now a commonplace--and yet she may have done more for the short fiction form than any writer since. These are stories that will be read, savored, and admired hundreds of years from now. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A literature-lover's feast, this phenomenal collection of 28 short stories, selected from seven collections that span three decades, showcases Munro's mastery of the form, her vibrantly evocative prose and her undiluted, incisive vision of human nature. Almost without exception, the tales are set in western Canada, from the small-town and farm life of the Lake Huron region to the cultivated suburbs of Vancouver. Most take place in earlier decades, starting with the Depression era. One of Munro's great gifts is that she renders her settings both palpably specific?like one small town's "maple trees whose roots have cracked and heaved the sidewalk and spread out like crocodiles into the bare yards"?and universally accessible. In the opening story, "Walker Brothers Cowboy," a young girl accompanies her salesman father on his rounds through rural Canada in the 1930s. A surprise visit to one of his old girlfriends reveals his hidden, fun-loving past, and the girl poignantly weighs her mother's disappointments in marrying her father against this old girlfriend's in losing him. "Material" strikes a very different tone: the narrator, the ex-wife of a reasonably well-known contemporary writer and professor, reads a recent short story of his that, to her surprise, affects her deeply (even though she wryly deconstructs his author bio as filled with "half-lies"). Having doubted that he would ever be a good writer, she is suddenly envious that he can take a lifetime of memories?mere "useless baggage" for her?and create something from them, while she sacrificed her writing ambitions to deal with the mundanities of life. Munro's stories are always trenchant, finely modulated and truly brilliant meditations on peoples' complexities and the emotions they contend with?sometimes ruefully, sometimes in pain, but most often with stoic dignity. 40,000 first printing.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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On the other hand, her writing is beautiful. She has ways of stating things that are remarkable. In fact, I started marking (underlining) some of her unique and apt descriptions; but I had to stop because there were too many notable phrases. I'm sure that she is a wonderful model for anyone who desires to write short stories. This edition of Selected Stories has an introduction by Munro that explains her goals and process in writing; that section in itself is very valuable.
So, overall, I'd give it 3.5 stars and round up to 4, because she is Alice Munro after all.
Keep writing Alice! Keep writing.