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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 11 reviews
Ben Dolnick comes from a bookish family, wrote the coming of age Zoology, and according to his publisher has worked as a "zookeeper at the Central Park Zoo, a bookseller, a research assistant in an immunology lab, and a tutor." Alice Munro is a Canadian short-story writer, the winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction, and a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize; she is as Cynthia Ozick puts it, "our Chekhov."

Dolnick developed a deep admiration for Ozick despite, perhaps common in many love affairs, he once disliked her; his reasons:

"- she often published stories in the New Yorker, and possibly wrote nothing but stories.
- many of her book titles featured words like "Love" and "Women."
- she was Canadian.
- her book-covers were illustrated with moody, purplish-tinted scenes of women lounging on beds or gazing thoughtfully out of windows.
- the first page of the first story in the only book of hers I owned described a woman with teeth 'crowded to the front of her mouth as if they were ready for an argument."

Dolnick advances these reasons to "demonstrate my tendency toward under-informed and over-fervent dismissals, but also because if I'm going to have any success in arguing that the work of Alice Munro can make your life tangibly happier and better, I need first to address the various reasons you might have for dismissing her."

Dolnick does a wonderful job of proving just how important Munro was, and is, in his life, and along the way describes in what seemed to me an empathetic way how he (and I) dismiss some authors, adore others, reflect on those conclusions, and sometimes just change our minds. Rarely the authors change; much more often Dolnick (and I) changed, sometimes through maturation of understanding, sometimes in even more fundamental ways.

Years ago I had a crush on Robert Frost -- still do for that matter -- and I sent off a book of his collected poems with a request for an autograph, together with a self addressed postage paid envelope for its return. A week later the book was in my mail box, not only signed, but with a little poem as its inscription:

"To Robert Ross
From Robert Frost"

From time to time I take out that book and admire the signature and "my" poem, but very soon turn to the more poetry and lose myself in his words and his ideas.

Dolnick, at the end of his essay does just that with Munro. After analyzing her work, after agonizing about writing and receiving fan letters, after speculating about her appearance and her thoughts, he writes:

"I have a feeling, though ... that the proper act of reverence and gratitude might be a great deal simpler than electing her or befriending her. I could, for a hundredth, and then a thousandth time, read her."

That is the point for this reader: the books at the end of the day are what really matter. I thank Ben Dolnick for reminding me of that truth.

Robert C. Ross
June 2012
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on March 25, 2014
I'm not a fan of Alice Munro, but this short piece has made me an instant devotee of Ben Dolnick. Written during the sixth year of his devotion to her (with smile-inducing humor and beautifully articulated insight), I was rooting for this young, unknown (?) author to prevail in his attempts to gain Munro's approval. (This essay is about more than praising Munro's work and seeking recognition from her for his own -- it's for anyone who values the written expression of language.) I enjoyed this so much I immediately checked out his other work, as well as his bio -- and boy, was I in for a surprise. This young man has some serious connections! His mom's side of the family owns The New York Times (and I don't mean a copy at a time, like the rest of us) -- AND, get this -- his uncle is Arthur Golden , who (in case you don't know), wrote the extraordinarily successful (and deservedly so) "Memoirs of a Geisha." Dolnick wraps up his essay with what he claims is now his way of expressing his admiration for Munro (I'll let you discover that on your own), but I think he realizes that he's done that here, by writing such a remarkable tribute.
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VINE VOICEon August 24, 2013
This is a thoroughly charming and delightful essay that's not merely about a love for Alice Munro's writing, but about the joys to be found in all great literature. In examining what makes Munro's writing such works of literary art (at least for him -- see below), Dolnick graces us with a host of insights into what goes into making any great writing great, and what can make less-than-great writing fall short.

In an academic setting, this essay would be an ideal reading assignment for any high school or college course that hopes to instill an appreciation of fine literature. And for those of us who already love literary fiction, it's an educational and fun read. It certainly was for me, and I'm not even especially fond of Alice Munro's work. (See my own non-loving essay about Munro in the form of a two-star review of this book.)
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on August 27, 2012
What a funny, thoughtful, smart and entertaining book. Ben Dolnick is the real deal: a graceful writer with a keen intellect and a generous heart. This book is a terrifically engaging account of fandom, writing, and how (and why) we inhabit the stories we read, the good ones at least. I read it in one sitting and remembered why reading is pure bliss. I would highly recommend this book to every writer and reader on the planet.
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on March 22, 2014
I felt close to the author in many ways. As someone that enjoys reading short stories I identified with the author's insights about how it is like to approach a book of short stories. The author was succesful in making me curious about Alice Munro's works and I enjoyed and appreciated his opinions about other writers and styles.
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on August 25, 2014
A succinct appreciation of the writer Alice Munro plus some remarks on Philip Roth. I enjoyed the writer's explanations that included a lot of thinking about the observation he was making and then landing on a comparison that seemed to me just right and well-earned.
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on January 16, 2014
Ben Dolnick's essay is incredibly real. Everything he had to say about Munro hit the nail on the head, saying and showing what I have always thought of her work. Alice Munro fans and faithfuls should definitely pick this up.
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on November 16, 2014
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on April 18, 2014
I could not finish this. Strange. Odd and not in a good way. Sorry, I just didn't get it. However, I would still recommend it because maybe it gets better and I just did not give it enough of a chance. Someone else might like it.
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