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Liebes Leben

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Die kanadische Literatur-Nobelpreistragerin beschreibt in 14 Erzahlungen, wie es ware, ein neues Leben zu beginnen. Auf wenigen Seiten kondensiert Alice Munro die geheimen Träume ihrer Figuren. Vierzehn neue brillante Erzählungen, die mit einem furiosen Finale enden: vier Geschichten, in denen sie so persönlich wie nie (»die ersten und die letzten Dinge, die ich über mein L Die kanadische Literatur-Nobelpreisträgerin beschreibt in 14 Erzählungen, wie es wäre, ein neues Leben zu beginnen. Auf wenigen Seiten kondensiert Alice Munro die geheimen Träume ihrer Figuren. Vierzehn neue brillante Erzählungen, die mit einem furiosen Finale enden: vier Geschichten, in denen sie so persönlich wie nie (»die ersten und die letzten Dinge, die ich über mein Leben zu sagen habe«) von sich selbst erzählt. Sophie Rois und Christian Brückner lesen Alice Munro. Regie: Waltraut Brückner 6 Compact Disc (421 Min.) Dauer: 7 Stunden 1 Minuten


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Die kanadische Literatur-Nobelpreistragerin beschreibt in 14 Erzahlungen, wie es ware, ein neues Leben zu beginnen. Auf wenigen Seiten kondensiert Alice Munro die geheimen Träume ihrer Figuren. Vierzehn neue brillante Erzählungen, die mit einem furiosen Finale enden: vier Geschichten, in denen sie so persönlich wie nie (»die ersten und die letzten Dinge, die ich über mein L Die kanadische Literatur-Nobelpreisträgerin beschreibt in 14 Erzählungen, wie es wäre, ein neues Leben zu beginnen. Auf wenigen Seiten kondensiert Alice Munro die geheimen Träume ihrer Figuren. Vierzehn neue brillante Erzählungen, die mit einem furiosen Finale enden: vier Geschichten, in denen sie so persönlich wie nie (»die ersten und die letzten Dinge, die ich über mein Leben zu sagen habe«) von sich selbst erzählt. Sophie Rois und Christian Brückner lesen Alice Munro. Regie: Waltraut Brückner 6 Compact Disc (421 Min.) Dauer: 7 Stunden 1 Minuten

30 review for Liebes Leben

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    I had never read any Alice Munro, and I find it's difficult to say anything sensible about her. Obviously, the stories are very good. (She just won the Nobel Prize. Duh). But what's most impressive is that she doesn't seem to be doing anything in particular. With some writers, it's easy to understand why they're so highly regarded. Take Vladimir Nabokov. I look at his brilliantly constructed sentences, his cleverly ambiguous allusions, his breathtakingly unexpected metaphors, and I sigh: ah, I w I had never read any Alice Munro, and I find it's difficult to say anything sensible about her. Obviously, the stories are very good. (She just won the Nobel Prize. Duh). But what's most impressive is that she doesn't seem to be doing anything in particular. With some writers, it's easy to understand why they're so highly regarded. Take Vladimir Nabokov. I look at his brilliantly constructed sentences, his cleverly ambiguous allusions, his breathtakingly unexpected metaphors, and I sigh: ah, I wish I could do that too. I know perfectly well that I can't; I don't have the necessary technical skills. But Munro isn't showy. She seems to be telling me ordinary stories about ordinary people, written in an ordinary language. They don't require concentration to read. But each one is perfectly balanced, and somehow they end up grabbing me by the heart and forcing me to reflect on universal themes of human nature: how people are unfaithful, how they lie to their loved ones, how they are unable to act at a critical moment and spend the rest of their lives wondering why not, how their memories don't quite match up. I'm currently reading a lot of science books, so perhaps it's natural that I'm reminded of a story about Einstein and Hubble. Some time in the 30s, Einstein and his wife visited Hubble, the most distinguished astronomer of the time. They were taken to see the hundred-inch telescope, a current miracle of advanced technology. "What do you do with it?" asked Mrs. Einstein. "I use it to discover the secrets of the universe," replied Hubble. "Oh!" said Mrs. Einstein dismissively. "My husband does that on the back of an old envelope."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Sparks

    This new collection pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken or a simple twist of fate. These are terrific stories by an amazing talent, a writer so good I learn something new with every story.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    I’m always careful not to fall victim to popular opinion when reading any book, especially one by such an acclaimed and beloved writer as Alice Munro. I tried to forget the fact that Munro had only recently won the Nobel prize for fiction. This is only my second Munro so maybe I’m not the best judge of her work but I did find this collection very enjoyable. I find that with Munro it’s the little details. Her stories are everyday stories of everyday people living mainly in small-town Canada, peopl I’m always careful not to fall victim to popular opinion when reading any book, especially one by such an acclaimed and beloved writer as Alice Munro. I tried to forget the fact that Munro had only recently won the Nobel prize for fiction. This is only my second Munro so maybe I’m not the best judge of her work but I did find this collection very enjoyable. I find that with Munro it’s the little details. Her stories are everyday stories of everyday people living mainly in small-town Canada, people we probably don’t expect to read about in books. Whether she is exploring the thoughts of a little child, an inexperienced university graduate, or an unsatisfied housewife, she does so expertly. I found myself engaged by the stories, stories that I found to be very believable, as well as very sad in most cases. I also enjoyed her stories set in post-war Canada, a very different Canada from the one I live in now. Munro definitely writes with much clarity. People often comment on her well-crafted sentences and I won’t argue with that. What I love most of all is her insight into human relationships. I enjoyed the last few stories that were supposedly autobiographical. Very nostalgic. It’s very fitting that this book is called “Dear Life.” I felt quite sad when I turned the last page knowing this is supposedly the last book she will ever write. “So still, so immense an enchantment.” — Alice Munro, Dear Life

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    DEAR WRITING It is reassuring to see that the Nobel Prize for literature went recently to someone who writes so clearly and so unpretentiously. I am not much of a reader of short stories. Shifting from one to the next is always anticlimactic. And often their being grouped in one particular volume is also contrived. This is the case with this collectioin. Most of these stories were first published at different dates in various literary magazines (Granta, Harper’s, Tin House...). The settings are v DEAR WRITING It is reassuring to see that the Nobel Prize for literature went recently to someone who writes so clearly and so unpretentiously. I am not much of a reader of short stories. Shifting from one to the next is always anticlimactic. And often their being grouped in one particular volume is also contrived. This is the case with this collectioin. Most of these stories were first published at different dates in various literary magazines (Granta, Harper’s, Tin House...). The settings are very localized, very Canadian, and yet they are not. The situations and their plots seem easily transferable to other places: they present an individual dealing with whatever life has put on (mostly) her tray. Without much ado, these stories pay homage to the arbitrariness we have to deal with, daily. While reading them I strangely reminded of the photographic work by Walker Evans. Yes, I know, a different country, and from a narrower time frame, the Depression from the 30s in the US. But both, them and Munro, explore that subtle line that divides life from representation, or the old dichotomy of Nature versus Art. In their Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Evans and James Agee presented their documentary work on how a section of the US population lived. They were contracted to record and collect evidence of real people in their real lives in their real surroundings. But now their book, with the photos and the text, is considered a work of creativity. As I followed Munro’s collection, I could from feel already from the first stories, that there was an autobiographical tint to them. They all had a personal quality. I was then surprised and not surprised, when just before the last four, grouped as FINALE, Munro warns the reader that these four stories are not such. They are not fiction, but have to be considered as autobiographical writings. And in these we read: I think that if I was writing fiction instead of remembering something that happened, I would never have given her that dress. A kind of advertisement she didn’t need. (Voices) .. he does not have any further part in what I’m writing now, in spite of his troll’s name, because this is not a story, only life. (Dear Life). Without Munro’s warning, I would not have felt that these last stories, even though childhood memories predominate in them, were closer to reality than the previous ones. Her accounts of the familiar and the ordinary, with her observations and her descriptions, are all her creations, her inventions. But they are rendered in such transparent language that any sense of contrivance, of artifice, of fiction is not detectable. Her pristine language approaches us very closely to her pristine and dear view of Life. Dear writing indeed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan Tekulve

    As with all of Alice Munro's books, I rushed out to buy this newest collection, and then I rushed home, eager to plunge into it. I am an ardent fan of Alice Munro's work, and I think this collection is good, better than good. The most breathtaking, full and energetic of the short stories in this collection is "Amundsen." It takes place in a TB sanatarium near a remote town in Northern Canada. The story is about a young woman who takes a job teaching the children in the sanatarium and, eventually As with all of Alice Munro's books, I rushed out to buy this newest collection, and then I rushed home, eager to plunge into it. I am an ardent fan of Alice Munro's work, and I think this collection is good, better than good. The most breathtaking, full and energetic of the short stories in this collection is "Amundsen." It takes place in a TB sanatarium near a remote town in Northern Canada. The story is about a young woman who takes a job teaching the children in the sanatarium and, eventually, falls in love with the sanatarium's melancholy doctor whose kind, yet oddly cold, intentions toward the young woman remain muddled until the very end. The story has the heft of a Russian novel, and there is, indeed, an allusion to WAR AND PEACE within its pages. However, I felt a feverish pull to keep turning its pages, and there is a good sort of mystery that keeps the story tight and page-turning. A lot of the other stories are classic Munro, stories that examine "grown-up" themes that so many other best-selling writers, and, more to the point, big-house publishers, typically don't seem to have an interest in publishing these days--unless they are publishing Alice Munro, and maybe a handful of other wonderful literary writer, (like Elizabeth Strout), who maintain a place in today's publishing market. Quite simply, Munro writes about aging, and she does so with bravery, steadiness and stoic grace. One of her characters faces the horrors of the onset of dementia--after she is already in the grips of the disease; another character, a seventy-one-year-old woman, begins to believe that her eighty-three-year-old husband is going to leave her for a visiting cosmetic saleswoman who turns out to be an old flame of his. These stories are sadly beautiful, and they are relatively short, by Munro's standards. What surprised and delighted me the most were the four final "works" of the book. She prefaces these "works" by saying that they "are not quite stories" because they are "autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, in fact." Munro took a similar approach in THE VIEW FROM CASTLE ROCK, which begins with an account of how she researched her ancestors in Scotland, then moves into pieces of "fictionalized autobiography" based on her Scottish ancestors in the middle. Then, the book ends in the realm of complete fiction. I like Munro's forays into memoir, and even though she doesn't truly commit to writing "the truth," I have to admire the fact that she doesn't pretend that her autobiographical stories are 100% true. By taking this approach, she avoids the trap that a number of fiction writers fall into when they venture completely into memoir. It seems, (at least in my reading of memoirs written by fiction writers), that many fiction writers who make the foray into memoir writing forget that they are still telling a story. They forget that even memoirists must create a dramatic persona of themselves so that they have the distance, (and good narrative sense), that it takes to tell a truthful AND effective story. They have no sense of perspective, and no sense of how they come off as the protagonist of their own stories; they often tell too much, or too little. In short, they forget the basic elements of narrative because they are "telling the truth." This is not the case with Munro's autobiographical writing. In fact, the autobiographical "works" in this collection feel more immediate and energetic than a number of the fictional stories. Munro's voice in these pieces is stoic. In a piece called "Night," she recalls the time when she was fourteen, and she had a tumor removed at the same time she had her appendix taken out. She muses about how her mother never mentioned whether the tumor was cancerous or benign: "So I did not ask and wasn't told and can only suppose it was benign or was most skillfully got rid of, for here I am today." It's statements like this that reveal her stoicism, but also her warmth and humor. In "The Eye," she writes heartbreakingly about the death of Sadie, the hired girl Munro's mother apparently brought into the home to help with the chores when Munro's younger brother was born. The story hinges upon the moment when Munro's mother takes her to Sadie's wake, with the intentions of showing Alice what death looks like. And Alice, who is quite young when this event happens, imagines that she sees Sadie's eye flutter open while she is lying in the casket. It's a small, almost Gothic moment, and yet it captures perfectly that mystery and strange hope that children feel when they first see death. Ultimately, this is a collection that amazes me, partly because Munro continues to write innovative stories at a time in her life when she has every reason to rest on her laurels. It amazes me because she confronts subjects that a lot of people turn away from, such as aging quietly, and dying quietly, of devastatingly unromantic old-age ailments. If you already like Alice Munro, you will like the fictional stories because they have all the classic Munro traits--hardscrabble settings, stoic characters, dark humor. If you are an ardent fan, such as myself, you'll love the "fictionalized nonfiction" pieces too because they offer a glimpse into the life and mind of this beloved writer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jaidee

    3 "extremely memorable" stars !! I am writing this at 245 a.m. and we are at our cottage on Lake Huron and it was my favorite kind of day and evening and night and the spirit of Alice Munro was everywhere today. My partner spent a small time in his childhood in the town of Wingham Ontario (this is where Alice Munro grew up)and we had dinner there with his sister who lives very close to Clinton Ontario where Alice Munro currently lives. They are both ardent fans and I relished their discussion as 3 "extremely memorable" stars !! I am writing this at 245 a.m. and we are at our cottage on Lake Huron and it was my favorite kind of day and evening and night and the spirit of Alice Munro was everywhere today. My partner spent a small time in his childhood in the town of Wingham Ontario (this is where Alice Munro grew up)and we had dinner there with his sister who lives very close to Clinton Ontario where Alice Munro currently lives. They are both ardent fans and I relished their discussion as they conversed on the art of Alice and their favorite stories by her. It was very romantic and stormy and cool when we returned to our cottage and we went for a three hour walk along the beach and into forest and I understood why I love Ontario so darn much even though I am the son of immigrant parents from the Mediterranean. Ontario is so fresh, plentiful, and beautiful. Outside of the cesspool of Toronto lies so much green and I was filled with so much gratitude to be living in this wonderful province. After our walk my partner asked about my experience of Dear Life and I am ashamed to say that this is the first Alice I've read. I really loved two of the stories (4.5 stars) and very much liked two others (4 stars). In his generous way he offered to read them to me on the porch and I was lulled by his rich and sonorous baritone. The wondrousness of Alice shone through as well as the effects of three glasses of Riesling. I will simply make a brief statement on each of the stories and I feel rather foolish especially around the stories I didn't particularly care for. To even state these minor opinions of mine especially after so many esteemed individuals have honoured her in a multitude of ways. However, I need to be true to the self and in fact the stories that were mediocre made the ones that I loved even more wonderful especially after I heard them recited by my partner. Here goes: Japan - 4 stars A story about how we barely understand ourselves and there are perpetual shifts in our emotions, desires and ways of being in the world. Amunsden- 4 stars A young teacher abandoned by her older lover in a northern Ontario town at the end of World War 2....sad, uncertain, powerless Leaving Maverly- 3.5 stars A story about the seemingly random connections of acquaintances and the significant impact they can have on our lives. Gravel - 3 stars Looking back on a family tragedy with adult eyes. Haven- 2.5 stars A middling story about a horribly controlling man and his pathetic little wife. Pride - 4.5 stars (fave in collection) A platonic love story between a disfigured man and a downwardly wealthy woman. Beautifully rendered and poignant. Corrie - 4.5 stars (second fave in collection) Stolen love can be so expensive and devastating. Can one ever recover? Train- 3.5 stars The lonely wandering life of an abused soldier. In Sight of the Lake- 2.5 stars A not so successful story about dementia. Dolly - 2 stars An elderly couple behaving immaturely. This one was dull and unbelievable to me. The eye - 3.5 stars A five year old girl's first experience with death. Night - 3 stars A young teenage girl struggles with insomnia and obsessive thoughts after surgery. Voices - 3 stars A young girl discovers the ways of adults particularly young men. Dear Life - 3 stars Reflections on a life. Who knew 3 stars could be so damn good? Goodnight I must sleep.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    Story 1: To Reach Japan A story about a woman who's determined to have an affair. Now, I don't condone affairs. But sometimes I can understand them, e.g. Addicted by Zane. But here, no reason is given for Greta cheating. And it doesn't seem to matter who she's cheating with: any available and interested man will do. So it's not “love” affairs she's having. My educated guess about why Greta is cheating on her husband is that she's bored. She's a poet who works from home and she has a small child. The Story 1: To Reach Japan A story about a woman who's determined to have an affair. Now, I don't condone affairs. But sometimes I can understand them, e.g. Addicted by Zane. But here, no reason is given for Greta cheating. And it doesn't seem to matter who she's cheating with: any available and interested man will do. So it's not “love” affairs she's having. My educated guess about why Greta is cheating on her husband is that she's bored. She's a poet who works from home and she has a small child. The first guy she becomes enamored with is a journalist who takes her home when she becomes drunk at a party. In the car, they're talking and he says this: "Excuse me for sounding how I did. I was thinking whether I would or wouldn't kiss you and I decided I wouldn't." What an asshole! Not because, as Greta thinks, he's judging her “un-kiss-worthy” but because there is a drunk, married woman in his car and he's seeing her in a sexual way. What a jerk. What makes you think she wants to be kissed by you??!? How big of a creep are you to offer to drive a woman home from a party when she's drunk and then contemplate whether you should take advantage of her or not?!?! Also, she's married, you prick. Unfortunately, Greta shares none of my compunctions about his behavior and starts daydreaming about the man constantly for a year. Then she writes him a letter of poetry and stuff and sends it to his work. WTF?!!? Later, she enters affair number two. This is when her daughter Katy and herself are traveling to Toronto to live without her husband for a month because her husband is leaving the country. This actor is on the train, a play actor, and she describes him as “a boy” so I'm thinking he's at least 10 years younger than her. He entertains all the children on the train, and at the end of the day they start drinking, flirting, and touching. It's obvious to me by now that it doesn't matter who the frick the man is, she is just going after anyone with a penis – except her husband, I guess. This conversation happens: GRETA: "I haven't got any - " (condoms) GREG: "I have." GRETA: "Not on you?" GREG: "Certainly not. What kind of beast do you think I am?" Oh, I don't know.. THE KIND OF BEAST WHO PROPOSITIONS A MARRIED WOMAN RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER SLEEPING CHILD!?!?!!?!? I mean, her child is curled up sleeping right there. Classy. <---sarcasm So she leaves her child, ALONE, and goes to Greg's compartment to have sex with him. Then, after their finished having sex, she tells him she has to go back to her compartment. And he says: ""Okay. Okay. I should get ready for Saskatoon anyway. What if we'd got there just in the middle of it? Hello Mom. Hello Daddy. Excuse me just a minute here while I -Wa - hoo!" *blink blink What. A. Moron. Seriously. THIS is who you choose to have an affair with? This guy!?!? Incredible. So she goes back to her compartment to find Katy is missing. She freaks out. Later she finds Katy, unharmed, who says she went to look for Mommy. Greta is feeling very guilty and shameful and as if Katy going missing was “punishment” for Greta having sex with Greg. Then, in the final twist, (view spoiler)[ Greta and Katy get off at Union Station and the journalist is waiting for them with a hug and a kiss. o.O (hide spoiler)] This story left me pretty cold. I couldn't understand Greta or her motivations. She made bad choices, and I didn't even understand why. I was just annoyed with her for the whole story. Story #2: Amundsen A woman goes to a tuberculosis hospital to be a teacher. There is a doctor there who is an asshole. He's rude to everyone, even the children that adore him. For some reason, the woman starts to date him. He says mean things to her and to a little child. Next thing you know, she's having sex with him. He's still an asshole. He promises to marry her. But after a few months, and a “let's drive to Huntsville to get married” it turns out that it's “let's drive to Huntsville so I can put you on a train back to Toronto like all the other women I fucked and then discarded.” I have no sympathy for the main character. None. The doctor acted like a complete dick right in front of her numerous times, and she didn't say anything. He humiliated a little girl, calling her fat and mocking her – right in front of the MC, who didn't defend the child or stop dating him or anything. She just lets this guy use her and also lets him treat her and other people like crap. While I think it is, of course, the asshole's fault for being an asshole, it's also her responsibility to say something when he's being mean and rude (especially to a child!) in front of her. I have no respect for a woman who just lets a man walk all over her like that. Grow some ovaries, woman! And it should be no surprise to her that if he has no respect for anyone, that he will eventually be rude and disrespectful to her, too. Stories 3-7 So boring they are not even worth talking about. Story #8: Train This was a long story. I liked reading about the woman, Belle, living in abject poverty. But then Munro had to go and ruin everything by putting a weird sexual abuse undertone to the whole thing and it was disgusting. Also, nothing much happens in this story. Story #9: In Sight of the Lake This was actually a pretty good story, about an old woman who's going senile. Best story in the collection. Story #10: Dolly This was a pretty good story about the evils of Facebook. I mean, she doesn't use those terms, but that's what I got out of it. How dangerous it is to have ex-lovers come back into your life. Story #11: The Eye Boring. Story #12: Night There is a really good passage in here about evil thoughts. Story #13: Voices Boring. Story #14: Dear Life Boring. Roly Grain, his name was, and he does not have any further part in what I'm writing now, because this is not a story, only life.” This above quote, from Munro's last story, pretty much sums up the whole book. It's as if she were saying: “I'm sorry that these stories are so boring, but I must remind you they are LIFE. I will leave anything faintly interesting out of these stories because I want them to be REAL and TRUE and BORING just like life is. Not fiction, you know, which actually makes things interesting.” Uh-huh. Thanks but no thanks, Ms. Munro. ... I can't believe how much fuss is made over this author. She writes, in general, about asshole men who run roughshod over their women and women who are so passive and invertebrate that it seems that they only do not CARE about being dominated, they don't even realize they ARE being dominated. It's as if they are completely passive. With no thoughts or agency of their own. P.S. Like Flannery O'Connor Lite - a good way to describe this book. P.P.S. 9 out of 10 people in my book club did not enjoy this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    You know, I have been trying to put my finger on what exactly makes Alice Munro so fascinating. Her writing is without frills - she does not use flowery language or dazzling metaphors. Her stories can be read by any schoolkid without referring a dictionary. Ms. Munro does not write about extraordinary events; her characters are middle class men and women of Canada, going about their humdrum lives. It is Ernest Hemingway plus Jane Austen. The first story sort of had me saying: "Is this the Nobel P You know, I have been trying to put my finger on what exactly makes Alice Munro so fascinating. Her writing is without frills - she does not use flowery language or dazzling metaphors. Her stories can be read by any schoolkid without referring a dictionary. Ms. Munro does not write about extraordinary events; her characters are middle class men and women of Canada, going about their humdrum lives. It is Ernest Hemingway plus Jane Austen. The first story sort of had me saying: "Is this the Nobel Prize winner? Oh come on!" but something in that bland narrative pulled me in, enticing me to try one more - then one more - then... well, you know. It was like a box of chocolates when you promise to stop after the next, and soon the box is empty. The power of Alice Munro is not in what she says - but what she leaves unsaid: and that is quite a lot. The reader is asked to fill in the gaps, and I think most readers would do it in their own particular way, moulding the story to his or her own fashion. In most stories, the narrator is a child in the first person; a child who grows up as the story progresses. As we all know children see more of life and interpret it less. There is a disconcerting truthfulness to their viewpoints which makes adults uncomfortable. And when the child grows up and understands what she has experienced before she put on her adult glasses, this dichotomy of vision provides the tension which keeps the story on a knife's edge. The unwritten story was what had me returning again and again to this collection. ---------------------------------------- The "child's-eye-view" is most effectively used in the stories "Gravel" and "Voices". In the first, a broken-up marriage is described in the voice of a child too young to form clear memories of events but has vivid recollections of things. When the story suddenly escalates to tragedy without warning, the kid suddenly grows up; and we realise that we have been hearing this child-woman all along - because in a sense, she has been trapped at the point of her tragedy. Her vision is crystal clear until the actual event, but the moment the adult takes over, analysis starts and we are now dealing with conjectures instead of concrete certainties. In the second, the situation is more prosaic. In a country dance, the narrator and her mother meet a prostitute. The child is entranced by the elegant lady but the mum is understandably outraged. Sent upstairs to get her coat so that she and her mum can leave, the girl meets a girl called Peggy, who is visibly upset and crying, and her two suitors on the stairs. Peggy is part of the prostitute's entourage and the men are quite obviously trying to pacify her. They are talking to her as the child-narrator had never heard a woman talked to before. For a long time I remembered the voices. I pondered over the voices. Not Peggy's. The men's. I know now that some of the Air Force men stationed at Port Albert early in the war had come out from England, and were training there to fight the Germans. So I wonder if it was the accent of some part of Britain that I was finding so mild and entrancing. It was certainly true that I had never in my life heard a man speak in that way, treating a woman as if she was so fine and valued a creature that whatever it was, whatever unkindness had come near her, was somehow a breach of law, a sin. It is obvious to us adults who read the story that Peggy has been somehow slighted by the "respectable" ladies at the dance - the child sees only the consideration she obtains from men, something that is forever withheld from her. Nameless child narrators (who seem alter egos of the novelist herself) are central to the stories "Haven", "The Eye"and "Night" also; and other stories such as "Leaving Maverly", "Pride"and "Dear Life" also deal in part with childhood. In fact, most of these stories involve the shifting of human relations as people grow up, and they seem to wander all over the place without coming to a point. Many contain snippets of information that are seemingly irrelevant to what the author is trying to convey but then, as Ms. Munro's narrator says in "Dear Life" ...And even farther away, on another hillside, was another house, quite small at that distance, facing ours, that we would never visit or know and that was to me like a dwarf's house in a story. But we knew the name of the man who lived there, or had lived there at one time, for he might have died by now. Roly Grain, his name was, and he does not have any further part in what I am writing now, in spite of his troll's name, because this is not a story, only life. Life, unlike a story, is never neatly rounded off. Life leaves a lot of its story on unwritten pages - like Ms. Munro. ---------------------------------------- The characters in this author's fictional universe are often jarringly disconnected from one another. In "Train", the protagonist (unusually, a male) is on the run from a relationship: but not for the reason one thinks, as becomes shockingly clear at the denouement: in "Amundsen", a relationship develops and unfurls with frightening speed. The characters seem to take it all in their stride, especially when narrated in Ms. Munro's extremely spare prose. Sometimes, this alienation results in unlikely alliances too, as in "Corrie" and "Pride". Many a time, core plot elements are hidden or only fleetingly mentioned. In the hands of a less skilled author, it would have been a disaster; here, it is what gives the stories their pith. Because at the centre of it all, there lies hope. As Neal, a character in "Gravel", says: "The thing is to be happy," he said. "No matter what. Just try that. You can. It gets to be easier and easier. It's nothing to do with circumstances. You wouldn't believe how good it is. Accept everything and then tragedy disappears. Or tragedy lightens, anyway, and you're just there, going along easy in the world.". Yes, indeed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    brian

    alice munro - great contemporary writer and bigtime oxymoron* - has a new collection coming out nov 13, just 3 days after i'm to be married. which is great as i'm expecting to be all reflective and nostalgic but also forward-looking and hopeful, a mishmash of sentiment and emotion and whatnot; which works out as nobody conjures up all that conflicting crap better than munro. so, a few days after the wedding, we head down to del mar and, our first night walking the main drag of the tiny seaside t alice munro - great contemporary writer and bigtime oxymoron* - has a new collection coming out nov 13, just 3 days after i'm to be married. which is great as i'm expecting to be all reflective and nostalgic but also forward-looking and hopeful, a mishmash of sentiment and emotion and whatnot; which works out as nobody conjures up all that conflicting crap better than munro. so, a few days after the wedding, we head down to del mar and, our first night walking the main drag of the tiny seaside town, we see this sign outside the local library: giddy at the prospect of what 'read to dogs' actually means, we head back to our room deep in book/dog conversation. my new bride passes out early (red wine) & i head to the balcony, break out one of the many cigars i've acquired over the wedding weekend, and smoke and read. (munro is more a wintry, woodsmoke smell, but damp oceanair & cigarsmoke, as it turns out, works just fine) next morning we head to the del mar library and discover that 'read to dogs' really is as good as it sounds: a program whereby young kids come to the library and, well, they… read to dogs. so me and the wife sit there all permagrinned in a circle with a bunch of kids and a bunch of dogs. i met two great guys in particular: caleb and cody. i read an excerpt from 'corrie', a story from dear life. check me out kissing caleb: and here's his glamour shot: so, dear life. not one of munro's best, but as per the woodman: Woman: I finally had an orgasm, and my doctor said it was the wrong kind. Isaac: You had the wrong kind? I've never had the wrong kind, ever. My worst one was right on the money. yeah, even the 'wrong kind' of alice munro is right on the money. a few more things: del mar is so awesome that even the fucking seals leave the ocean to try and hang out there. look at that guy! he walked up onto the shore and hung with people! i have a theory that seals & sea lions are actually just dog mermaids. and check this out: "The 2010 United States Census[5] reported that Del Mar had a population of 4,161. The population density was 2,341.9 people per square mile (904.2/km²). The racial makeup of Del Mar was 3,912 (94.0%) White, 10 (0.2%) African American, eight (0.2%) Native American, 118 (2.8%) Asian, three (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 25 (0.6%) from other races, and 85 (2.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 175 persons (4.2%)." 10 black people live in del mar! we went to dinner and saw a black couple and i couldn't help thinking that we were sitting in a restaurant with 1/5 the black population of del mar. i wanted to stare and point -- like spotting a grizzly cub pawing down a city street. the weekend was extraordinary but i couldn't get this outta my head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiyLtM... * 'badass candian' -- a distinction shared with neil young, my next door neighbors, pamela anderson, geddy lee, & peter north.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ty

    I'm a writer myself, and within the last two years or so have begun to concentrate a bit more on writing short fiction. To write is to read, as they say, and I have made an effort to read more short fiction. Many people, from members of my writing group, to lecturers I've listened to, to writers of articles on the subject I have read have advised the same thing; read Alice Munro. "Perfect. Masterful. Genius. Epitome of what a short story should be today." All of these are accolades heaped upon Mun I'm a writer myself, and within the last two years or so have begun to concentrate a bit more on writing short fiction. To write is to read, as they say, and I have made an effort to read more short fiction. Many people, from members of my writing group, to lecturers I've listened to, to writers of articles on the subject I have read have advised the same thing; read Alice Munro. "Perfect. Masterful. Genius. Epitome of what a short story should be today." All of these are accolades heaped upon Munro and her work. So when I was at the library two weeks ago I figured it was time to sample her work. It almost seemed like my duty as a writer to partake in some of her fiction. Perhaps it was a mistake to start with her latest collection, published just last year, but my conclusion about her thus far is that she has been oversold to me. The writing in this collection is solid, intelligent writing, I will say. That is actually part of the problem. I got the impression it was written by an author that has a reputation, and was trying to uphold it. A reputation that, as I said, I am not sure is deserved based on these stories. Any writer who has been flummoxed by constant advice to "show and not tell" should take comfort; 90% of what Munro does in these stories is tell. In flashback, in digression, in speculation. Pages upon pages of, "The character went through this and this and when younger saw this, and met X and did why. It was discussed at some point that she should do thus and so, and though she desired so and thus, thus and so won out. And this made her depressed. So depressed that she had taken up the habit of drinking..." Eventually, in some cases, that sort of telling led to something relevant in the "present" of the story. (Though tense and time frame were fluid to a distracting degree sometimes.) Her brand is simplicity, and perhaps she does write in a simple way...but one can take forever to get somewhere, even if the forever is written in simple language, and I found myself saying, "what is the point?" Naturally, literature is more about language than about character or plot, many will say. Let's stipulate that. That being the case, the language itself needs to either inspire sweeping visuals or move the reader in some transcendent way. The prose here does neither. Perhaps one reason it doesn't do so is the depressing nature of the stories. I figured when I started there was one or two in every collection. But too many of the stories are about depressing things happening to unsatisfied and unlikable people in nondescript settings. (Most of which were very much Canadian...so much so it almost seems one needs to have grown up in Canada to catch on to any of the nuance presented.) I understand it isn't the job of a writer to always make people happy, but the writing is so distant, the characters so cold, I just didn't care what happened to them at all. That lack of vibrancy in either plot or language made these shorter length stories a bit of a slog at times. I finished most in one sitting, as one is expected to do with short fiction, but by the time I got through about half of them (I didn't read them in order), it became clear that "Dear Life: Stories" would have been more appropriately titles "Downer: Stories." I won't give up on Munro totally. not yet. That almost seems like treason in the writing world. But I have given up on this collection.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    Dear Alice, What a good investment you've turned out to be. A little girl growing up in rural Canada in the early twentieth century, far from the turmoil experienced by your contemporaries in Europe, you nevertheless created several lifetimes’ worth of unique stories from the limited resources you were given. I watched while you observed every detail of your rural existence, filing away images and experiences for future use like some Canadian Picasso accumulating a studio full of junk which one f Dear Alice, What a good investment you've turned out to be. A little girl growing up in rural Canada in the early twentieth century, far from the turmoil experienced by your contemporaries in Europe, you nevertheless created several lifetimes’ worth of unique stories from the limited resources you were given. I watched while you observed every detail of your rural existence, filing away images and experiences for future use like some Canadian Picasso accumulating a studio full of junk which one fine day when the light is right, allows the bonnet of a toy car to become a baboon’s wide grin. The ringlets your mother slaved over, your early piano lessons, your first viewing of a dead body, that story you read in the newspaper, the plot of the first novel you read, your neighbour’s failed marriage, your elderly aunt’s eccentric life, your own experiences of illness, everything has been recycled. And as with Picasso, each new work that emerges from the mountain of stored experiences startles by its novelty, by its ability to veer off towards new and unexpected directions, by its real and frequently shocking truth. You have used what you have been given very well, Alice. You have earned your prize. Yours very sincerely, Life

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Dear Life: “One day he just got the idea that he could do the acting and not go through all that church stuff. He tried to be polite about it, but they said it was the Devil getting hold. He said ha-ha I know who it was getting hold. Bye-bye.” Greta should have known that he could have possibly been a bye-bye kind of guy, yet she risked her young one and marriage, in order to kiss and fondle this stranger. Loneliness, this inevitable part of our waking, breathing moments you’ve given us. Dear Lif Dear Life: “One day he just got the idea that he could do the acting and not go through all that church stuff. He tried to be polite about it, but they said it was the Devil getting hold. He said ha-ha I know who it was getting hold. Bye-bye.” Greta should have known that he could have possibly been a bye-bye kind of guy, yet she risked her young one and marriage, in order to kiss and fondle this stranger. Loneliness, this inevitable part of our waking, breathing moments you’ve given us. Dear Life: Vivien wanted to experience you “inside a Russian novel,” so she allowed herself to be seduced by a doctor who would take away her virginity, buy her dinner, and leave her heartbroken on a train. Come to think of it, what is this fascination with trains in this collection of life? First Greta, then Vivien. Are we all simply passengers on a train called life? Dear Life: You gave a man’s lifetime companion, his heart, his whole being, an ailment called pericarditis, and you left him with nothing but her remains. “What an excellent word—‘remains.’Like something left to dry out in sooty layers in a cupboard.” Dear Life: Sometimes you leave someone with “a sense of being watched by things you didn’t know about. Of being a disturbance. Life around coming to some conclusions about you from vantage points you couldn’t see.” This “Train” goes slowly, slow enough for Jackson to hop off and spend some time trying to figure you out, dear life. And enough time to be sheltered by Belle, who on her sick bed, tells him her deepest secret. But Belle should have known that a guy who hops off a moving train, would soon find one to hop back on. Dear Life: You lay bare interwoven discretions of town folks, and you create characters of flesh when you embody sorrow and pain, love and joy, desire and regret—all those things you’ve given us.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abubakar Mehdi

    This is one wonderful book. Being my first experience of Munro, I found my self entirely engrossed by the very first page. Alice Munro is not pretentious, She weaves the most complex of stories and abstract emotions with simplest of words, just like that. Like its nothing. With a rare clarity of vision and magical storytelling, Munro takes us to the very depths of our minds. How can a writer say so much with so few words? Without being overtly philosophical I must say that Munro knows the crisis This is one wonderful book. Being my first experience of Munro, I found my self entirely engrossed by the very first page. Alice Munro is not pretentious, She weaves the most complex of stories and abstract emotions with simplest of words, just like that. Like its nothing. With a rare clarity of vision and magical storytelling, Munro takes us to the very depths of our minds. How can a writer say so much with so few words? Without being overtly philosophical I must say that Munro knows the crisis of life and the battles fought each day. She shows how the greatest of our conflicts are not without, but within and all the regrets and desires that consume us, gradually but definitely. It has all the intricacies of life and its simple pleasures, the bliss of a happy marriage and the pain of unrequited love. This book has everything we call “LIFE”, nothing is missing and nothing forgotten. After all, as she says, “… this is not a story, only life.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This is Alice Munro's most recent collection of short stories. Despite the advanced years of this grande dame of Canadian literature, her narrative powers have lost none of their sharpness. This offering has a family resemblance to other works of hers which I have read in the past. The setting is often a small Canadian town where life is very humdrum and ordinary. In this environment, shocking. tragic, bittersweet and sometimes humorous events can arise. They are chronicled with a detached, ofte This is Alice Munro's most recent collection of short stories. Despite the advanced years of this grande dame of Canadian literature, her narrative powers have lost none of their sharpness. This offering has a family resemblance to other works of hers which I have read in the past. The setting is often a small Canadian town where life is very humdrum and ordinary. In this environment, shocking. tragic, bittersweet and sometimes humorous events can arise. They are chronicled with a detached, often ironic and yet intense clarity. The last few stories are more autobiographical than fictional, and she reaches back into childhood days as she struggles to comprehend mysterious and sometimes baffling events unfolding around her and to deal with her rather eccentric parents.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jan Priddy

    I am a great fan of Munro and wrote my critical essay in grad school mostly about one of her stories. She breaks rules, I believe intentionally and intelligently, and to a purpose. Her earliest stories are simply good, but then over time, as her reputation grew, she could do whatever she liked. And she did. I admire what writers do once they can afford to entirely please themselves. "The final four works in this book are not quite stories . . . things I have to say about my own life" including t I am a great fan of Munro and wrote my critical essay in grad school mostly about one of her stories. She breaks rules, I believe intentionally and intelligently, and to a purpose. Her earliest stories are simply good, but then over time, as her reputation grew, she could do whatever she liked. And she did. I admire what writers do once they can afford to entirely please themselves. "The final four works in this book are not quite stories . . . things I have to say about my own life" including the title story, which I understand and treasure. I am very grateful for the reputation that allowed her to publish her "not quite stories." Munro is aging and so am I though twenty years behind her. I see in her stories the same questions I have myself and these stories particularly look over entire lifetimes. In the book she claims as a novel, The Lives of Girls and Women, I recognized actual events and guilts from my own girlhood. Here I find my own worries about the span of my life. Someday, probably too late, I will write to Munro to ask her questions. Like her, I have waited too long to ask about many things. But I thank her for reminding me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laysee

    I need only to start reading a few pages of a book by Alice Munro to know I can relax to the strains of a familiar voice and feel secure in the steady pen of a solid writer. Dear Life is a collection of fourteen stories; the last four in ‘Finale’ are autobiographical. The latter which I preferred offered a glimpse of the young Alice Munro growing up in Ontario, pouring over books with her feet in a warming oven, and discovering her story-telling voice as early as her high school days. The stories I need only to start reading a few pages of a book by Alice Munro to know I can relax to the strains of a familiar voice and feel secure in the steady pen of a solid writer. Dear Life is a collection of fourteen stories; the last four in ‘Finale’ are autobiographical. The latter which I preferred offered a glimpse of the young Alice Munro growing up in Ontario, pouring over books with her feet in a warming oven, and discovering her story-telling voice as early as her high school days. The stories are about ordinary men and women whose single action or decision changes their lives profoundly. The actions include planning a tryst with a person one scarcely knows (‘To Reach Japan’), drifting into an illicit relationship and being blackmailed for life (‘Corrie’), or waiting out a request to summon help until it is too late (‘Gravel’). The narrators in these story are fully aware of the consequences of what they are about to do, but they do it anyway. (view spoiler)[In ‘To Reach Japan’, the poet Greta who tells herself to give up ‘sinning’ for her daughter’s sake, nonetheless goes to Toronto for a rendezvous with a journalist she met causally. The story ends with her at Union Station in Toronto on this note: ‘She didn’t try to escape. She just stood waiting for whatever had to come next.’ (hide spoiler)] Like the women, Munro’s male characters live with the fallout of their weakness and regrettable choices. Doctors seem to have a bad reputation and come across as being arrogant, self-serving, and callous. (view spoiler)[The doctor in ‘Amundsen’ becomes intimate with a teacher whom he hires to teach hospitalized children who have tuberculosis, but he abandons her at the altar and, with no warning, puts her weeping on a train back home. Jasper, the doctor in ‘Haven’ is an egoistic and egocentric man. ‘Things had to be ready for his approval at any moment.’ He believes that ‘A woman’s most important job is making a haven for her man.’ Her job is to keep his house orderly with clothes freshly laundered and smelling of sun and wind. About his wife’s cooking, ‘He nearly always gave approval, but with qualification. All right, but a little bit too spicy or a bit too bland.’ And his wife, Dawn? ‘She was all contrition.’ The most infuriating episode was when Jasper intervenes in the church funeral of his estranged older sister, a classical musician whom he despises. Munro deals Jasper his own humiliation. (hide spoiler)] . There is another group of men who are either too proud or overly self-assured for their own good as evident in stories such as ‘Pride’ and 'Corrie.’ (view spoiler)[ In ‘Pride’, an elderly banker in a prominent town would rather accept a demotion to serve as manager of a tiny village bank after a financial scandal than quitting. His daughter, Oneida, drives him to work every day where he does nothing but simply waits to be chauffeured home again. In the same story, a book-keeper who has a hare lip and exempted from war service does not allow himself to accept Oneida’s friendship even after she has nursed him through a bout of illness and they have established a companionable routine of having dinner and watching TV together. His reason? He perceives himself as just ‘a neuter to her or an unfortunate child.’ We learn why he did not seek cosmetic surgery: “... but how could I explain that it was just beyond me to walk into some doctor’s office and admit that I was wishing for something I hadn’t got?" In ‘Corrie’, Howard (an architect married with children) is hired by a wealthy man to restore an Anglican church tower; He meets 26-year-old Corrie, the unmarried and lame daughter, whom he thinks is a ‘Spoiled rich miss. Unmannerly.’They keep up a correspondence. When she mentions going to Egypt, he thinks, ‘Some creepy fortune hunter was bound to snap her up, some Egyptian or whatever. She seemed both bold and childish. At first, a man might be intrigued by her, but then her forwardness, her self-satisfaction, if that was what it was, would become tiresome. Of course, there was money, and to some men that never became tiresome.’ She sends him a postcard from Egypt and we are told, ‘He did not intend to reply, but he did...’ One short message but it precipitated an illicit affair and a lifetime of being blackmailed for it. How ironic! (hide spoiler)] When a Munro story ends, the reader picks it up in his or her own mind and fills in the wide open space. I think this is possible on account of the care Munro takes to develop her characters and tell us enough about their motivations and inclinations. (view spoiler)[In ‘Leaving Maverley’, Ray, a police officer with an ailing wife, gets to know Leah, a 16-year-old ticket taker, when he is tasked to walk her home from her evening job. We follow the trajectory of Leah’s life – running away from home, lightning marriage to a preacher’s son and early divorce, adultery with a church minister – and can anticipate what is likely to unfold when she reconnects with Ray whose wife has died and offers to clean house for him. (hide spoiler)] These stories usually span years with many life events overtaking the lives of the characters. It can be hard to see where the focus of the stories is until about half way through them. I have learned that the title offers hints of the focal point, that is, whose story is supposed to hold center stage. But in the hands of a master, a story has direction even though it appears to meander. This is most obvious in ‘Leaving Maverley’ that begins with its lens on Morgan Holly, the owner of a movie theatre in the town of Maverley. He hires Leah, a teenage girl as a ticket taker, who subsequently disappears from town. It is her story that predominates. Munro’s masterly ability to tell a story keeps the reader engaged and detours are interesting in themselves and always land us where she has intended our sympathies to be. The best stories in my view are those in the Finale section. Munro said that these stories are “autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact.” They reveal her innocent initiation into life: the complexity of relating to her mother, a farm girl who became a school teacher and was zealous to be one-up, insomnia borne of guilt toward her sister, naivety at what goes on at a dance party, and tenderness toward her father despite the beatings she received on occasion for exasperating her mother. The titular story is no fiction. Of her life, she said, ‘You would think that this was just too much. The business gone, my mother’s health going. It wouldn’t do in fiction. But the strange thing is that I don’t remember that time as unhappy.’ Life can be stranger than fiction. I appreciate this story for its honesty and transparency. Read Dear Life. Munro is a gifted short story writer and deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature (2013) as a "master of the contemporary short story." Her understanding of human motivation and behavior once again shines forth in this collection of stories.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zanna

    Where do I begin? My second Munro and I feel that familiar sensation, like feeling for the barely palpable edge of the sticky tape on the roll, a way in, when everything feels like the centre, a cycle that's encircled me, that I've had with me for so long I can't imagine either end. It's not as if the stories are all the same or blur into each other - far from it in fact! The mood and mode of each is so crisply distinct I can imagine Munro writing in an organised study, selecting from the options Where do I begin? My second Munro and I feel that familiar sensation, like feeling for the barely palpable edge of the sticky tape on the roll, a way in, when everything feels like the centre, a cycle that's encircled me, that I've had with me for so long I can't imagine either end. It's not as if the stories are all the same or blur into each other - far from it in fact! The mood and mode of each is so crisply distinct I can imagine Munro writing in an organised study, selecting from the options as from coloured paints lined up on a shelf - shall we have 'brooding pastoral' with a splash of 'breathless passion'? There is structural variation too, Munro even amuses (and terrifies) us with a storyform so hackneyed that EFL exam handbooks warn against it: the 'I woke up and it was all a dream' trope. Wait. Here's a tiny ridge, let's peel it. The edge Munro presents us with here is the uncertainty of reality and of identity when memory becomes unstable, thus tripping up the trope: we cannot awaken from this half-dream. The threat of dissolution is softened by the darkly comic, but finally heartening story 'Dolly', which I read aloud to my mum in the car. We both thought it would make a great screenplay. Most of these stories have keener edges, over which we peer into less final abysses. In most of them, a woman is punished for transgressing the rigid norms of conservative small-town society. The means of correction are many and varied, all too often they are internal - the self-coercing mechanisms of patriarchal socialisation kick in. There's a truthfulness, a wry rightness to the detail that has me constantly nodding: that's the way it goes. But plotwise it isn't the way it goes, it's always fresh and surprising, the page yields up a shock, the heart drops a beat and races. It's only the texture of everyday life that is so utterly real, so well worn and worn well on the strong frames of Munro's direct, unadorned sentences, her many quiet, clear voices that allow precise evocation, and make a calm and light background for strange small horrors and delights to leap out from all the more vividly. Generational gaps are important in a collection that examines a period of shifting cultural values. There are a few young characters imbued with potentially rebellious, transformative energy, especially disruptive, gregarious, voluble Mary in 'Amundsen', who, although she transforms the narrator Vivien into Miss Hyde, seems to make generous efforts to preserve her threatened vivacity. The narrator of 'Haven', a tale in which the deadly patriarchal morality of a passing era is deftly explored, also has a certain energy and freedom about her. These lively, unrestrained young girls remind me of The Madwoman in the Attic in which Gilbert and Gubar share their divination of a sad yearning on the part of C19th women authors for lively spirited girls like Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights to be able to grow up into autonomy and subjectivity, instead of being imprisoned by sex roles. In 'Haven' as in other stories, the reader is not spared discomfort. I found myself anguished by even subtle hints of the narrator's increased socialisation into patriarchy. Munro is not afraid to offer the unpleasant; her tactic is to confront it, and there is a therapeutic value in this, a learning that unpleasant things exist, which helps to deal with them or put them in their place. In one of the concluding semi-autobiographical pieces, 'Voices', the narrator shares how her father helped her to deal with terrifying thoughts of killing her sister by telling her that 'everyone thinks things like that', reassuring her thus that the unwanted thought is not an intention. Munro's stories sometimes deal with unwanted thoughts and panic in helpful ways. 'Pride' and 'Corrie' deal with sexuality around physical disabilities, making space in the discussion for differences of gender and social class. Cultural assumptions about male desire are thrown into relief, as are those about women as empathic carers. 'Train' forms something of a counterpoint to these stories in that is deals with an apparently asexual man. Compulsory heterosexuality keeps him more or less on the run from one safe-space to another, yet such freedom is clearly a gendered prerogative - he finds work anywhere and is (explicitly) assumed to be trustworthy. A lone woman would not have such mobility, unless, perhaps, she were a sex-worker, which would come at the cost of social exclusion. In general the stories have harmony with each other, in their shades of like and unlike. Occasionally there is a sunny clearing, as in the loving older couple in 'Leaving Maverly'. The natural world, beautifully sketched, is ever-present and significant (sometimes it seems that everything is significant in Munro, every detail has a polysemous aura, which discussion helped me to read), though arguably it only once, at the end of 'Pride' intervenes and utters the last, transcendent, cryptic, unanswerable word.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Dear Ms Munro, We often visited Nana and Grandpa’s in Kincardine while we were growing up in London in the early 70s. They had a rich supply of Readers Digest, crossword puzzle books, and National Geographics. I’d catch up on all that new reading, then retreat to my own books that I’d brought along. I was quite happy to sit on the couch for hours and read, while absorbing the family reunion vibe around me. They would gently tease me every time, “There she is with her nose in a book again.” They h Dear Ms Munro, We often visited Nana and Grandpa’s in Kincardine while we were growing up in London in the early 70s. They had a rich supply of Readers Digest, crossword puzzle books, and National Geographics. I’d catch up on all that new reading, then retreat to my own books that I’d brought along. I was quite happy to sit on the couch for hours and read, while absorbing the family reunion vibe around me. They would gently tease me every time, “There she is with her nose in a book again.” They humoured me my strange passion, with a sort of loving condescension that was masking just the slightest edge of impatience. That was the beginning of a lifelong defiant anxiety felt when questioned directly about my ‘hobbies’. “I like to read.” “Oh. ———“ That’s a conversation stopper in southwestern Ontario, I tell you. But when you wrote about that same sort of attitude, brought it out of the shadows and into the light, I almost felt legitimized. Every time I read another one of your books, I feel a thrill of recognition, kind of like when you see someone you know on tv. It’s so familiar and yet you can’t believe they’re really on tv. Where everyone can see them. Your descriptions and stories of SW Ontario are eerily familiar. My father and several generations back were from the same area in southwestern Ontario as you, and you are only a bit older than my own father. It is as if you have been a distant cousin writing about the same kinds of people I heard about from my own grandparents over many years. It’s not just the stories, it’s that you have captured the times, and the characters. I keep seeing my world, or the world I heard about, reflected in your stories but with that slightly altered, or maybe additional, point of view. And somehow it has helped me see my own families’ lives in a larger context. There is a tumble of coincidences I keep bumping into. Back in the 30s or 40s, my grandpa tried and failed at running a mink farm, just like your father. It was just outside of Kincardine, not far from where you lived. I wonder if they shared tips or commiserations. My father escaped by joining the Air Force in the 50s,and his training base was in Clinton, where you live now. He started his own family, and we ended up out West too, in Comox, within two blocks of where you used to live. Then life pushed us back to SW Ontario, which seemed an area of pursed lips and hypocrisy. But we always loved visiting “”Kinkerdeen” as children and teenagers. “Don’t get lost now”, our grandparents would lovingly tease every time we stepped out. Every meal, Grandpa (occasionally Nana or even our very elderly Great Aunt Pearl) would say grace: “Lord, bless this food to our use, and bless us to thy service, amen.” My brother and I obediently bowed our heads, but would sneak peeks at each other and barely stifle our giggles at the piousness of the rest of the family. We would mimic perfectly the cadence and drawling words of the prayer. And this was all enjoyed hugely by everyone — no offense given or taken. So after all these years of reading and loving your books, Ms Munro, it was that single line in your story “Haven”, of Uncle Jasper saying “Lord bless this food to our use and us to thy service,” that flung me back to those wonderful years visiting my grandparents in Kincardine. They are long dead but you startlingly, somehow, made them alive again. This letter is to say thank you, for all of that.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nidhi Singh

    Something that happens in most of Alice Munro’s stories is one of the many desired things that almost never happen to me. Those chance meetings that lead to moments of epiphany, those transformative experiences. I always thought I would also have one of those at some turn of the road. Or a forgotten someone would call out my name in a crowd. Or a certain name, a voice, would spark the memories a bygone past. Something that would lead to a retelling of life’s tales. And such difference that would Something that happens in most of Alice Munro’s stories is one of the many desired things that almost never happen to me. Those chance meetings that lead to moments of epiphany, those transformative experiences. I always thought I would also have one of those at some turn of the road. Or a forgotten someone would call out my name in a crowd. Or a certain name, a voice, would spark the memories a bygone past. Something that would lead to a retelling of life’s tales. And such difference that would make! A dent in the whole. Something that ordinary and grand. These are some such things that do happen to the characters in Munro’s ‘Dear Life’; their whole lives shape around such experiences. They get enmeshed in them without that uncommonness or eccentricity which would make them shards of fiction, worth writing a good story about. There is nothing of that fictitiousness about them. And the way Munro writes, one wouldn’t be bemused at the novelty of her style or exclaim at the interesting turn her expressions would take. But oh how she writes! With those beautiful uncomplicated sentences which probe the intricacies of the ordinary. Of some odd thought one would never think of writing in its bare ordinariness. Of the tiny little bittersweet details of life. Life as it spreads in living rooms, kitchens, farmhouses, sanatoriums, at the neighbour’s door, at the writer’s desk, at the dining table. In hotels, rented rooms, apartments with the views, in the dreary loneliness of huge houses. In those early years of childhood, when some childish fear starts to live in a corner of the mind only to haunt us in sleepless nights. In youth, when love finds us in the most unexpected places, forsakes us in the most unexpected moments. In old age, when death is contemplated and prepared for. When past revisits in the form of a saleswoman with foolish hair and an extraordinary nest of wrinkles. And how some ordinary image from life can shape into an intensely personal experience. Sometimes a dearly preserved memory we look back to when we look back at life. Again and yet again with all the modifications and colouring memory and imagination have to offer. For Munro, these images are salvaged in her last three autobiographical pieces. She reminds me of how we all have such vignettes, such unarranged chapters; which at some point, need to be folded safely for reliving and reminiscing in our own dear lives.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    ***NO SPOILERS*** (Book abandoned on page 133, after story 5.) There's something to be said for a quiet story, the kind that unfolds languidly, that is open-ended. This is true of Munro's short stories. On the flip side, this kind of story can lack dramatic punch, fail to elicit any strong emotion in the reader, and seem pointless. This also is true of Munro's stories. Each of Dear Life's roughly 20- to 25-page-long stories centers around a female protagonist who experiences a sudden revelatory mo ***NO SPOILERS*** (Book abandoned on page 133, after story 5.) There's something to be said for a quiet story, the kind that unfolds languidly, that is open-ended. This is true of Munro's short stories. On the flip side, this kind of story can lack dramatic punch, fail to elicit any strong emotion in the reader, and seem pointless. This also is true of Munro's stories. Each of Dear Life's roughly 20- to 25-page-long stories centers around a female protagonist who experiences a sudden revelatory moment that's whispered rather than shouted. Some of these revelations are life-changing, but in most of the (first five) stories, the revelation is a modest, anti-climactic one. Munro's premises have excellent potential, but some never fully actualize; some would be more powerful if they focused on a different character; and others present characters whose motivations are entirely unclear. One of the early stories is a prime example of this last point. A prosperous bachelor is suddenly in a hurry to marry a young woman only to inexplicably turn cold and rudely jilt her a few minutes later; the story ends here very abruptly with no closure. That Munro crafted the narrative itself expertly, allowing events to unfold fluidly, just can't make up for this strange turn at the conclusion. Another story concerning a suicide should be rife with the strongest of emotion, but not only are the characters strangely detached, the story holds readers at a distance rather than planting them straight at its heart. The story limps along, meanderingly at points, and when the suicide does occur, it's senseless--as in lacking sense within the greater plot; the character simply does it, but Munro never fleshed out the character's motivation. This premise, as psychologically complex as it is, seems to beg for a novel format. All of the first five stories completely lack suspense, forward-moving action, and clear-cut motivations. Lack of motivation may be the biggest problem. Munro expects her reader to simply accept that her characters do what they do. Her characters are neither sharply drawn nor realistic. One insipid female character has an affair "just because." Another bland character invites her husband's long-estranged sister to their home also "just because." No answer as to the "why," behind these behaviors, not even a hint of an answer, means these stories are not only very much incomplete but don't make much sense. Perhaps Munro was aiming for an air of mystery, or maybe to her mind it's more literary to leave a story open-ended. Her creations don't mirror real life, though, as there are always reasons, however small, behind actions. Ambiguity such as this really has no place in a compilation entitled Dear Life. A smattering of creative descriptions makes it understandable why Munro has her fans (e.g., "Children Katy's age had no problem with monotony. In fact they embraced it, diving into it and wrapping the familiar words round their tongues as if they were a candy that could last forever."), but these are never true knock-outs and very much the exception rather than the rule. Munro's writing as a whole is not striking, but rather, strikingly mundane. The short story format is a tough one, to be sure. The premise must be simplistic enough that it can be fully realized in only a few pages, but not so simplistic that it's boring and forgettable. Munro may have won the Nobel Prize in 2013, but she has not mastered the art of the short story. She can construct her narrative in such a way that the reader understands what does happen without being told directly; she never barges in with an explanation--and this is admirable--but her ambitions are too high. Her themes are too complex for just a few pages to do them justice, and her storytelling completely lacks the vigor necessary to seize the reader and not let go. Final verdict: Skip without hesitation and read these instead: The Lottery and Other Stories and The Necklace and Other Short Stories.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erwin

    This was my introduction to Munro's short stories. I read them one at a time and savoured each one. I really enjoyed these extraordinary stories. Some of these stories just breathe life. Ordinary life can sometimes be so special! I won't easily pass up a chance to read more stories by Alice Munro.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Antigone

    Alice Munro's short story collection, Dear Life, has won several prestigious awards - among them the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's easy to see why. Her writing possesses the clarity, the texture, the depth, and the simple pure water craft one expects from a master, not only of words but of observation. There are ten short fictions to start, with a coda of four autobiographical pieces. All take place in Canada, Munro's home, and all contend with the everyday human travail. Here are jobs taken, Alice Munro's short story collection, Dear Life, has won several prestigious awards - among them the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's easy to see why. Her writing possesses the clarity, the texture, the depth, and the simple pure water craft one expects from a master, not only of words but of observation. There are ten short fictions to start, with a coda of four autobiographical pieces. All take place in Canada, Munro's home, and all contend with the everyday human travail. Here are jobs taken, lovers met, lies told, choices made. Here are children, parents, spouses, strangers; converging, orbiting, extracting, abandoning. And because she is so thoroughly good at what she does, it takes less than an instant to recognize: This is us. And we frighten me. I confess, alone though I may be, that ordinary folk frighten me. The arbitrary nature of human beings will, I'm convinced, eventually scare me to death. Which is probably why I write. So, you know, I can distract myself from all of this ambiguity. It's certainly why I read. So kudos to you, Alice Munro, for reminding me. And with such terrifying proficiency.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Raul Bimenyimana

    This was a brilliant collection of short stories. With short stories we expect a certain punch that will leave the reader breathless; Julio Cortazar is quoted to have said: "The novel wins by points, the short story by knockout." Most of these stories though, are ordinary stories of ordinary people and ordinary events, what would be called "ordinary life", and yet are so stunning and captivating. Most of the stories are sad with characters that are marked by certain occurrences that left them hea This was a brilliant collection of short stories. With short stories we expect a certain punch that will leave the reader breathless; Julio Cortazar is quoted to have said: "The novel wins by points, the short story by knockout." Most of these stories though, are ordinary stories of ordinary people and ordinary events, what would be called "ordinary life", and yet are so stunning and captivating. Most of the stories are sad with characters that are marked by certain occurrences that left them heartbroken and grieving. My favourite stories from this book begin in the past (normally the 1940s just before, during or after WW2) and meet somewhere in the characters' present, told through decades and changes in the lives of the characters and the places they're in. Amundsen, Leaving Maverly, Corrie, Train, Dolly and The Eye were my favourite stories.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I can give this collection all the accolades I’ve given to the other collections I’ve read by Munro. As I said of The View from Castle Rock: Many of the stories are as good as anything I've read by her, though some of the ones here are even better. As I said of Too Much Happiness: ... some of these I'd read before and it was a pleasure to read them again ... This pleasure ... comes not from her characters or her plots ...but from the themes ..., some of which need to be teased out. And as I said I can give this collection all the accolades I’ve given to the other collections I’ve read by Munro. As I said of The View from Castle Rock: Many of the stories are as good as anything I've read by her, though some of the ones here are even better. As I said of Too Much Happiness: ... some of these I'd read before and it was a pleasure to read them again ... This pleasure ... comes not from her characters or her plots ...but from the themes ..., some of which need to be teased out. And as I said of Friend of My Youth: Though, plot-wise, my life is nothing like the stories here, I am left wondering ... how Munro knows my inner life so well. Though I am repeating myself, Munro doesn't -- not even in her 'Finale,' the last four stories that she says "are not quite stories," though they do hold echoes from stories in earlier collections. (The 'Finale' also reminds me of some of William Maxwell's Billie Dyer, and Other Stories.) Before this 'Finale,' the stories are arranged for the most part, chronologically, by the age of the main character: from a young mother in the first story to an elderly woman in the last. I don’t know if this is Munro's last collection, though, thematically, it reads as if it could be. She's still at the very top of her game, even using to great effect different styles for her (though I can’t say that for sure as I haven’t read all her work). If it is an ending, I’m glad to know that I still have much of her earlier work left to read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Peto

    Warning: Depressing but true to life, which is even more depressing. Do not read this if you are having any doubts about staying in this world. On another note, these stories may remind you why you left small towns for the big city. They include beautiful landscapes peopled with cruelty and indifference. The few times characters venture into cities the beautiful landscapes fall away but the bleakness remains. One characteristic of this collection that I really enjoyed was how elements of the stor Warning: Depressing but true to life, which is even more depressing. Do not read this if you are having any doubts about staying in this world. On another note, these stories may remind you why you left small towns for the big city. They include beautiful landscapes peopled with cruelty and indifference. The few times characters venture into cities the beautiful landscapes fall away but the bleakness remains. One characteristic of this collection that I really enjoyed was how elements of the stories mirror each other in complimentary but not obnoxious ways. For example, in Dolly, two people with a common past have a chance encounter. That’s mirrored in another story, except one of the two people backs off so the other person is unaware that a chance encounter even occurred. My brief take on each story, sans, I believe, spoilers: A child is an innocent observer, and Japan is a metaphor in To Reach Japan. Features an amusing young wife who I would not want to marry. Amundsen: Wintry landscapes, a cold community, and frigid first experiences for a young woman from elsewhere. In Leaving Maverley, a devoted couple bums me out. Gravel: Sometimes people’s actions make little or no sense. A tiny observer who grows up and looks back and ponders. Haven, like one of the earlier stories, includes a doctor who is a big fish in a small pond, which may or may not be an archetype in Munro’s worlds. There are musicians in this one, drinks, short moments of good cheer, and an impressionable, teenage narrator who tries to make sense of the doctor’s wife. They grow old in a small town and sometimes watch TV together. The title, Pride, may refer to his decision to sell his house. Or hers, years earlier. Love was in short supply when all these stories were written. Corrie reminded me of a character in Pride. Except Corrie, maybe, realizes she has no pride. The main character in Train is more detached from life than any Hemingway character. Painful. Held my interest but I wondered what drove Alice Munro to write about such an apathetic person. If you feel you are dead inside, this will cheer you up because you don’t even come close, I pray. In Sight of the Lake is a horror story. Old age is the monster. Dolly is fun! Elderly couple, together but not formally hitched. One acts impetuously. Though wisdom does not always come with age, it was life-affirming rather than depressing. What got into you, Alice Munro? The final four stories include a foreword that proclaims they are “not quite stories” and are somewhat “autobiographical”. I wished she had not included the foreword. Not commenting on those “stories” is my pale protest, though I appreciate that foreword because what followed was very different in tone: more relaxed, less severe, pleasantly innocent.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Many years ago, when I was in college, Alice Munro came to campus to do what was called a Master's Tea, a talk to a very small audience with an opportunity for conversation and questions after. I was in a phase where I was going to a lot of talks, and even though I hadn't read a word she'd written, I signed up. I was somewhat disappointed when she proceeded to read a short story (no memories of which one), and then talk gently and encouragingly about the craft of writing short fiction. I was at Many years ago, when I was in college, Alice Munro came to campus to do what was called a Master's Tea, a talk to a very small audience with an opportunity for conversation and questions after. I was in a phase where I was going to a lot of talks, and even though I hadn't read a word she'd written, I signed up. I was somewhat disappointed when she proceeded to read a short story (no memories of which one), and then talk gently and encouragingly about the craft of writing short fiction. I was at an age when the novel was all, and short stories were the unsatisfying stuff of high school assignments given by teachers too burnt out or lazy to try to make us read whole books. Anyway, just another example of youth (and youthful opportunity) being wasted on the young! I would now give a lot for a time machine that allowed me to be part of an intimate conversation with Alice Munro about reading and writing. Is there a better short-story writer writing today? I'm not sure, I can't think of one. At 82, Munro would seem to be at the height of her craft. She tells women's (and to a lesser extent men's) lives cleanly and deftly. Her settings in this book, usually a small town Canada of one or two generations ago, and her gentleness and clarity of tone all seem to invoke something vaguely old-fashioned. There's a limpid straightforwardness and lack of showy artifice that doesn't quite feel modern -- in the best way. It is then something of a shock when Munro treats her themes of love, and particularly, the ways we lose (or almost lose) love, with a frankness that is anything but old-ladyish. To Reach Japan, Corrie, Gravel, Amundsen...these stories will grip you and stay with you. The NYT criticized Munro from being too plot driven in this volume -- these are stories where things happen, where endings can be revelatory (mocked as "O-Henry" like by the New York Times). I like that about these stories. My tastes may be more liberal than they were at 18 -- I do read and enjoy short stories now -- but I have never liked the enigmatic opaque kind of short story that leaves you wondering what you read and why it was written. These stories are mini-novels, they have setting, characters and plot, and I enjoyed immersing myself in them. I see Munro is in frail health, according to the press, and I wonder if this may be her last collection. It would be sad - I felt that the autobiographical pieces at the end of the book were intriguing but unfinished (one reason I didn't give the book a 5) -- and it would be wonderful to hear more from her in this vein. But even the inclusion of those fragments has a valedictory feel, and I wonder if this isn't it. It will be a big loss for the literary world, but for those of us who came to appreciate the short story relatively late in life, at least there is a large body of her prior work to go back and savor

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This isn't the type of book I would normally be compelled to read. If you're not familiar with Alice Munro's work (as I wasn't) the official blurb doesn't really give much of an idea as to what it's about. There's a reason for that, the short stories contained within Dear Life are hard to describe in any significant way even after you've read them. The stories are steeped in melancholy and the quiet frustrations of ordinary existence. Not necessarily sad stories so much as stories that aren't al This isn't the type of book I would normally be compelled to read. If you're not familiar with Alice Munro's work (as I wasn't) the official blurb doesn't really give much of an idea as to what it's about. There's a reason for that, the short stories contained within Dear Life are hard to describe in any significant way even after you've read them. The stories are steeped in melancholy and the quiet frustrations of ordinary existence. Not necessarily sad stories so much as stories that aren't all tied up into easy resolutions or overly happy, contrived endings. I was vaguely reminded of some of the writings of John Steinbeck, perhaps because, like Steinbeck, Ms. Munro seems to capture the essence of a certain kind of people as they existed in a certain place and time. Each story concentrates on relating a specific time or event in someone's life when their future is somehow changed, sometimes not great huge events but small choices that inform the direction that will, at some point down the line, eventually result in a change of destination... a wonder of what might have been. These are the kind of stories that stick with the reader long after they've been read. It's a very good book. It drew me in to the point that the characters became very much alive in my imagination and I found myself at times wanting to yell out to them. To offer some piece of advice or warning about what they were doing, to chastise them for poor decisions or to comfort them in their moment of sorrow. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys literary fiction. There are adult themes and at least one instance of strong language. ***I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads contest.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    This is Winesburg, Ohio for Canada. I hesitated to use that analogy, because Ohioans and Midwesterners in general are so very Canadian it just seemed redundant. However, in Dear Life Alice Munro has written the same kind of truly reflective snippets of life that made Sherwood Anderson's work the well-respected, and frankly, forgettable novel it is. Stories about everyday events and the less-than-dramatic moments of an average joe's average day do not enthrall me. I do, however, enjoy really well-c This is Winesburg, Ohio for Canada. I hesitated to use that analogy, because Ohioans and Midwesterners in general are so very Canadian it just seemed redundant. However, in Dear Life Alice Munro has written the same kind of truly reflective snippets of life that made Sherwood Anderson's work the well-respected, and frankly, forgettable novel it is. Stories about everyday events and the less-than-dramatic moments of an average joe's average day do not enthrall me. I do, however, enjoy really well-crafted prose that "gets to the heart of the matter" and that's what we have here. Munro has presented us with a piece of work that flows with the ease of an ancient, flat river. Any turbulence is under the surface. You may not be swept away, but you will be transported comfortably and carefully to an inevitable conclusion. I will not remember these stories. They tired me with their tedium. But I respect the hell of out the accomplishment that is Dear Life.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Baldacci

    If anyone writes better stories than Alice Munro I don't know who that is. In the delicate shell of a short story she conceives worlds of bone-deep truth that many full-length novels never come close to realizing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    A book of fascinating and superbly crafted short stories, sublime slivers of suburbia that are compelling, unsettling and full of surprises. I like the way Munro draws the reader in but keeps you off balance at the same time. The events portrayed are powerful without being overly dramatic, outrageous fables or hard to believe one in a million events (apart from the Avon lady coincidence perhaps) My first read of this author, I will be reading more.

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