My Best Stories by Alice Munro
When Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, my book club, realizing most of us had never read any of her books, decided, in a fit of Canadian guilt, to put her on our 2014 reading list. Frankly I dreaded reading it as my previous forays into the world of Canadian short stories had been unsatisfactory. Disturbing, even.
Then I arrived at Meneseteung, story number eight. It was written in sections, each begun with a verse of poetry written by the small town poetess who is the story's main character. I can't explain what happened while I was reading it but in this one story I went from someone who was reading a book because I had to, to someone who couldn't get enough. I was living and breathing inside the story along with the character and loved the experience. I read the rest of the book in much the same state; the end of each story left me wishing I didn't have to leave it.
After finishing the book I can say I am now an Alice Munro fan. Her stories are more than reading material; they are experiences that she pulls you into, where you live another person's life for a time. They paint bright, detailed pictures in your mind. They let you feel things you may never have felt before and they bring back feelings you may have forgotten you ever had. They are glimpses into real lives where nothing is perfect and no one has all the answers. They are easy to read and yet they challenge you to read them on a deeper level. They are clean, clear and pitch perfect. They are works of art.
I'm not happy with the way I read them, one right after the other. I found myself mixing up which characters were in which story and once or twice I forgot the entire plot of a story once I had read a few more. There was too much input in too short a time. I prefer to read one or two in between other books, savouring them and processing them at the slower pace my aging brain requires. But however you read them, do read them. They are worth every minute you will spend on them. I had no idea what I was missing.