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Selected Stories (Vintage Classics)

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**Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature** This first-ever selection of Alice Munro's stories sums up her genius. Her territory is the secrets that cackle beneath the façade of everyday lives, the pain and promises, loves and fears of apparently ordinary men and women whom she renders extraordinary and unforgettable. **Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature** This first-ever selection of Alice Munro's stories sums up her genius. Her territory is the secrets that cackle beneath the façade of everyday lives, the pain and promises, loves and fears of apparently ordinary men and women whom she renders extraordinary and unforgettable.


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**Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature** This first-ever selection of Alice Munro's stories sums up her genius. Her territory is the secrets that cackle beneath the façade of everyday lives, the pain and promises, loves and fears of apparently ordinary men and women whom she renders extraordinary and unforgettable. **Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature** This first-ever selection of Alice Munro's stories sums up her genius. Her territory is the secrets that cackle beneath the façade of everyday lives, the pain and promises, loves and fears of apparently ordinary men and women whom she renders extraordinary and unforgettable.

30 review for Selected Stories (Vintage Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘The complexity of things - the things within things - just seems to be endless. I mean nothing is easy, nothing is simple.’ From short accounts of singular events to the sprawling history of a life or love affair, Alice Munro shows it is the little things that matter most. These ‘things within things’ - the greater truth in the smallest of details, are the hearts and souls of her fiction. Selected Stories is an excellent best-of introduction to the author as it collects 28 stories from three dec ‘The complexity of things - the things within things - just seems to be endless. I mean nothing is easy, nothing is simple.’ From short accounts of singular events to the sprawling history of a life or love affair, Alice Munro shows it is the little things that matter most. These ‘things within things’ - the greater truth in the smallest of details, are the hearts and souls of her fiction. Selected Stories is an excellent best-of introduction to the author as it collects 28 stories from three decades of her prestigious career to reveal an incredible scope of emotion and sincerity. In the vein of authors such as William Faulkner or Anton Chekhov, Munro unlocks the lives of women through her keen eye for acute observation and characterization. Along with authors such as Margaret Atwood, Munro has been classified as a member of the ‘Southern Ontario Gothic’ ¹. Much like the Southern Gothic to which Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner belong (I was recommended Munro due to my obsession with those two authors which characterized my reading selection during my late teens and early twenties), Munro’s fiction builds on the social, political, moral and religious atmosphere of her region as the past is always shaping the present in the lives of her characters. Her characters are play out their dramas on a stage of society, chafing of the relationships with lovers and family or social constructs, instead of on the playing field of plot. The plot is rather secondary, existing primarily as a method of illustrating the passage of time, either in a small, single event such as the boredom of a commonplace formality shattered by a surprising twist of unique characters entering the scene ((view spoiler)[In Dance of the Happy Shades a children’s piano recital is shaken up when a school for mentally handicapped children arrive late, increasing the awkwardness of the event sevenfold (hide spoiler)] ) or the entire lifespan of a woman. Very rarely are the plot mechanics the take-away message of a story. Her efforts to effect a realistic passage of time leads many to compare her to Chekhov as well as the Southern Gothic, such as in Garan Holocombe’s critical analysis of Munro for the British Council of Literature ²: ’Alice Munro is routinely spoken of in the same breath as Anton Chekov. She resembles the Russian master in a number of ways. She is fascinated with the failings of love and work and has an obsession with time. There is the same penetrating psychological insight; the events played out in a minor key; the small town settings. In Munro’s fictional universe, as in Chekhov’s, plot is of secondary importance: all is based on the epiphanic moment, the sudden enlightenment, the concise, subtle, revelatory detail. Another significant feature of Munro’s is the (typically Canadian) connection to the land, to what Margaret Atwood has called a ‘harsh and vast geography.’ Munro is attuned to the shifts and colours of the natural world, to life lived with the wilderness. Her skill at describing the constituency of the environment is equal to her ability to get below the surface of the lives of her characters.’ Time is always escaping us, and many of her stories reflect our desire to makes sense of the time that has slipped through us in order to understand the route we should take through the time that awaits us. Munro’s focal characters, almost always female, are built through – and in the instance of first-person narration view their personalities through – a conglomeration of events and past actions. A unique side-effect of having a selected stories collection is that the reader is able to witness Munro growing as an author as she ages and see how her own progression down life’s timeline corresponds to her characters and stories. While her earliest stories are typically shorter and play out through a shorter amount of time, her later stories are vast and encompass the whole of ones life. Her characters are often confronting time itself in her later stories, be it a confrontation with their impending end, or to find their place within the greater society or family system as the years fall away. They are caught in a sort of limbo between the person they were and they person they will become with the story often ending just of the fringes of any sort of resolution. Instead of positioning characters in high-energy situations, Munro constructs her stories around the mundane. Her fiction never strays from a portrait of reality, of life as we all know it, and acted out by everyday individuals. While often nothing striking or particularly plot-point worthy occurs, Munro is able to deliver an emotional and psychological punch through the tiny, ordinary details that make up our day-to-day. Her acute observations exploit the tiniest of details to reveal a startlingly large amount of character and information, be it the way a character dresses, speaks to strangers, or the methods in which they attempt to keep a household. For Munro, the world and people in it are like poetry where she is able to extract the greatest amount from the small ideas. The criticisms for her work primarily focus on a lack of versatility in plot or voice. While it is true that a vast majority of her stories have the same formula of ‘woman leaving one position of life, be it a relationship, job, living location, religions conviction, eventual death of oneself or a loved one, etc., and begins to forge a new one by critiquing the mistakes of the former’, Munro is able to still keep each story unique, yet familiar in a sense that makes it seem applicable to any reader in some way, shape or form. The voice is often level from story to story, yet, especially with this selected stories collection, she manages to keep the delivery fresh by attempting different story telling devices. Carried Away, which is quite possibly my favorite of hers, begins with the correspondence of a librarian and a soldier during WWII and then moves to a third-person narrative in the second half, while Wilderness Station has the final third of the story shift to characters two generations down the line from the characters of previous segments and allows the reader to fill in the gaps through hints in dialogue and the interaction of characters to understand how the former plot concluded. While this collection varies in themes, the individual books of hers usually have a common theme for which the stories build upon. She also revisits characters in some books, checking in on them at various stages of their lives, which I felt added to the stories and felt like visiting an old friend as opposed to adding to what is considered by some to be recycling ideas and failing to rise from the same monotone of voice. I have been picking through Munro’s Selected Stories for several years now, slowly savoring every story. Each time I dive back in, I am always glad to discover that Munro still satisfies and meets my ever-changing tastes in literature. From tales of love, loss and alienation, Alice Munro proves herself again and again to be a powerful voice in not only women’s literature, but in the wide scope of literature and story telling. Her stories are moving, insightful, witty, and always leave you feeling as if you had just spent time in the company of a friend. 5/5 ¹ ‘Alice Munro and the Southern Ontario Gothic genre’ ² Garan Holocombe ‘s criticism for the British Council of Literature ‘Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind... When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.’

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dia

    Before reading this collection, I'd read one or two of Munro's stories in the New Yorker -- "Deep-Holes" was good enough to tear out & keep -- but I really didn't know what she was up to in general. This collection of short stories will let the reader feel thoroughly familiar with, though never bored by, Munro's style. There are certain things she almost always does (once past her earliest works): begin with a story that isn't the real story and doesn't even really illuminate the real story but Before reading this collection, I'd read one or two of Munro's stories in the New Yorker -- "Deep-Holes" was good enough to tear out & keep -- but I really didn't know what she was up to in general. This collection of short stories will let the reader feel thoroughly familiar with, though never bored by, Munro's style. There are certain things she almost always does (once past her earliest works): begin with a story that isn't the real story and doesn't even really illuminate the real story but is just as interesting as the real story; tell us how different characters are approaching a "shared" experience; show how aware and critical many rural Canadians are of deviations from their cultural norms; hint at what deviant secrets are kept by same; display the variety of ways that rural Canadian women have asserted their needs and desires; conclude almost arbitrarily. In a restaurant, I told my husband that Munro's characters are just slightly more interesting than actual people tend to be. It seemed to me that the man sitting near us overheard me say that, and I worried for a moment that he might have felt insulted -- then I wondered: could he have walked to this restaurant alone across a moonlit field of snow, wondering why his wife wasn't more upset by discovering the corpses of her neighbors two nights ago? Munro has been compared to Chekhov and Tolstoy, but I think her writing is slightly less philosophical and more titillating than is theirs - and better for solitary twilight indulging.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    The randomness of life, the fine line that separates tragedy from the quotidian, and the silent cracks that grow till they can't be mended after years of repressed grudges. The desperation of a woman who knows her marriage is going to end and her prayers so that the story doesn't repeat with her two daughters. As it is usual with Munro, there is no neat closure, just a fragmented glimpse into a life and a stolen glance into what might have been, out of sheer serendipity. Merciless tragedy or sim The randomness of life, the fine line that separates tragedy from the quotidian, and the silent cracks that grow till they can't be mended after years of repressed grudges. The desperation of a woman who knows her marriage is going to end and her prayers so that the story doesn't repeat with her two daughters. As it is usual with Munro, there is no neat closure, just a fragmented glimpse into a life and a stolen glance into what might have been, out of sheer serendipity. Merciless tragedy or simply everyday struggles. Few things in life can be chosen...particularly the transcendental things. So cherish them while they are within your grasp. Merged review: Daunting, disquieting short story about a middle-aged poetess who briefly entertains the idea of marrying her widowed neighbour. A violent incident involving a man beating his drunk wife over the fence of the protagonist works as a metaphor for the stillborn affair between the widower and the poetess. A pool of grape juice in the kitchen of the woman the following day, and the monthly discomforts of her menstruation awakens the poetess from a kind of stupor and she understands that words and verses are all she needs to be whole. She has made her choice. Later on, the local newspaper covers her death and she is described as an eccentric woman who lost her mind, making indirect allusions to her undesirable condition of being unmarried. The price she has to pay to remain independent is that of brief allusions to her poetry, and a more apologetic, detailed account of her personal life, which clearly didn't satisfy the general opinion. Sad and unbelievable, but still so common today... Merged review: Oh my, what a trip. This short story had my mind reeling, my heart racing and my stomach churning with anticipation. Two couples, two women who become confidants, Georgia and Maya. They tell each other their secrets. Maya is a restless soul, she needs constant adventure which his steadfast husband Raymond won't provide. Georgia has been comfortably married to her high school sweetheart Ben, until mysterious Miles appears in her life. Maya's influence or her need to feel alive, thrilled by a new passion? Georgia doesn't think twice and jumps into the thrilling unknown. Munro is a master, a genius in portraying the miseries of the quotidian, of prolonged marriage, the meaning of friendship and betrayal. Her writing is never apologetic, and her characters are wounded people who yearn to infuse meaning to their lives. Her astute depiction of romantic affairs, always sidetracked by the biased lens of a patriarchal society, presents women who suffer the scorn of others, but mostly, their own. Georgia thinks she could have acted "differently" towards Maya, if she had known what would happen in the future, but truth is, she never had a chance of making a choice. Her course of action was set even before she knew it, and she didn't have the courage to defy her hurt pride and blame man and woman, lover and best friend, in equal terms, as it often happens in real life. Top notch read. Merged review: A story within a story. A Canadian young woman is held captive by an Albanian tribe while she is on a cruise in Croatia. The woman adopts the customs and manners of the tribe until the community deems fit to sell her to a Muslim as a bride. A Franciscan priest helps her escape. A Canadian woman flees from her marriage right after she confesses to have an affair with her neighbor. She opens a bookstore and amalgametes a wide arrange of eccentric friends. The two stories converge into a double happy ending with unexpected surprises.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    She's just a genius. This book came out a decade ago, and doesn't have some of her more recent stuff -- like the wonderful Runaway -- but it's just amazing story after amazing story. The stories have some of the surfaces of quieter, plainer fiction about rural, domestic life, but they're packed with insight and dramatic moment, and Munro is more experimental than she's given credit for -- her leaps in time are jarring and amazing. Especially in the stories that are connected by character and pla She's just a genius. This book came out a decade ago, and doesn't have some of her more recent stuff -- like the wonderful Runaway -- but it's just amazing story after amazing story. The stories have some of the surfaces of quieter, plainer fiction about rural, domestic life, but they're packed with insight and dramatic moment, and Munro is more experimental than she's given credit for -- her leaps in time are jarring and amazing. Especially in the stories that are connected by character and place, a collage-like effect begins to take hold, and you feel that Munro is filling in the details of a much larger canvas than it initially appeared. A lot of my favorite short story writers come from a place that is similar to my own -- whether it's my life and circumstances, my own preferences as a reader and writer, etc. What i find interesting about Munro is that her style, her subject, her characters and their homes -- none of it suggests an obvious connection to my own interests. But I feel completely connected to it all by her storytelling.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dave Comerford

    I bet Alice Munro is responsible for a lot of really bad writing. These stories involve ordinary people living in unremarkable towns and cities (Toronto; small prairie towns) doing pretty humdrum things - many of these stories recount visits to old friends or family. The language is so natural and the scenes so well drawn that the text requires no effort to read. It is tempting to believe then that they took no effort or particular talent, or even much a subject matter, to write. What I am left I bet Alice Munro is responsible for a lot of really bad writing. These stories involve ordinary people living in unremarkable towns and cities (Toronto; small prairie towns) doing pretty humdrum things - many of these stories recount visits to old friends or family. The language is so natural and the scenes so well drawn that the text requires no effort to read. It is tempting to believe then that they took no effort or particular talent, or even much a subject matter, to write. What I am left with is a sense that I witnessed these stories, so that now it takes more effort to remember reading about that family than it does to see them sitting on the deck after dinner. And now that I have an entire album of Alice Munro photos in my mind, I wonder why these images, which would sound so banal if I tried to articulate them, are burnt into my retina. The only explanation that I have is that Alice Munro put them there. She is a magician.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kaisa

    Alice Munro writes entirely in the medium of short stories. While I don't mind the trend of ever elongating fiction in modern literature, this collection of Munro's selected shorts is nothing short of a thrill of economy. Munro's stories are brief, but the impressions her characters and the events to which they are sewed leave with the reader are long lasting. In White Dump, Munro gives us two characters, one a mother, the other her daughter, who move forward and back towards an event that does Alice Munro writes entirely in the medium of short stories. While I don't mind the trend of ever elongating fiction in modern literature, this collection of Munro's selected shorts is nothing short of a thrill of economy. Munro's stories are brief, but the impressions her characters and the events to which they are sewed leave with the reader are long lasting. In White Dump, Munro gives us two characters, one a mother, the other her daughter, who move forward and back towards an event that does not seem inescapable, but is just as fixed by the ennui that everyday life creates. This book's only weakness is that it takes stories from other collections, sometimes missing the mark on the arrangement of themes. Aside from this occasional fit and start however, the stories of this book are a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Helen (Helena/Nell)

    Alice Munro is one of the best contemporary short story writers. I know this because everybody says so. Some of them say she is the best. I love short stories but although I have read Munro before, I have never quite clicked with any of hers. And I love that ‘click’ that comes with the short story, that feeling as you get to the end that you intend to go right back to the beginning again, and that this will be a great pleasure, and that you will do it again and again and again. I’ve been reading t Alice Munro is one of the best contemporary short story writers. I know this because everybody says so. Some of them say she is the best. I love short stories but although I have read Munro before, I have never quite clicked with any of hers. And I love that ‘click’ that comes with the short story, that feeling as you get to the end that you intend to go right back to the beginning again, and that this will be a great pleasure, and that you will do it again and again and again. I’ve been reading this Selected all summer and as I’ve worked my way through, I have marveled at the cool, clean style, at the author’s superb way with words. Here is Lydia in ‘Dulse’, after she has finally parted with the man she has been living with: “She had to remember directions, and the order in which do things: to open her checkbook, to move forward when it was her turn in line, to choose one kind of bread over another, to drop a token in the slot. These seemed to be the most difficult things she had ever done. She had immense difficulty reading the names of the subway stations, and getting off at the right one, so she could go to the apartment where she was staying. She would have found it hard to describe this difficulty. She knew perfectly well which was the right stop, she knew which stop it came after; she knew where she was. But she could not make the connection between herself and things outside herself, so that getting up and leaving the car, going up the steps, going along the street all seemed to involve a bizarre effort.” This seems to me to be remarkable writing. I think it’s something to do with the simplicity of the phrasing combined with the way the looping syntax mirrors the processes that are so difficult. Then the simple sentence “But she could not make the connection between herself and the things outside herself” sums it all up so neatly and so beautifully. This sort of thing, in another context, would be called poetry. She is stunningly good at visual description too, photographically good. I would quote more if I had more space. But what about my ‘click’. It did happen at last. It was in a story called ‘Fits’ (and in another, too, called ‘Vandals’ but ‘Fits’ suits my purposes better here). The first line of this story might be in one of those exercise books that trains you how to start a short story well: “The two people who died were in their early sixties”. We’re talking about an accident, but two deaths, not one. Maybe a car accident? Read on to find out. Munro sets the scene in the first 8-paragraph section, and the main characters are laid on the canvas: the two who died (nameless at this point), Peg and Robert (their neighbours) and Clayton and Kevin (Peg’s sons). It’s a second marriage for Peg. Rob, (a middle-aged store keeper) has married her late after a series of affairs with married women. The focus of the story seems to be the deaths, since they are violent (murder/suicide). An ordinary story teller might have picked up the idea of what runs under the surface in apparently ‘normal’ relationships, since the deaths are unexpected. Or perhaps focused on the way you just don’t know what’s going on next door . . . But that’s not what Munro does. It is Peg who finds the couple (dead) and the focus of this story is her reaction to their deaths, and the effect of her reaction on Robert. They’ve been married only a few years and she behaves neither as he expects, nor as the reader would expect. The news of the violent incident is, to most people in the town, an enjoyable possession: “It was true that most people valued and looked forward to the moment of breaking the news”. And yet Peg, who finds the bodies and reports the deaths to the police, tells neither her friend Karen about it, nor her husband Robert. Karen, on the other hand, tells her mother in hospital and her friend Shirley. Friend Shirley’s sister has got there first with the news, however, and Karen is “annoyed at Shirley’s sister, who didn’t work and could get to the phone whenever she wanted”. Still, Karen was bound to tell her because she “knew she wouldn’t want not to know”. And that was true, says, Munro. “Nobody would want not to know.” But Peg hasn’t told them. Karen says, “I always believed Peg and me to be friends, but now I’m not so sure.” Robert feels “troubled, even slightly humiliated, to think that he hadn’t known; Peg hadn’t let him know”. Fourteen-year-old Kevin also thinks Peg “should have let him know”. But she didn’t. Is she in shock? Nope. Later that evening, at dinner “Robert was watching her, from time to time. He would have said he was watching to see if she was in any kind of trouble, if she seemed numb, or strange, or showed a quiver, if she dropped things or made the pots clatter. But in fact he was watching her just because there was no sign of such difficulty and because he knew there wouldn’t be. She was preparing an ordinary meal, listening to the boys in her usual mildly censorious but unruffled way. The only thing more apparent than usual to Robert was her gracefulness, lightness, quickness, and ease round the kitchen.” Finally, Peg tells him about her experience of finding the bodies. Robert has heard most of it already from the local gossip-mongers. There is, however, one thing he’s aware of which she doesn’t tell him (but we don’t know that yet). Clayton comes back. He talks casually about what causes violent events and this is where the story title comes in: “It’s a kind of fit,” says Robert. “People can take a fit like the earth takes a fit. But it only happens once in a long while. It’s a freak occurrence.” Clayton observes that married people often have those kind of ‘fits’ but feels compelled to make an exception of Peg and Robert because of the way his mother looks at him, the only point in the story where there is an indicator of the emotional undercurrents she is experiencing: “. . .Peg was looking at Clayton. She who always seemed pale and silky and assenting, but hard to follow as a watermark in fine paper, looked dried out, chalky, her outlines fixed in steady, helpless, unapologetic pain.” What a wonderful simile – that watermark! But I don’t want to give away the end of the story, where there is a subtle twist. Robert goes out for a walk alone, thinking about what he knows she hasn’t told him. And it is in what she hasn’t said (or what she has left out) and what he will choose to share with her that the elegance of this story lies. It is, at heart, a relationship piece, I think, and it is beautifully handled. At the end you want to go back to the start, to Peg’s background, her previous marriage, to the clues about what has been going on. It is all about her. The dead next-door neighbours are incidental. This, it seems to me, provides a kind of insight to Munro’s writing in general. Her stories often open in a way that provides a focus of interest – a character, or an event – something that seems part of the commonground of stories. But in fact, the obvious focus is never what she is interested in. The events that inform the narrative are also not of especial interest to her, so much so that sometimes you feel a sense of flatness or disappointment that the happenings have become sidelined and unimportant compared to a single aspect the author is pursuing. To me, these stories are like seeing a detail from a huge painting, with the main canvas simply there for background. Yes, she is a marvelous writer. Even with the stories that don’t ‘click’ for me, the quality of language is second to none. I must get more of her for next summer. She benefits from slow reading, like a very good wine.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    This was our latest book club pick, and it was selected because many in the literary community think that Alice Munro should win the Pulitzer Prize; it’s reputed that the only reason she hasn’t is that no author who exclusively writes short stories has ever won (oh, literary politics). Munro’s writing style is clean, even sparse at times, but she has an ability to pack a mean emotional punch. I’ve heard it said that her stories illuminate the extraordinary in the ordinary lives of people, and it This was our latest book club pick, and it was selected because many in the literary community think that Alice Munro should win the Pulitzer Prize; it’s reputed that the only reason she hasn’t is that no author who exclusively writes short stories has ever won (oh, literary politics). Munro’s writing style is clean, even sparse at times, but she has an ability to pack a mean emotional punch. I’ve heard it said that her stories illuminate the extraordinary in the ordinary lives of people, and it’s a fair depiction of her style. The stories in this collection range in era from the 1930s to the 1970s, and they primarily focus on the lives of rural or isolated people in Canada. I must say that throughout the earlier stories, the phrase “leading lives of quiet desperation” constantly came to mind. So did the music of Neko Case, for that matter (“Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” would be the perfect audio barbiturate for a reading session). One thing that sets Munro apart for me is her decision to write several short stories about the same protagonist. Each story highlights the character at different points in her life – almost as if an omniscient being were to look in on a selection of moments in your life (sort of like Rip Torn in “Defending Your Life”). You saw the emotional points the character was at – age 20 and in college, divorced at 43, etc. It made it easier to stay engrossed in the collection, because you really felt like you were starting to get under the skin of a character. There is a distinctly melancholy feel to Munro’s stories – not tragic, but many of the characters were dealing with unhappy points in their life and trying to work their way through them. Whether it was the humiliation of a parent in front of their children in Depression-era Ontario, or dealing with loneliness after a one-night stand that the protagonist hadn’t thought would be a one-night stand, the mood was a somber, reflective, a little sad. Beautifully broken, if you will.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    020219 from ???: i have read everything published by this author, so impressed she has won deserved Nobel. rather than go through each book i decide to just note those i really like in this selection, then maybe the collections since. you cannot go wrong with any selection. you also will never feel like you have wasted reading time, as she is always concise, always readable, always resonant... theory on reading alice munro: if each collection has thirteen stories, three or four will be good, six 020219 from ???: i have read everything published by this author, so impressed she has won deserved Nobel. rather than go through each book i decide to just note those i really like in this selection, then maybe the collections since. you cannot go wrong with any selection. you also will never feel like you have wasted reading time, as she is always concise, always readable, always resonant... theory on reading alice munro: if each collection has thirteen stories, three or four will be good, six or seven very good, three or four will be excellent- and make up for any weaker ones. and then, for each reader and each time, this appreciation of her work will shift and change, change and shift... also, best to read occasionally, not all at once. a lot to find in a little wordcount... so, for this selected stories: Walker Brothers Cowboy The Ottawa Valley The Beggar Maid Simon's Luck Labor Day Dinner The Moons of Jupiter The Progress of Love Fits Friend of My Youth The Albanian Virgin A Wilderness Station others: The Bear Came Around the Mountain Before the Change The Love of a Good Woman Spaceships Have Landed Working for a Living Runaway Dear Life and others i cannot remember titles...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

    This is totally random, but when we were in Victoria, BC, I walked into this giant, wonderful bookstore called Munro's Books. I bought a few things there, and the cashier gave me some free store bookmarks. Well, I pulled one out the other day to stick in this book, and then read in the author bio that Alice Munro is in fact the owner of Munro's Books! Go figure. The stories I have read so far are WONDERFUL. Thanks for the rec, Paula! This is totally random, but when we were in Victoria, BC, I walked into this giant, wonderful bookstore called Munro's Books. I bought a few things there, and the cashier gave me some free store bookmarks. Well, I pulled one out the other day to stick in this book, and then read in the author bio that Alice Munro is in fact the owner of Munro's Books! Go figure. The stories I have read so far are WONDERFUL. Thanks for the rec, Paula!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    My first Munro. I learned that you have to slow down--really, really slow down--and let yourself be carried along in the cadence of each sentence. Sentences are fragments. Paragraphs are fragments. Her whole stories can be fragments placed together, artfully and artlessly. The effects are dazzling. I have to say I do not enjoy the later pieces as much (the exception being "The Wilderness Station"). They are noticeably more ambitious and complex, but some parts just seem ill-fit together, contrive My first Munro. I learned that you have to slow down--really, really slow down--and let yourself be carried along in the cadence of each sentence. Sentences are fragments. Paragraphs are fragments. Her whole stories can be fragments placed together, artfully and artlessly. The effects are dazzling. I have to say I do not enjoy the later pieces as much (the exception being "The Wilderness Station"). They are noticeably more ambitious and complex, but some parts just seem ill-fit together, contrived, and not nearly as naturalistic as the others. My favourites, in the order of appearance in this book, are: 1. “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You”: Masterful, as complete as a novel, feels effortless, tender even in its ironies. 2. "The Progress of Love": A complex story that defies summary and ages extremely well. Beryl, the indomitable aunt of the narrator, might well be my favorite literary creation in this book. A traumatic event happens in childhood: Beryl's sister is forever scarred and propagates its aftermath to her children; Beryl lets it roll off her and transforms it into a game. Some may call it callousness, but I see a remarkable resilience and force of life. 3. “Miles City, Montana”: Munro really accomplishes the impossible here—making me, who is not anywhere near to being a parent, feel parenthood, a feat akin to making a blind person feel colour. 4. "Fits": A quintessentially Canadian story that takes place in the Great Canadian Winter. Everywhere is snow, all 50 version of it, covering and uncovering, concealing and revealing, the fits and cracks underneath the veneer of life. A freakin' masterpiece. 5. “Friend of My Youth”: Similar to "The Progress of Love" in its portrayal of intergenerational dynamics, but a shade darker (Southern Ontario Gothic?), with a lovely Victorian-novel feel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    I have read about halfway through this book and am going to have to set it aside. I can appreciate the literary quality of Alice Munro's writing, but I don't enjoy her stories. It's not that I have to enjoy everything I read, but I haven't cared about or identified with a single character very much. None of them are very memorable.These stories are dreary and devoid of any joy, humor, hope or beauty. Every romance and marriage fails. There's a lot of cynicism here. I can see why Munro's stories I have read about halfway through this book and am going to have to set it aside. I can appreciate the literary quality of Alice Munro's writing, but I don't enjoy her stories. It's not that I have to enjoy everything I read, but I haven't cared about or identified with a single character very much. None of them are very memorable.These stories are dreary and devoid of any joy, humor, hope or beauty. Every romance and marriage fails. There's a lot of cynicism here. I can see why Munro's stories are critically acclaimed, but they're not for me. It seems like if you've read one, you've read them all. Give me a Wendell Berry story over one of these any day.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sylvie

    Unfortunately, this wonderful writer is not for me. Her stories are so dismal. I've tried to read Ms. Munro's work many times and I always end up abandoning it. OK, let me be perfectly blunt: For me, this woman's writing can ruin a perfectly good day. Her writing is magnificent; her subject matter plunges me down a dingy well. Unfortunately, this wonderful writer is not for me. Her stories are so dismal. I've tried to read Ms. Munro's work many times and I always end up abandoning it. OK, let me be perfectly blunt: For me, this woman's writing can ruin a perfectly good day. Her writing is magnificent; her subject matter plunges me down a dingy well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    OMG, I am so happy I'm finally done with book. Apparently I am not a fan of short stories. I don't like how by the time you have gotten to know a character the story is over. And when these short stories end, they just end. There's never much of an ending. I just don't get the appeal. OMG, I am so happy I'm finally done with book. Apparently I am not a fan of short stories. I don't like how by the time you have gotten to know a character the story is over. And when these short stories end, they just end. There's never much of an ending. I just don't get the appeal.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mamylon

    Munro should be required reading for anyone trying to figure out how to write. Every one of these stories is like she took a 500-page novel, folded it over itself a thousand times like Japanese steel, and then rammed it through my fucking eye

  16. 5 out of 5

    André Carreira

    It goes without saying that Munro is an amazing writer. From this collection, three tales stood out: "The Dance of The Happy Shades", "Labor Day Dinner" and "Meneseteung". If I were to rate her stories individually, these three would get the highest possible rating (and the second one would surpass it). Her short stories tend to focus on the lives of everyday men and women and expose life for what it is, in the context of its everydayness turned farce; it is the breaking point, the shock, the sen It goes without saying that Munro is an amazing writer. From this collection, three tales stood out: "The Dance of The Happy Shades", "Labor Day Dinner" and "Meneseteung". If I were to rate her stories individually, these three would get the highest possible rating (and the second one would surpass it). Her short stories tend to focus on the lives of everyday men and women and expose life for what it is, in the context of its everydayness turned farce; it is the breaking point, the shock, the sensuous or sexual adventure, the delayed and never-to-be- fulfilled possibilities and the dying memories that she portrays. And she does so with frank, heartfelt prose. "Meneseteung" is, and I think anyone who has felt it will agree, a masterful description of the poetic process, the fever dream. The hollow insomnia. For she hadn't thought that crocheted roses could float away or that tombstones could hurry down the street. She doesn't mistake that for reality, and neither does she mistake anything else for reality, and that is how she knows she is sane. If you want to know more, read it. It's worth it. I would recommend "Labor Day Dinner" to everyone and anyone, as it faces the two most important things in life and literature: love (the great mirror) and death.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Keegan Gore

    Seriously one on the best short story collections I've ever read. Each story is alive and brimming with emotion. Some made me want to cry, some shocked me, some had me putting the book down in disbelief, grabbing my forehead, pacing around my apartment in order to mull over what I had just read. I cannot say enough good things about Munro. In the introduction she refers to her stories as "houses"that one walks into, rather than linear paths one must take, and I am inclined to see her stories tha Seriously one on the best short story collections I've ever read. Each story is alive and brimming with emotion. Some made me want to cry, some shocked me, some had me putting the book down in disbelief, grabbing my forehead, pacing around my apartment in order to mull over what I had just read. I cannot say enough good things about Munro. In the introduction she refers to her stories as "houses"that one walks into, rather than linear paths one must take, and I am inclined to see her stories that way, as portals. Mainly, Munro writes about young women in Canada. Some of these stories are set in the country, some revolve around urban life, and some straddle the line between the two. Some of her rural stories are indeed gothic, particularly the ones set in the nineteenth century. Mostly, the stories in this collection are about relationships, romantic and platonic, the tension between urban and rural life, and in general love, how to find meaning in one's life. Quite a few are about loneliness. If you like good, moving fiction then I highly recommend this, or really any of her collections. She's a nobel laureate for a reason.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sal

    Munro does a really fantastic job of creating very three-dimensional characters. She's able to compress an entire novel's worth of story-telling into 30 or so pages. My only problem with this collection is that in reading the stories one after another, the characters being to appear quite similar to one another. Middle-aged, divorced female reflecting seems to be the common ground. Of course, I believe these stories came in Munro's own middle age, and it reflects that. Still, she does an excelle Munro does a really fantastic job of creating very three-dimensional characters. She's able to compress an entire novel's worth of story-telling into 30 or so pages. My only problem with this collection is that in reading the stories one after another, the characters being to appear quite similar to one another. Middle-aged, divorced female reflecting seems to be the common ground. Of course, I believe these stories came in Munro's own middle age, and it reflects that. Still, she does an excellent job of making each character and story unique and distinct despite this common base. The wisdom that comes with age is easily seen in the way her characters reflect, revise, and recall. The stories bring into question a variety of things--the nature of memory, life, death, aging, etc. I'd definitely recommend Ms. Munro as a writer and I'd recommend this volume, but I would recommend reading the stories with some space in between so as to make each story distinct.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kam

    I was intrigued by the blurbs on the back of this edition--had heard a lot about her but never read anything, seeing as most of her work has been published in anthologies and magazines. I'm not one for short stories or short fiction, but the narrative voices here are truly distinct. In her stories about her native Canada, Munro delivers with a consistent, pragmatic and low-key narration that draws one in with details and insights not with the "unerhoerte Begebenheit" or "seminal moment" introduc I was intrigued by the blurbs on the back of this edition--had heard a lot about her but never read anything, seeing as most of her work has been published in anthologies and magazines. I'm not one for short stories or short fiction, but the narrative voices here are truly distinct. In her stories about her native Canada, Munro delivers with a consistent, pragmatic and low-key narration that draws one in with details and insights not with the "unerhoerte Begebenheit" or "seminal moment" introduced in most modern short story writing. I feel almost that these stories aspire to teach one about life rather than entertain.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Miles

    Having now read more than 1,000 pages of Alice’s Munro’s prose, it is clear to me that she is a once-in-a-generation kind of talent. This woman appears to produce beautiful phrases with the readiness and ease with which average humans produce carbon dioxide. Her fictional examinations of the human condition are simultaneously plainspoken and impenetrable; each seems infused with a secret that only Munro can clearly see, but that the reader may glimpse fleetingly in a moment of hard concentration Having now read more than 1,000 pages of Alice’s Munro’s prose, it is clear to me that she is a once-in-a-generation kind of talent. This woman appears to produce beautiful phrases with the readiness and ease with which average humans produce carbon dioxide. Her fictional examinations of the human condition are simultaneously plainspoken and impenetrable; each seems infused with a secret that only Munro can clearly see, but that the reader may glimpse fleetingly in a moment of hard concentration or blind luck. Selected Stories: 1968-94 is a deep dive into Munro’s early writings. It contains stories of varying quality, ranging from merely excellent to shockingly brilliant. Given that I read Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014 prior to this volume, I personally have experienced the evolution of Munro’s career in reverse order. While Munro has clearly perfected her craft over time, her earlier works prove that her starting point was far beyond where most writers could hope to arrive at the end of a long and successful career. There were several themes that struck me this time around, ones that hadn’t caught my attention in Munro’s later works. Someone seeking a catalogue of the subtle and quotidian cruelties visited on mid-20th-century Western women will find themselves hotly rewarded here. Munro provides a keen record of the inexcusable pressures and judgments patriarchy foists upon females, doing so without ever once descending into the histrionics that often despoil contemporary feminist writings. One protagonist describes her father teasing a live-in nurse: "His teasing of Mary was always about husbands. ‘I thought up one for you this morning!’ he would say. ‘Now, Mary, I’m not fooling you, you give this some consideration.’ Her laughter would come out first in little angry puffs and explosions through her shut lips, while her face grew redder than you would have thought possible and her body twitched and rumbled threateningly in its chair. There was no doubt she enjoyed all this, all these preposterous imagined matings, though my mother would certainly have said it was cruel, cruel and indecent, to tease an old maid about men. In my father’s family of course it was what she was always teased about, what else was there? And the heavier and coarser and more impossible she became, the more she would be teased. A bad thing in that family was to have them say you were sensitive, as they did of my mother." (52, emphasis hers) Munro shows us not only how cruelty and oppression masquerade as comedy and good-humor, but also how Mary’s unchosen but necessary complicity in her own torment can produce a sense of perverse enjoyment. Munro’s stories brim with such complex interpersonal dynamics, all without falling prey to needless prolixity. Munro exhibits a tense preoccupation with women who are toyed with by men of means––those chosen first and then rejected for a more “suitable” mate, or subjected to seductive acts of courtship that never come to fruition. These women always face a world in which they have little power to direct their fates, but persist with a quiet strength that subverts––sometimes successfully and sometimes not––the tragedy of their cultural and economic relegation. The story “Friend of My Youth” invites us into the life of Flora, a woman bested in love by her sister, Ellie, and who fails to receive her just deserts even after compassionately nursing Ellie to her death: "Never a moment of complaint. Flora goes about her cheerful labors, she cleans the house and shovels out the cow byre, she removes some bloody mess from her sister’s bed, and when at last the future seems to open up for her––Ellie will die and Robert will beg forgiveness and Flora will silence him with the proud gift of herself––it is time for Audrey Atkinson to drive into the yard and shut Flora out again, more inexplicably and thoroughly the second time than the first. She must endure the painting of the house, the electric lights, all the prosperous activity next door…She must see them drive off to the dance––her old lover and that coldhearted, stupid, by no means beautiful woman in the white satin wedding dress. She mocked. (And of course she has made over the farm to Ellie and Robert, of course he has inherited it, and now everything belongs to Audrey Atkinson.) The wicked flourish. But it is all right. It is all right––the elect are veiled in patience and humility and lighted by a certainty that events cannot disturb." (469) Without a hint of didactic condescension, this passage lays bare (1) the acute harshness of Flora’s situation, (2) the way a world ordered according to male whims can cause women to despise each other, and (3) the soggy, ineffectual justifications that purport to make injustice bearable. For readers seeking storytellers capable of rescuing the modern world from its relentless stripping down of human experience to the simplest possible narrative explanation, Alice Munro will intrigue and satisfy. To complement her exploration of mid-century femininity, Munro offers many fascinating portraits of men and manhood, slyly slaying most of them with her unparalleled female gaze: "Will people really go, will people who could be swimming or drinking or going for a walk really take themselves out to the campus to find the room and sit in rows listening to those vain quarrelsome men? Bloated, opinionated, untidy men, that is how I see them, cosseted by the academic life, the literary life, by women… "The wives of the men on the platform are not in that audience. They are buying groceries or cleaning up messes or having a drink. Their lives are concerned with food and mess and houses and cars and money. They have to remember to get the snow tires on and go to the bank and take back the beer bottles, because their husbands are such brilliant, such talented incapable men, who must be looked after for the sake of the words that will come from them." (99-100) Any shortcomings of my experience with this book were due entirely to my lack of focus. Similar to my previous experience with one of her long collections, I think Munro’s style is better digested in short, two-or-three-hundred-something-page books than in six-hundred-plus-page ones such as this. Her stories sometimes have a lot of characters, and the nuances of the relationships will easily escape the scattered mind. I did not bring my best brain to each of these stories, and I am worse off for it. But I also managed to grab some good stuff along the way: "I feel my father’s life flowing back from our car in the last of the afternoon, darkening and turning strange, like a landscape that has an enchantment on it, making it kindly, ordinary and familiar while you are looking at it, but changing it, once your back is turned, into something you will never know, with all kinds of weathers, and distances you cannot imagine." (18) "And just as there is a moment, when you are drugged, in which you feel perfectly safe, sure, unreachable, and then without warning and right next to it a moment in which you know the whole protection has fatally cracked, though it is still pretending to hold soundly together, so there is a moment now––the moment, in fact, when Rose hears Flo step on the stairs––that contains for her both present peace and freedom and a sure knowledge of the whole down-spiralling course of events from now on." (135) "Robert is a stocky, athletic-looking man, with curly, graying hair and bright brown eyes. His friendliness and obligingness are often emphatic, so that people might get the feeling of being buffeted from all sides. This is a manner that serves him well in Gilmore, where assurances are supposed to be repeated, and in fact much of conversation is repetition, a sort of dance of good intentions, without surprises. Just occasionally, talking to people, he feels something else, an obstruction, and isn’t sure what it is (malice, stubbornness?) but it’s like a rock at the bottom of a river when you’re swimming––the clear water lifts you over it." (431) "People are curious. A few people are. They will be driven to find things out, even trivial things. They will put things together. You see them going around with notebooks, scraping the dirt off gravestones, reading microfilm, just in the hope of seeing this trickle in time, making a connection, rescuing things from the rubbish. And they may have got it wrong, after all. I may have got it wrong." (497) "Sometimes our connection is frayed, it is in danger, it seems almost lost. Views and streets deny knowledge of us, the air grows thin. Wouldn’t we rather have a destiny to submit to, then, something that claims us, anything, instead of such flimsy choices, arbitrary days?" (602) "She felt the first signal of a love affair like the warmth of the sun on her skin, like music through a doorway, or the moment, as she had often said, when the black-and-white television commercial bursts into color. She did not think that her time was being wasted. She did not think it had been wasted." (637) Unsurprisingly, Munro is even capable of articulating what it feels like to read her own writing: “Often these sentences seemed so satisfying to me, or so elusive and lovely, that I could not help abandoning all the surrounding words and giving myself up to a peculiar state” (585). I am grateful for, and endlessly baffled by, the inimitable flavor of Alice Munro’s peculiarity. This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ava

    It’s hard to put my thoughts on this book into words, but I’ll attempt to. - Almost every story manages to connect the reader to the story in approximately 20 pages, makes you care about the characters. - This book contains lots of dry humour and I love dry humour. - Most of them are about ordinary women in Canada in some sort of marriage/love situation but definitely not all of them. - I found it very interesting how characters changed over time, how they developed after certain experiences and th It’s hard to put my thoughts on this book into words, but I’ll attempt to. - Almost every story manages to connect the reader to the story in approximately 20 pages, makes you care about the characters. - This book contains lots of dry humour and I love dry humour. - Most of them are about ordinary women in Canada in some sort of marriage/love situation but definitely not all of them. - I found it very interesting how characters changed over time, how they developed after certain experiences and their approach to them. - The book is full of details and delicate descriptions and observations into human nature and I love it. A part of a person's life is described in such a careful way, it seems as if Munro knows them all personally (which she sort of does, of course). - The stories blurred together a little after a while, I felt like the first 50-70% was more original. - My favourites were Dulse, Labor Day Dinner, and Fits . I'm a new fan of Munro’s elaborate, no-fuss, realistic style! Some quotations: 'She had to remember directions, and the order in which to do things: to open her checkbook, to move forward when it was her turn in line, to choose one kind of bread over another, to drop a token in the slot. These seemed to be the most difficult things she had ever done. She had immense difficulty reading the names of the subway stations, and getting off at the right one, so that she could go to the apartment where she was staying. She would have found it hard to describe this difficulty. She knew perfectly well which was the right stop, she knew which stop it came after; she knew where she was. But she could not make the connection between herself and things outside herself, so that getting up and leaving the car, going up the stepts, going along the street all seemed to involve a bizarre effort. She thought afterwards that she had been seized up, as machines are said to be. Even at the time she had an image of herself. She saw herself as something like an egg carton, hollowed out in back.' 'That is, should she have stayed in the place where love is managed for you, not gone where you have to invent it, and reinvent it, and never know if these efforts will be enough? ' "(...) All people of great abilities are apt to be impatient in daily matters." Rubbish, Lydia wanted to say, she sounds a proper bitch.' ' "I think about Andrew – what was I doing to him? Setting things up to find the failure in him, railing at him, then getting cold feet and making up. Gradually the need to get rid of him would build again, but I was always sure it was his fault – if he'd just do this or that I could love him. So horrible for him that he turned into – remember what you said he was? A stick." "He was a stick," says Valerie.' 'She seemed to him courageous, truthful, without vanity. How out of this could come such touchiness, tearfulness, weariness, such a threat of collapse, he cannot imagine. But the first impression is worth respecting, he thinks.' 'A division of opinion became evident between men and women. It was nearly always the men who believed and insisted that the trouble had been money, and it was the women who talked of illness. Who would kill themselves just because they were poor, said some women scornfully. Or even because they might go to jail? It was always a woman too who suggested unhappiness in the marriage, who hinted at the drama of a discovered infidelity or the memory of and old one.' 'Walking on this magic surface, he did not grow tired. He grew lighter, if anything. He was taking himself farther and farther away from town, although for a while he didn't realize this. In the clear air, the lights of Gilmore were so bright they seemed only half a field away, instead of half a mile, then a mile and a half, then two miles. Very fine flakes of snow, fine as dust, and glittering, lay on the crust that held him. There was a glitter too around the branches of the trees and bushes that he was getting closer to. It wasn't like the casing around twigs and delicate branches that an ice storm leaves. It was as if the wood itself had altered and begun to sparkle.'

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Duke

    Wild to think I've been reading this on and off for about a bit less than half a year. It feels as if I've enjoyed Munro for a significantly longer period, as if I had, at some primordial point, perused her quiet Ottawas and Vancouvers and felt the resonance of her mundanities, the ways in which her nonlinear narratives move from the inane to the extraordinary entirely out of my sight, magically eluding my usual observance. She is truly special, and she was truly special from the beginning of he Wild to think I've been reading this on and off for about a bit less than half a year. It feels as if I've enjoyed Munro for a significantly longer period, as if I had, at some primordial point, perused her quiet Ottawas and Vancouvers and felt the resonance of her mundanities, the ways in which her nonlinear narratives move from the inane to the extraordinary entirely out of my sight, magically eluding my usual observance. She is truly special, and she was truly special from the beginning of her career. Walker Brothers Cowboy is a triumph of tone, theme, character, narrative, every aspect of storytelling, and yet its solitude seems effortless. Its ending is stifling. And that was but the beginning. I'm thankful that this collection only holds twenty-eight of her stories, because it just means that I continue to have so much more to read before having to rely on rereading to experience whatever you can call the experience of reading a Munro short story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    A must-own volume if you love short stories.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kemy

    This collection is a thing of wonder and Alice Munro is a treasure. That’s it, that’s my review. Ok I may come back later and get more specific...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rick Slane

    I read two stories "Tits" and "The Albanian Virgin". I liked the second one more but her writing not to my taste. I read two stories "Tits" and "The Albanian Virgin". I liked the second one more but her writing not to my taste.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elly

    Great writing, however the stories are sad.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vinod Kaul

    My first attraction to read Alice Munro was the Nobel Prize conferred on her last year. She is not so well known in India and her books were not easy to get or so very expensive. However, the award did the trick and I was able to grab this collection of short stories at a discount from the India Book Fair at Pragati Maindan, New Delhi. So what's so special about the writings of Alice Munro that she has won both a Man Booker and the Nobel? To read Alice Munro is to jump into an ocean and be immerse My first attraction to read Alice Munro was the Nobel Prize conferred on her last year. She is not so well known in India and her books were not easy to get or so very expensive. However, the award did the trick and I was able to grab this collection of short stories at a discount from the India Book Fair at Pragati Maindan, New Delhi. So what's so special about the writings of Alice Munro that she has won both a Man Booker and the Nobel? To read Alice Munro is to jump into an ocean and be immersed from all sides, top and bottom. Her short stories so rich in detail of both physical surroundings and feelings that each story fills the reader like a complete novel. The setting is Canada in the 40's and 50's. I could especially relate to the place as I lived for over eight years in Toronto. In fact, most of the stories rest on the social and physical topography of Toronto and small towns nearby. I was especially elated at relating to specific roads and places. Since I spent a lot of my childhood close by in New York in the 60s I could relate a lot to the social setting a little while earlier to the 40s and 50s in Canada. The descriptions and social dynamics are very authentic and gives a reach feel, warmth, flavour, fragrance of the times. Riding on top are real characters, each one with one particular fault that binds them to the story. There are no hero's and heroics, only the predictable lives of ordinary people. Munro's tales revolve around 'thwarted passion' of its players, many who take it to the end of their lives while still living the ordinary lives in between. The plot of the stories is really not so important and is for the most part predictable. There is no twist to the end which many readers might expect and yet one doesn't feel let down. The stories are all similar and unfold very laboriously in detail. I can well imagine for many who look for action packed treatises or plots or intricate games in our lives, these stories may be heavy and they may not be able to go through the complete 23 short stories that are presented here. Some of Munro's observations are simply unforgettable: pg.126 'Poverty was not just wretchedness, as Dr Henshaw seemed to think, it was not just deprivation. It meant having those ugly tube lights and being proud of them. It meant continual talk of money and malicious talk about new things people had bought and whether they were paid for. It meant pride and jealousy flaring over something like the new pair of plastic curtains, imitating lace, that Flo had bought for the front window. That as well as hanging your clothes on nails behind the door and being able to hear every sound from the bathroom. It meant decorating your walls with a number of admonitions, pious and cheerful and cheerful and mildly bawdy.' Many will want to get more and more of Alice Munro and be all the better for it. For others, at least one read of one book is a must - their propitiation to literary excellence!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kate Campbell

    Somewhere I read about a patient in a hospital, a wounded British soldier, who waited each day for a specific nurse to appear in hope she’d be the one to make afternoon tea. He loved her first because she did not burn the water and served tea that was always perfect. That’s how I feel about Alice Munro’s Selected Stories, all perfect. OK, maybe not all perfect, but very close. “White Dump” strikes me as a long slog to not much, perhaps the point of the story and I’m too dense to get it. "The Alba Somewhere I read about a patient in a hospital, a wounded British soldier, who waited each day for a specific nurse to appear in hope she’d be the one to make afternoon tea. He loved her first because she did not burn the water and served tea that was always perfect. That’s how I feel about Alice Munro’s Selected Stories, all perfect. OK, maybe not all perfect, but very close. “White Dump” strikes me as a long slog to not much, perhaps the point of the story and I’m too dense to get it. "The Albanian Virgin," likewise, ends on an ambiguous and unsatisfying note. The story is rich and unexpected, but ends without knowing for sure what happens to the characters—a guessing game that is intriguing for a moment, but dribbles away. The majority of the 28 selected stories, however, stick with this reader and beg, like jeweled facets hungry for glittering light, to be reread from new angles. My favorite stories in the selection, designed to represent different periods in her writing, are, for now, “Royal Beatings,” “Wild Swans,” “The Moons of Jupiter,” “The Albanian Virgin,” and “Vandals.” But, favorites will probably change with rereading. In describing her writer’s experience, Munro said, “A story is not like a road to follow, it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling were you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It has also a sturdy sense of itself, of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you. To deliver a story like that, durable and freestanding, is what I’m always hoping for.” As Munro’s Selected Stories demonstrate, she is often successful at achieving her artistic intention. Selected Stories is a series of beautifully wrought tales collected to show range during a lifetime of work and it’s a house of learning for story writers. One disturbing aspect of Munro’s work, from a writer’s perspective, however, is the edging of story into novella length. It’s as if the author wants to write long-form fiction, but holds back and creates truncations, places where the stories want to expand, but the writer pulls back on the creative reins. In the collection’s introduction, Munro says, “I did not ‘choose’ to write short stories. I hoped to write novels.” She cites housework and child rearing for her focus on the short story form, for the need to write in short spurts, always paying attention to the details of the house, careful no not burn the water.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Faller

    This selection collects four stories apiece from Munro's first seven collections, from Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You through Open Secrets. Perhaps its most interesting feature is an Author's Forward, essentially a craft essay in which Munro discusses the images that give rise to her stories, the process by which she develops her layered narratives, and the roles various editors have played in her later, more daring work. In dicussing the evolution of her craft, Munro notes that as she' This selection collects four stories apiece from Munro's first seven collections, from Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You through Open Secrets. Perhaps its most interesting feature is an Author's Forward, essentially a craft essay in which Munro discusses the images that give rise to her stories, the process by which she develops her layered narratives, and the roles various editors have played in her later, more daring work. In dicussing the evolution of her craft, Munro notes that as she's aged she's become more reluctant to obey the inclination to give up on frustrating starts, and suggests that the often surprising folds in memory and shifts in plot, time, and mood that characterize her best work are the fruits of this circling, highly exploratory process. Perhaps what's most frustrating about the selection is that one senses very strongly the lack of those stories that didn't make the cut. Having read her collections "The Beggar Maid" and "Open Secrets" in their entirety--and her later collections "Runaway" and "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage"--I've realized the degree to which Munro writes for the collection. Whether intentionally or not, Munro's stories resonate thematically, and are oftentimes linked by common characters, locations, and preoccupations--the conflicts between self and family and class and individuality, as in "The Beggar Maid," and the often transformative nature of love revealed, lost, and gained, as in "Open Secrets". And while the selection affords a view of Munro's strengths as a writer, that view is not as fully realized as the view one received by taking in one of her collections in its entirety. So While the Selected Stories serves as a primer, one reading the collection from story to story feels shortchanged when, after three or four stories from one or another collection, the tone, mood, and thematic set suddenly shift.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julius Mendoza

    There couldn´t be a better book if you talk about short stories than this! This is the best of the stories of the best short story writer now alive! ALICE MUNRO! When would she win the NOBEL PRIZE? I should go on that she is severely understated! Why? Perhaps the readers could not get her writing because she writes about the same theme: a girl from a rural Canadian town growing up to discover her sexuality, find her place in the socitey, exploring love and hatred and at times rebelling from the There couldn´t be a better book if you talk about short stories than this! This is the best of the stories of the best short story writer now alive! ALICE MUNRO! When would she win the NOBEL PRIZE? I should go on that she is severely understated! Why? Perhaps the readers could not get her writing because she writes about the same theme: a girl from a rural Canadian town growing up to discover her sexuality, find her place in the socitey, exploring love and hatred and at times rebelling from the norms established by other peopple and then looking back to those years she had lived; over and over again. Yet, one would feel cheated how a writer with such ordinary day to day life events could weave such miraculous tales that would leave you haunted! And what is more marvelous with Munro is her resistance to take a writer´s ego yet capable of calmly but intensely engaging her subject! the best SHORT STORY writer!

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