“There isn’t time to say a word. Roberta doesn’t scream. George doesn’t touch the brake. The big car flashes before them, a huge, dark flash, without lights, seemingly without sound. It comes out of the dark corn and fills the air right in front of them the way a big flat fish will glide into view suddenly in an aquarium tank. It seems to be no more than a yard in front of their headlights. Then it is gone–it has disappeared into the corn on the other side of the road.”
This is from a favorite Alice Munro story, “Labor Day Dinner.’ It comes near the end, offering a moment of mystery and suspension of time. What an amazing and beautiful feat.
Alice Munro has 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 where 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 oropulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”
Those of us familiar with the stories of Alice Munro and those of us entering her house for the first time will be beguiled and sheltered by her spaciousness and concision. Whether in rural or urban settings, whether about departures or homecomings, birth or death, Munro’s stories provide us readers with plenty of surprise discoveries and inevitable truths. I was introduced to her work while in graduate school and was both inspired and daunted by her ability to write stories that capture a sweeping life and the decisive moments when a life is changed by a chance meeting, or an opportunity passed by. In this study session, we will read from “Selected Stories,” and discuss the work in terms of both form and content, craft and theme. What a treat to embark upon a deep study of Munro’s evolving revelations on self, women, family, and landscape.
I’m excited about taking a deep dive into Munro territory. I’ll be leading a Soapstone discussion group, Entering the House of Munro, for 6 Tuesday evenings, 19 September thru 24 October. Come join me! email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested, and I hope you are. Just a few spots left!