Alice Munro’s Stories#2: Dear Life

Alice Munro is very easily among the greatest authors to have ever lived. As far as short stories are concerned, I don’t think we will ever see the like of her again. To be so consistent over so many years with so many stories in so many collections, you have to be a once-in-a-lifetime author.I read Dear Life with the expectation that the stories would resemble those of Too Much Happiness,albeit in a different setting. I was wrong. She adopts a different style in Dear Life, but masters it with just as much deftness. What characterizes Too Much Happiness is the impression of wholeness that most of its stories end with. If you’re familiar with Jorge Luis Borges’s stories, then you know what I mean by ”wholeness” – there is a sense of completion to the story, as if it cannot continue beyond the ending imposed by Munro.

Dear Life is different in this sense. Again, the stories are captivating, with characters we feel a certain sympathy for – she is particularly good at this because she gives us a lot little details to set the picture. Unlike Too Much Happiness though, the stories are more subtle and the sense of completion is not totally evident. The stories are just episodes in the characters’ lives, and we can imagine them running their course beyond the ending pages. Personally, when I think of Dear Life, the image of a bubble floating quietly in the air comes to my mind. The bubble is free and simple, yet so endearing.

Oddly enough I found myself appreciating this kind of storytelling. I took more time musing over the stories and savoring the lines. If I had to draw a comparison, her stories felt very much like a beautiful poem.Her prose is of such sincerity and beauty that I wonder if she writes from the heart, from experience, or is she simply making up everything with sheer pathos? Now that I think of it, her prose is among the most beautiful I’ve read. The ”Finale” of Dear Life is just exquisite. Hmm, if I had to single out some stories, I would say Train, Corrie and Haven are my favorites – but that’s a hard one to call!

I cannot wait to read Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage now.

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