Tricks by Alice Munro

green shirt dresses

Ah, I have a soft spot for short stories about spinsters about town, enjoying their passions in solitary fashion. “Tricks” by Alice Munro calls to mind Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill”, especially after mention of the symbolic scarf: Miss Brill, you may recall, wears a fur. Robin of Munro’s story “Tricks” does not; she is instead disturbed by someone else’s fox scarf in the Lost and Found. If storyworlds could collide and time elide, I imagine that ‘disgusting-looking brownish fox scarf’ was left there by Miss Brill herself. (That fur had never been the same, of course, after having her fashion choice dissed by strangers at the park.)

Like Miss Brill, Robin finds herself permanently unpartnered. Continue reading “Tricks by Alice Munro”

Powers by Alice Munro

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“Powers” is the final story in the Runaway collection by Alice Munro, published 2004. I find this story the most challenging of the lot — as in, what in holy heck was that all about? I’m going to have to write about “Powers” in order to understand it.

Here goes my best shot. What can we learn about storytelling from this novella? About life?

If this is not an easy story to read, nor was it an easy story to write. This from her editor:

On her own, Alice did eight revisions of “Powers”. Then we worked on that ending because it was hard to finish off the story part of it and give Nancy her due.

An Appreciation Of Alice Munro

The New York Times reviewer did not consider “Powers” a success:

“Powers” devolves into a melodramatic tale about a provincial Canadian woman, blessed or cursed with psychic abilities, and her exploitation by a charming but feckless man on the make.

NYT

‘Melodramatic’ is an unusual word to ascribe to Alice Munro — a decidedly realist writer. Why would they have said that? I put it to you that this story is melodramatic if read at a more literal level. My own interpretation is highly metaphorical, as in, I don’t think Ollie is a real person. I think he’s a creation of Nancy’s imagination.

Hear me out. Continue reading “Powers by Alice Munro”

Cortes Island by Alice Munro

“Cortes Island” is a short story by Alice Munro, included in the 2013 collection The Love Of A Good Woman, which won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Like another story in this collection, “Jakarta”, the title of this story is set in a place away from where the action takes place. Writers often say that the characters who exist off the page are as important as the character who exist on the page (engaged in the action). The same is true of places, especially for a writer like Alice Munro. This is yet another way in which a setting can be considered a character.

In this case, Cortes Island is the place where the first person narrator’s landlady used to live as a young woman. The real Cortes Island lies off the coast of British Columbia. In 2016 it had only 1,035 permanent residents. Its school has since been closed. You get there by plane or ferry.

Continue reading “Cortes Island by Alice Munro”