Monday, July 10, 2006

Tribute To Alice Munro

One night, a few weeks ago now, I was driving down Fallowfield Road when I happened upon a snippet of a speech by Alice Munro, on the radio. She was speaking at a fundraiser in Toronto, and the gist of her message was that she was going to retire from her life of writing.
I turned the radio up. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I mean I did not want to believe it. But I listened.
She was witty. Charming. Eloquent. She had the audience alternating between laughter and disbelief as she continued to crack jokes about her life in general and drop hints that her next book, The View From Castle Rock, due to be released in November of 2006, would be her last.
At one point she said that she will quit writing "in the interests of a manageable life" and with self-effacing rationale she explained that it is rare for outstanding work to be produced in an author's later years, "so one or two books fewer won't really be anybody's loss."
For me, it will be a loss.

However, at the very end of her speech, after giving these multitudinous reasons as to why she will put away the pen, she said something like, “At least this is how I felt a few weeks ago, when I wrote this speech.”
A wonderfully ambiguous, multi-interpretive, ending.
Like so many of her short stories!
I had to laugh. In fact, I clapped [applauded] in my car, like a certifiable lunatic.
It’s just that I cannot imagine a world without Alice Munro writing in it. I can’t. And I don’t want to.
In an article I read afterward, where Munro again spoke of her plans to retire, she quipped, "My husband says I've said this for about 15 years at least and it hasn't happened. I think he's kind of scared about when that will happen because I'm going to redecorate the house."

There’s still hope! I see a shred of hope in the above.
Her upcoming book will be a bit of a change of pace. She says, "It's not a book of complete fiction like I've always written before." In it, she will be dealing with a lot of her own ancestry and upbringing, as she did most clearly in stories such as Walker Brothers Cowboy and Images. [1968. Dance of the Happy Shades].

I am no Munro-expert, by any means, but all of the Munro I have read has been superb, in a timeless, memorable, meaningful, and artfully beautiful way.
I will never forget stories like Boys and Girls, or Tricks, or The Moon In The Orange Street Skating Rink. Or the three novella-like linked pieces in Runaway, entitled Chance, Soon, and Silence, in which the character Juliet appears and reappears for decades. Unforgettable writing.
I am right now in the midst of planning to live long enough to be able to thoroughly read everything she has ever written, and then re-read it all.

She has given us so much of herself.
Today, Alice Munro turns a young 75.
I love what publisher Douglas Gibson said of her, “she seems to be a much younger person, writing...” speaking of Alice’s new lease on life after her open heart surgery of about four years ago.
As to her alleged retirement?
If it is best for her, it will have to be best for me!
I am convinced that anyone who reads Alice Munro will come away feeling that they not only love the stories, but they love the writer, too.

I encourage you to check out the following EXCELLENT links.
With this first one, about halfway down the center of the opening page, you will see two blue icons that say “VIDEO”. Click on these [well, one at a time]. The clips are just awesome. Link → Here.

As for this next link…. well, I just cannot tell you how much I love this little clip of Alice on-the-spot!
It is truly adorable. Alice is asked about whether it is true that she “encouraged” her daughter to smoke marijuana.
Her response is just great.
Listen for the long pause after host Paula Todd asks the question, “Was that the extent of your experimentation?”
[Munro could have written a short story during this pause!]
Then she asks for clarification, “With drugs?”
And her eye just flits to the camera. It is to die for. OK, I will just shut up now. I just think that this clip gives us a wee glimpse, in a mere few seconds, of a really magnificent person.
Alice Munro.

Happy Birthday!

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

Maybe Munro will stop writing in the way that Stephen King did which is to say, not at all :)