Dependent Origination

Dear Life: Stories

Posted on: July 16, 2013

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I love Alice Munro. Her story has a way of striking your heart: I started getting used to the sudden twists and even guessed one ending or two for the stories in this collection.

For some reason, it never sank into me that Munro is Canadian. Looking back, that was so natural: the cold winter, the expanse of wilderness and the peculiarities  of those people who have to spend long winter hours indoor, without much entertainment around. I read this article in which Munro declared that she is done for life. Her long-time husband (also a poet, also named Franklin, also in the 80s, the same as one guy in one of the stories) has passed  away in April and she felt like she is done. Dear Life can possibly be her last works! Imagine that! I placed hold on the book the second I finished reading the New York Times piece about her declaration.

Despite the 29 holds in front of me, I got the book within 2 weeks! The collection is as good as usual. The aforementioned article summarizes it better than me: “[The book ]came out last fall, and reviewers, as usual, remarked on her insightful handling of themes like the bleakness of small-town life; the eruptive, transforming power of sex; and the trouble women have making their way in a world run by men.”

After reading, I went back to table of contents, trying to recall what each story was about — I got about ten of them (with fourteen stories in total). That says something about short stories read here and there every day over a week’s time. In fact, some of her story has such strong telltale marks that I can immediately recognize it a minute or so into it. I think “Corrie” has appeared in other collections, for example.

What is more, at the end of the book, Munro indicated the last four stories were about her own life: an almost-autobiography, if she allows it. It is hard to imagine that someone this talented, this sensitive, came through that much ordeal in her younger years. It proves the point that some plots/details of her stories are indeed from her own life. Talented writers can just survive, you have to believe this! On a second thought, Li Juan, the writer I just read in Chinese, came into age in a similar environment, with similar amount of personal struggle, but writes beautifully nonetheless. Well, Munro is way better than her — so read Munro instead if you want to check out Li Juan 🙂

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