Superfluous Matter
Books - The Love of a Good Woman, by Alice Munro

I really enjoy Canadian literature. I could patriotically assert that it's because Canadian authors are the best, but I suspect my enjoyment is more a result of a greater sense of place. When you live nearby to the setting of a story, or when it is someplace you yourself used to visit regularly as a child, the story becomes much more powerful.

I've read a bunch from many Canadian authors including Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, Robertson Davies, Michael Ondattje, Douglas Coupland and more. But never Alice Munro, a fact that made me feel a bit remiss until her win of the Nobel Prize in literature turned that feeling into one of outright negligence. Not only is she highly decorated (three-time winner of the Governor General's Award and winner of the Man Booker Prize), but she is a specialist in short stories (which I love) and much of her work is set in Huron County, Ontario (a place I spent a lot of time in my childhood).

So I picked one of her collections at random (and found out later it happened to have won the Giller Prize in 1998 -- just another in her stack of awards). The eight stories in the collection are some of the most powerful I've ever read (David Foster Wallace's Oblivion is the only other collection to have touched me as deeply). Munro seems to have an amazing knack for communicating emotion and as a result the stories are sticky. They stick to your brain and won't leave. I read the book slowly due to busy-life-syndrome, but just now a ten second flip through each story brought them all back to me in stunning clarity. The level of characterization she achieves is incredible given the length of the works. The way her narratives can go absolutely anywhere is literally breath-taking.

I will definitely be reading more from Munro soon.

2014-01 | 2014-03