Tuesday, January 14, 2014

you don't get the Nobel for being warm and fuzzy

Then again Chekhov wasn't warm and fuzzy, either. Although people seem to think of him as....some kind of Slavic teddy bear/Hallmark card? ("The Five People You Meet In Sakhalin....")

In fact, in few Munro stories is the narrative frame itself without suspicion. This has been especially true in her later collections, in the quasi-fictional stories of Dear Life, for example, where the narrator is never sure if what she’s remembering is true or not. But it came up earlier, as early as “The Ottawa Valley,” a story about the protagonist’s journey with her mother to her childhood home. Throughout the story the mother is herself slightly out of frame, eclipsed by her sister. And at the very last second the narrator breaks the fourth wall. “If I had been making a proper story out of this,” she says, she would end it a certain way. And then the real admission pours forth:

The problem, the only problem, is my mother. And she is the one of course that I am trying to get; it is to reach her that this whole journey has been undertaken. With what purpose? To mark her off, to describe, to illumine, to celebrate, to get rid of her; and it did not work, for she looms too close, just as she always did. She is heavy as always, she weighs everything down, and yet she is indistinct, her edges melt and flow.

- "Resisting Rhapsody: The Year of Alice Munro"