Tuesday, February 11, 2014

reading notes: Alice Munro (Nobel Prize 2013) & In Her Place (web stories)


(snapshot from Frankfurt International Bookfair in October 2013,
this was an hour after the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced)

"So i guess i will join #readwomen, too, and will read more books from women this year, starting with a book i had picked up in November, after the Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to Alice Munro: "Dear Life"...that's what I wrote two weeks ago, and reading Munro now brought back several memories of reading her stories:

Alice Munro, "Dear Life" and other stories
The first Munro-story I read was recommended to me by a friend: "The Bear Came Over The Mountain", included in the New Yorker. I still remember how after reading it,with all the turns and layers it included,  I was amazed by it, and felt like having read a novel. (I just looked, the New Yorker put it online again, it's up here). After reading more of her work, I got curious for the person behind the stories. When her new story collection was released, "Dear Life", I was surprised when I read about her age:
"Munro is now in her 80s. The timelines in her stories have become longer, and the sense of fatedness has stretched to match. Some of the stories in her new collection, Dear Life, begin with the cultural and economic shift that happened after the second world war and end anytime around now. It is as though the events of that time loosened peoples lives up just enough to make them their own.... Munro is interested in how we get things wrong. Age she says, changes your perceptions "of what has happened – not just what can happen but what really has happened". 
The passage above is from a  Guardian review written by Anne Enright, here's the whole article: Dear Life by Alice MunroNow I finally read the collection myself, and again, Munro impresses with both the stories, and her writing talent. Her short stories are brimming with layers and depth, and reflect the large themes of the world in a small town-perspective. At the end of the collection, she has included 4 stories based of her own life, which for me turned to my favs of the collection, with the hints they gave into the personal world Munro wrote from. 

In one of those unexpected parallels in theme, I was reading Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" just a bit later, and learned that she was inspired by Munro. In an interview, Strayed mentioned how she actually wrote to Munro after having her first story published, to thank her - and then later received a letter from her. And she wrote an essay: Munro County. For me, those cross-connections are often as interesting as the stories themselves: the way words on a page turn into an own story.

On the day the Nobel Prize for literature was awarded last year, I was at the Frankfurt international book fair. I still remember the vibe that went through the fair: short story writer + female author gets the award! When I later walked past the booth of the publisher that features her books in Germany, camera crews were there, and a woman sat right next to the copies of Alice Munro’s book, eyes on the books and the people walking past them. “You are bodyguarding them?” I said. “Yes!” she said, smiling.



In Her Place, or: Getting Around
From Nobel-Prize story collections to online reads: in January, i read an anthology of travel stories called "Be There Now". Unfortunately, the anthology doesn't include biographies of the authors or links to their websites, but with the help of Google&co, i found some of the author blogs and links to other stories of the authors. That's how I arrived at "In Her Place" - Stories about Women Who Get Around": an online anthology. Here's their concept: "We recently had a call for submissions and received a huge response by some very talented authors. We read them all and selected a handful of the stories that we felt answered the call: “In what ways does being female affect one’s sense of place, placement, and/or (dis)location?”

So glad I followed links, got around, and arrived there, at this beautiful and thoughtful place. The author that brought me there is "Once in a Lifetime" by Terri Elders, starting with those words: "In l990 when I first moved to Antigua, Guatemala, my birder knowledge was…for the birds."  The plan now is to follow some more links, see where I arrive at. 

And here are some direct links to stories from "In Her Place":

Guatemala
"Once in a Lifetime" by Terri Elders
"In l990 when I first moved to Antigua, Guatemala, my birder knowledge was…for the birds. Or at least my housemate, Kelly, saw it that way.."

Iraq / Mexico
"¿Cómo Se Dice Gravy?" by Huda Al-Marashi
"You are twenty-one years old. You have a college degree, and you were friends with your husband before you married him. Pull yourself together. Make a good memory for today, and then you can be sad again tomorrow..."

India
"Ebony has many shades", by Mira Desai
"Aruna’s skin burned, scorching seven layers, as she shaded her eyes and watched the black flecks circle overhead, wingspan spread, almost motionless as they rode invisible air currents. Death birds. Birds of prey..."

Romania 
"A Popular Passport" by Avra Kouffman
"Try to get comfortable. It’s your first month in eastern Europe and you’re about to take a 14-hour train trip from Moldova to Bucharest, Romania. This overnight journey will be mired in the deepest humidity and where you actually want to go is Ukraine..."

Puerto Rico / Spain
"Spanish Flies" by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro
"In Spain, the flies do not leave, even if you try to scare them, whipping up your hands. They are different from the ones in Puerto Rico, where, at the slightest provocation, the insect flutters its wings and flies away..."

*****

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Currently Reading + More Reads:
I am currently joining the “readwomen2014” initiative. Here’s more about that: 2014 - year of reading women

For more reading notes in this blog, click here: life as a journey with books

A reading list by regions is online at: World Reads by country

& Other book blog and their current reads: It's Monday! What are you reading?

1 comment:

Renee Benson said...

I love Alice Munro. I discovered her through a college literature class where the story "MENESETEUNG" was assigned from there I've read her book "SELECTED STORIES" and "DEAR LIFE" (which I did a review about on my blog, check it out: http://dreneeb.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/dear-life-a-book-review/) I couldn't agree more with you on her stories making you feel as if you finished a novel after finishing these 20 something page stories! Munro's stories are just that complex!