Having valiantly made our way through such tomes as Moby Dick, We the Drowned, and Bleak House, it maybe comes as no surprise that the Brown Baggers were ready to read something shorter. For April, we turned to one of the masters of the short story, Alice Munro and her latest, Dear Life. A well-known Canadian writer, Munro has only written one full-length novel but her work has been widely published in magazines and collections. Last year, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and the committee noted her as “master of the contemporary short story.”
It was an interesting experiment to attempt to discuss an entire collection of stories. After sharing some biographical information about the author, group members started off the discussion by sharing more general thoughts about the book as a whole. Munro’s unique writing style was at the forefront of our talk. While many of us agreed that she has quite a way of conveying much with her sparse prose, it was difficult to read the stories one after another. The group members who enjoyed the stories most allowed time to lapse between reading sessions, maybe reading one story a day. Others who attempted more than one in a row found the experience especially bleak. While the prose was incredibly well-crafted, the tone and themes of small town isolation and rigid social confinements could accumulate into a depressing reading experience. That being said, we agreed that this showed the real extent of Munro’s genius. Even with few words, she could completely portray a vivid and evocative scene.
More information about Alice Munro:
Find more stories by Munro in the JMRL catalog
Interviews, facts, and more resources on the official Nobel Prize website
Review of Dear Life in the London Review of Books
Read The Bear Came Over the Mountain, originally published the the December 27, 1999 issue of the New Yorker and later adapted into the film Away from Her
Hankering for more short stories? Give one of these a try:
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
The Swimmer by John Cheever
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Do you have a favorite short story? Chime in and let us know in the comments!