All you Cannonballers know that Alice Munro recently won the Nobel Prize for literature. I hadn’t read any Munro yet (!) so what better time than a Cannonball? I’m not sure what I can say that hasn’t already been said about Munro’s talent.
It’s very hard to summarize this collection of stories and, indeed, Munro’s overall style. She tells stories that don’t really have a beginning, middle, end; there’s no climax. But they are remarkably real, and that’s what keeps you reading. They are stories of the women around us, they are you and me, and your mother, neighbor, sister, aunt. Many of the stories in this collection revolve around women on the edge of something: the end of a marriage, the cusp of puberty, the beginning of a friendship. The narratives meander in and out of the present, as if Munro is tracing someone’s thoughts. The whole book felt like being put in someone’s head while they’re in a particularly pensive mood, the kind of thoughts you have when you’re sitting and gazing at something with unseeing eyes, wondering how on earth you got where you are, thinking about the past with a sense of inevitablility…and a feeling of profound surprise.
It’s been said that elegance is knowing when to stop. If I had to summarize this collection, and Munro’s style, in one word, that’s what it would be: elegant. Each story knows exactly what it wants to say, and it says it. Sentences say just enough, never too much, just enough to be precise and true.
Rating: 4/5. I read this book extremely slowly, which is just fine (and one of the great things about short stories)–I’d put it down, pick up a longer novel, pick it up later…each story felt satisfying, but I hardly ever read more than one in a sitting. It was a satisfying read. That said, I didn’t feel as invested in most of these stories. Some were remarkable (The Found Boat was my personal favorite, one I keep mulling over after putting the book down) but there were some that just didn’t inspire me–hence the minus one star. This seems like the kind of book that has different things to say at different points in your life, though, so I wonder if those that fell flat(ter) for me now will gain some new meaning in years to come. I’ll definitely pick up more Munro in the future to find out.