Sunday, January 23, 2005


Alice Munro's stories aren't much like anyone else's, certainly not those of most of her contemporaries'. Although her work is published in all the right periodicals -- The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly -- that's where the resemblance to John Updike or Ann Beatty ends. Where the modern short story relies on the carefully detailed incident, the captured moment, Munro's stories may span years and tell of momentous events in the lives of her characters. They aren't very short -- typically about 40 pages -- and they are novelistic in their sweep and subject matter. In one of the stories in Runaway, her latest collection, a woman searches for years for a daughter she has lost to a religious cult, moves three times, pursues several careers, loses a husband and later a best friend, and goes through several boyfriends.
Another story -- also spanning 50 years or more -- moves structurally from first-person diary entries to conventional narrative, to epistolary, back to conventional narrative and ends with a dream sequence.