Sunday, March 06, 2005

Open Secrets

When I read Alice Munro's newest collection of stories, Runaway, earlier this year, I was very impressed by this writer who had previously been only a name to me.
Now, having just finished her 1994 collection, Open Secrets, I am convinced that Ms. Munro is one of the greatest living writers.
Like many writers, she builds a world of allusion and cross-reference, with recurring characters and locations -- the towns of Carstairs and Walley in Ontario, the Doud family and their piano factory.
But Ms. Munro's short stories are like no others I have read, spanning decades (nearly 100 years in the case of "A Wilderness Station" in this collection) and encompassing multiple, momentous events in the lives of the characters as well as acts of shocking violence.
I may be narrow in my knowledge of the short-story form, but to me Alice Munro seems to stretch the boundaries of the short story form as surely as Borges does.
"The Albanian Virgin" may recall Singer in its telling of an other-worldly old-world village tale. In "Spaceships Have Landed," Ms. Munro includes a science-fiction moment. But in overall effect, her work is unique and extraordinary. I can't wait to read another collection (the one I have selected from my local library is Something I've Been Meaning To Tell You, an early collection from the mid-1970s. More on that later)