Alice Munro (fiction and parental fears)

Don’t be fooled: her writing isn’t dainty, but perfectly dangerous.

Well, you all know that the Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, 82 years young, won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year after a career of writing nothing but short stories.

Or maybe you didn’t. Short story: she’s magnificent, and I blushed at how long it’s been since I have read her. When the Nobel news came there was only one thing at hand for me to read: “Miles City, Montana”, from a paperback Canadiana collection that I picked up somewhere, my Can-Lit homework for this fifth China year.

It’s typically homely, but danger lurks. A couple and their two small girls travel by car from British Columbia to southern Ontario, mostly via the United States. I won’t go on, but simple events and the hauntings of memory make us feel that we have known the narrator from the inside. Here’s the quote.She thinks of her own family, and that of her husband, and muses about what children must learn of the fallibility of their parents.

“So we went on, with the two in the back seat trusting us, because of no choice, and we ourselves trusting to be forgiven, in time, for everything that had first to be seen and condemned by those children: whatever was flippant, arbitrary, careless, callous — all our natural, and particular, mistakes.”

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