Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Differently – Alice Munro

Alice Munro, at the age of two or three, in her home town of Wingham, Ontario. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY ALICE MUNRO

My sixth encounter with Munro in the BASS. Below are links to my entries on her earlier stories in the anthology.

I had a little trouble with this story ( As I always seem to have with Munro). Perhaps because I’m still a little rusty. Initially I felt a connection to the story and it stirred feelings about our recent move across town and the frequent visits we make to our old neighborhood and the feelings that surface during these visits.

Midway through though I felt the story shift a bit and I felt a bit like I was reading Updike.

From the Contributor’s Notes section:

“Differently” is an attempt to deal with a place and time in the lives of thirtyish people. Victoria. The period 1968-1974 (?). A peculiar hecticness, destructiveness, happiness, wildness, open play-acting about those years, intensity of friendships and love affairs. Almost a late outbreak of adolescence. Not necessarily to be regretted or deplored or hankered after, just described.

I had a great comment from “Anonymousafter struggling through another Munro story “Circle of Prayer” –

Maybe you just don't fully appreciate Alice Munro's writings---their beauty, grace, and subtlety. The strength of her stories lies in their quiet messages and nuanced meanings. She rarely makes her stories conspicuously understood on initial reading, and sometimes a second and much careful reading is necessary to get down to what she intends primarily to convey in the scenes and situations she writes about.

I love this comment. I agree that at times I do have difficulty seeing the “quiet messages and nuanced meanings” – I do need to look deeper – and I appreciate a reader out there defending Munro and helping me figure this whole thing out. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

You're Ugly, Too - Lorrie Moore

This is a great story to help pull me back into this project.

This is the first story of Moore’s to appear in BASS and we will see her again in ’91, ‘92, ‘93,’98 and 99. 
This story was selected for inclusion in the BASS after appearing in the July 3, 1989 New Yorker. The story had that New Yorker vibe…one that people sometimes turn their nose up at – but it rekindled my interest in the magazine. The story took me back to the days when I’d pull the magazine from our apartment’s mailbox, flip right to the contents and see what lucky author’s short story was selected for inclusion.

The story also drove me upstairs to pull two books from the stacks – The World through a Monocle  and  Cast of Characters – both about the magazine.

There are elements of the story that I time peg and I can easily see why Updike picked it for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century.

I also feel that there is a little Joyce Carol Oates in there (more for the characteristics of the female character) – both previous authors gracing the pages of the New Yorker and BASS quite frequently. I feel Updike in dialogue between the main character and the man her sister introduces her to at the Halloween party.

The story doesn’t give me the feeling of having been written in the late 1980s – It has that late 1970s feel to me. I'm still working on developing the ability to put into words this feeling and perhaps that skill will emerge with more reading and writing. 

Moore was in her early 30s and I had just graduated from high school – enjoying a summer of freedom…getting ready to head up to Vermont in August. 

Eisenheim the Illusionist - Steven Millhauser

“All agreed it was a sign of the times; and as precise memories faded, and the everyday world of coffee cups, doctor’s visits, and war rumors returned, a secret relief penetrated the souls of the faithful, who knew that the Master had passed safely out of the crumbling world order of history into the indestructible realm of mystery and dream”.

I loved this sentence. I didn’t find its beauty until returning to the story after putting it down for several months. I wonder how long Millhauser thought over the words in the sentence. You often hear about authors that have the ability to spit sentences out onto the page almost effortlessly….and then there are others that labor through revision after revision after revision.

I was happy to find this sentence because I had a difficult time with this story. It just never grabbed me. I see that Millhauser is quite accomplished (the whole Pulitzer thing and the movie made out of this story) and his Facebook page is filled with beautiful passages from his work.

I am still suffering through the transitions of stages of my life. I use the word suffering not in a negative way.

We are well beyond the “interruptions that last June brought and we have settled into our lives with a familiar routine.

And the routine is what gives us comfort.

It’s funny…I look over some of my older posts and sometimes I can’t recognize my writing. I remember the stories but my commentary on my life or on the story and the author seem so unlike me.  

I need to set these readings and writings up as assignments. I’ll have to schedule them on my calendar.

I started BASS 1990 back on September 11, 2013 – that was 2 years 8 months and 17 days ago.
I posted my last entry "Nothing to Ask For" 1 year and 9 days ago.

On some mornings I stand in the shower- joints and bones aching, muscles sore from the run and think about these stories and me not reading them. Such a simple exercise.


I’ve ramped up my running now it’s time to ramp up my reading. My body needs it and more importantly my mind needs it.

And as I learned from reading Proust, readings of books and stories take on different meanings depending on when and where they are read. 

So Mr. Millhauser – apologies for not diving into your story deeper – perhaps your story will be the one that pushes me back into this game.