Alice Munro’s Magic

Lee_1-020515_jpg_250x1097_q85Hermione Lee at the New York Review of Books:

Writers who get away from, or are in savage dispute with, “home,” yet spend most of their lives writing about it, are not uncommon, especially in North America: think of Shillington, Pennsylvania; Newark, New Jersey; Milledgeville, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; Red Cloud, Nebraska; or Great Village, Nova Scotia. What is special about Munro’s lifelong use and reuse of “family furnishings” and “unremarkable” local landscape?

Partly it is her exceptionally thorough and dedicated mining of the same ingredients, which endlessly come up rich and fresh, seem never to be used up, and however artfully shaped, feel “real.” Lives of Girls and Women (1971) was going to be calledReal Life. Munro’s “real life” ingredients become enormously familiar to us: the childhood in the fox farm on the edge of town, the mother with incurable Parkinson’s, the studious girl reading her way out of the country into university, the expectations for young women in 1940s and 1950s provincial, conservative, colonial Canada; the early marriage and motherhood in Vancouver, the condescending young husband, the adultery, the divorce, the deaths of her parents, the returns home.

In her stories about her mother’s past, “My Mother’s Dream” and “Dear Life,” she nudges us to remember that this is “real life,” even though she didn’t witness it herself: “It is early morning when this happens in the real world. The world of July 1945.” “He does not have any further part in what I’m writing now…because this is not a story, only life.”

more here.