alice munro’s domestic gothic

MunroMary Rose Doorly at The Dublin Review of Books:

In a foreword to the collection, Jane Smiley describes the paradox in Munro’s writing as, “simultaneously strange and down to earth, daring and straightforward”. Laid out in the chronological order in which the stories were published, Family Furnishings reveals Munro’s lifelong fascination for the mundane and the freakish. Her characters, often taken from life, often drawn with autobiographical authority, seem to live in a kind of reality where the extreme facts co-exist in the same non-hysterical breath with the most banal.

Talk of scrubbing a floor, for example, is given a strange parity with the disposal of a murdered man’s body in “The Love of a Good Woman”, the opening story in this collection. The discovery of the body in the lake is described through the innocent gaze of a group of young boys who hardly understand the true import of the events, only the unforgettable underwater image of the dead man’s arm, as though he is waving. Munro’s great skill here, as in so much of her work, is the conscious undervaluation and negative exaggeration in which she draws the reader’s innocence into this closeness of extremes.

In “Dimensions”, where a young woman tries to come to terms with a shocking family tragedy in which a father kills his three children, we again see the trademark Munro approach of mixing up the ordinary with the appalling:

A trickle of pink foam came out from under the boy’s head, near the ear. It did not look like blood at all, but like the stuff you skim off the strawberries when you’re making jam.

more here.