I have always wanted to read the work of a Nobel laureate. It bemuses and saddens me to see that I have purchased a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez long back, but the first book from a Nobel laureate winner that I read is from the most recent winner of the prize, Alice Munro. Short stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, to read or to write. To win the biggest literature prize for being excellent at contemporary short stories, that’s an achievement I feel, so I begin by congratulating Alice Munro for the same.
Dear Life. Oh how I wish that would be the start of a letter. It would be the chosen way to start the last letter of our lives, with a letter to life as it has been. It was the title that led me to this collection. I really do not know how to summarize this reading experience in words. If it would be all the same, I’d just write a summary of each story, but that wouldn’t exactly complete the thoughts on the book.
What are the stories about? Life. Whose life? It can be anyone. Sometimes you feel as if you know the person. Is it complete? Yes of course. Every story in the book is. Who completed them? I think this question is what stumps me. Because to an extent, Munro makes me do it after the read. Does it mean the stories are incomplete before? No. They have a strange way of being complete without being complete. The characters move in and out of the stories in a way that you wonder what happened. You want to know more about a character, but possibly that character never appears again either.
Which was my favorite story in the book? Both the starting one, “To Reach Japan” and the last one “Dear Life” would be what I would choose as my favorites. The first one is fictional, the last one sort of autobiographical, both leaving me with thoughts. The closing words of the last story and the book are something I would keep with me for a long time.
Munro’s narration style is quite different. She starts at one point, takes back to another, and ends in a different way. It’s totally unexpected and in a good way. What I would have liked to see more was a connection to each story. They waver here and there, which may be her style (I don’t know since this is the first time I’m reading one of her books). Mostly good but a tad bad, that’s this book at best.
Would I read Munro again? Yes. I’ll look at getting one or two of her earlier works, just to see if this book falls in style with her previous bests. I may even read these stories again, to see if they speak more to me than they have done now. I have heart that this book may be her last collection of short stories. I hope not, but if so, this is one beautiful way to sign off.
In A Gist:
Positives: Narrative style, contemplative moods, some memorable gems of wisdom.
Negatives: Wavering plots, which could have connected better.
About the author:
Alice Munro is a Canadian author who writes in English. Munro’s work has been described as having revolutionized the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2013, as the “master of the contemporary short story”.
Title: Dear Life
Author: Alice Munro
Genre: Short Stories
Publisher: Vintage Books / Random House India
Price: INR. 450
(21st January, 2014)