In Alice Munro’s Introduction to her Selected Stories, published in 1997 by Vintage International, Munro says, “a story is not like a road to follow; it’s more like a house.” She says “you go inside stories and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like, discovering how the rooms, windows, and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows.” She goes on to say that readers and writers can return to the house or story and always find more than they saw last time.
And such is the case for this collection of selected stories compiled from previously published collections that included – Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974), The Beggar Maid (1977), The Moons of Jupiter (1977-1982), The Progress of Love (1985-1986), Friend of My Youth (1990), and Open Secrets (1994).
The stories from these earlier collections are even better upon rereading them. These are classic Munro stories and are among my favorites – for example: Walker Brothers Cowboy, Dance of the Happy Shades, Material, Royal Beatings, Miles City, Montana, and Vandals. All of these excellent stories are like an interesting house that leaves you with new impressions every time you visit it. Monro’s stories are complex, layered with the lightest touch, and as rich and satisfying as a novel. Perhaps if you’re looking for a good “reread” this collection is worth the time and a second or third look.
For me a great story gets better – like an interesting house – every time you visit it. A story deserves, even requires, multiple reading to obtain its richness. Some readers and writers – like me – tend to be interested not only in what happened but also – how it happened.
Munro says that a house (like a story) has a “sturdy sense of itself, of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you. To deliver a story like that, one that is durable and freestanding, is what I’m always hoping for.” That seems to me to be a worthy goal whether you are a reader or writer, or one who must of necessity do both in order to live well.
About Jan Bowman
Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. Another new story was a finalist (April 2013) in the Annual Phoebe Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Trajectoryand Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at www.janbowmanwriter.com or
Special Note: Some postings will occur only once per week during April 2013 due to Jan’s busy schedule, family visits, two major reading & writing projects, and some travel plans. She may be out of Wi-Fi contact at intervals. And she might not deal with email at that time. “GASP!” She said.