woman story

Lives and Love of Girls and Women

Quoted News: This week all of Canada is celebrating the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Alice Munro. This country is blessed with many great authors but Munro’s very personal stories with their explicit Canadian roots make a special contribution to our literary heritage. Munro is the first Canadian and only the 13th woman to win the award. She divides her time between Clinton, Ontario and Comox.

You can read many of her stories on-line at the New Yorker’s web site. Historica Canada has a brief reading from “How I Met My Husband“  as part of the Radio Minutes collection and the CBC Digital Archives has eight interviews with the author from 1974 to 2007. A most entertaining account of Alice Munro’s character is from her publisher, Douglas Gibson. http://www.bcheritagefairs.ca/alice-munro/

Alice Ann Munro (née Laidlaw; born 10 July 1931) is a Canadian author writing in English. The recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature and the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, she is also a three-time winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction.[1][2][3]

The focus of Munro’s fiction is her native southwestern Ontario.[4] Her “accessible, moving stories” explore human complexities in a seemingly effortless style.[5] Munro’s writing has established her as “one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction,” or, as Cynthia Ozick put it, “our Chekhov.”[6] In 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as “master of the modern short story”.

Munro was born in Wingham, Ontario. Her father, Robert Eric Laidlaw, was a fox and mink farmer,[7] and her mother, Anne Clarke Laidlaw (née Chamney), was a schoolteacher. Munro began writing as a teenager, publishing her first story, “The Dimensions of a Shadow,” in 1950 while a student at the University of Western Ontario. During this period she worked as a waitress, a tobacco picker, and a library clerk. In 1951, she left the university, where she had been majoring in English since 1949, to marry fellow student James Munro. In 1963 the couple moved to Victoria where they opened Munro’s Books which still operates.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Munro

Book Reviews – Fiction, June 2010, By Lisa Aldridge http://www.lancetteer.com/book33.htm

book review on Lives of Girls and Women: (Lives of Girls and Women is a short story cycle by Alice Munro, published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson in 1971. All of the stories chronicle the life of a single character, Del Jordan, and the book has been characterized as a novel by some critics as a result.)

Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women is a coming-of-age tale of a young girl growing up in 1940s rural Ontario. First published in 1971, this semi-autobiographical, feminist work is Munro’s second published piece and perhaps her most famous. Often mistaken for a novel, Lives of Girls is actually a short story cycle: a collection of short, interlinked stories with common themes, characters and a central protagonist who provides harmony and links the entire work. Contrary to a traditional novel, each chapter (or cycle) is capable of standing independently as its own short story, with a proper conflict and resolution, while at the same time providing valuable contrast and progression for the overall story.

Lives of Girls and Women is the story is of Del Jordon, a precocious young girl who does not seem to quite fit in with the townspeople and country lifestyle of her small town, Jubilee. In each chapter Del faces a different trial or issue, which help the reader to understand the overall themes of love, friendship, sexuality, religion and death.

With subtlety and humor, Munro highlights the undertones of everyday activities and the complexities of various types of relationships. Del is greatly affected by the relationships she has with the people around her, some of whom can be seen as role models, while others are anti-role models. Del identifies and questions various character traits of the people most influential in her life (especially her mother) and tries to choose which characteristics she will adopt and which ones she will attempt to avoid as she constructs her own self-image. But ultimately, Del struggles to develop a concrete sense of self in what appears to her as an ever-changing, incomprehensible world. For to know herself, she must understand at least something about the world and her proper place in it.

Del reaches maturity in the final chapter, appropriately named, Baptism (signifying her rebirth). Throughout this lengthy chapter, Del undergoes a number of rebirths due to her newly discovered sexuality and her relationship with her first love, Garnet French. Del’s final (and quite literal) ‘baptism,’ culminates in her realization that being in love has colored her perception of the world around her, in a dream-like, almost whimsical way. Like many who first fall in love, she has lost—or at least forgotten, temporarily—who she really is and what is important to her. And yet, choosing to be in love over being one’s self is perhaps a necessary process. Del is stronger and more connected to her true self for having gone through her relationship with Garnet. This final rebirth helps set her on her proper path, and marks the completion of her move from childhood to adulthood.

Del’s destiny is to become a writer. But she cannot become an artist, until she has come of age, an interconnected process (see Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). Yet, in this case, the artist is (finally!) a young woman. Once Del has grown up, she feels that the only appropriate thing for her to do with her life is to write a novel. With this decision, Del moves from being an active participant in her own life to a more passive observer of the world around her. She has become wholly removed from her own life and decides to create a completely new one, in any way she sees fit. This narrative shift is unsettling for the reader because by this point, Del has become the author of her own story. On the other hand, the ease with which she moves from actor to writer illustrates just how closely the two are linked. To some extent, we are all writers of our own personal stories, our histories, and based on the choices we make, we are largely in control of our destiny.

Even before Del makes the decision to become a novelist, she describes her own life in a dramatic, fictionalized way. While waiting to see if Garnet will show up, she says:

“I combed my hair and waited, classically, behind the curtains in our front room.
Without diminishment of pain I observed myself; I was amazed to think that the person suffering was me, for it was not me at all; I was watching. I was watching, I was suffering.

Del’s dramatic interpretation of this moment shows that she has already begun to feel removed from her own life as she becomes an observer of experience. In the epilog, as Del struggles with her writing, she explains that:

It did not occur to me that one day I would be so greedy for Jubilee… [that] I would want to write things down. ..the hope of accuracy we bring to such tasks is crazy, heartbreaking. ..for what I wanted was every last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark or walls, every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion, held still and held together—radiant, everlasting.”

This description gives the reader some insight into the difficulty, and at times, futility, of being a writer. As Del attempts to transform her everyday reality into a fictionalized version, Munro hints at her parallel experience of converting her own south western Ontario town into the ordinary reality of the fictional town of Jubilee. Munro’s detailed descriptions of country life successfully create an extraordinary sense of place and time. Yet, for both Munro and Del, the desire is strong to capture every last detail, to properly illustrate the beauty, complexity and subtlety of rural life. Lives of Girls and Women reveals that even for the most adept writer, creating fiction rooted in reality is a difficult, if not impossible, task to achieve. 

Another book review is excerpted as follows:

Lives of Girls and Women (1971)

Early in “Lives of Girls and Women”, readers learn that Jubilee is “not part of town, but it was not part of the country either”. Del Jordan isn’t exactly sure where she belongs either…

Readers of Alice Munro’s first collection will also recognize that sense of being in-between. Between town and country, yes. But also between girlhood and womanhood.

And they’ll recognize Del Jordan from two of the early stories, “Walker Brothers Cowboy” and “Images”. (And I have the idea that “Boys and Girls is about Del too, but I’m not certain of that yet.)

Every story in Lives of Girls and Women, however, features Del Jordan. Some readers think that makes the book a novel rather than a collection of stories. But Alice Munro is a short story writer…

Nonetheless, I like the idea of settling into Del Jordan’s world for more than a single story.

There, in Jubilee and on The Flats Road, we meet Mitch Plim and the Potter boys –bootleggers– and bachelor Sandy Stevenson who keeps a grey donkey, and we hear tell of Charlie Buckle’s store and Mrs. McQuade’s whorehouse, and there are doings with Irene Pollox and Frankie Hall, who are a little ‘touched’.

And speaking of ‘touched’, there’s Uncle Benny, who keeps e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and Madeleine, what some might call a ‘real piece of work’…

In “The Flats Road” we get reacquainted with Jubilee and Del, and Del gets acquainted with madness. This continues in “Heirs of the Living Body”, wherein Del interacts with Aunt Moira’s daughter, Mary Agnes (who “is not an idiot”)…

Life in the Jordan home strikes me as both bizarre and ordinary. The propensity for practical jokes add some sparkle to the idea of traditional tales of town-life (or, near-town-life) — and I found myself grinning at the antics…ironically, Del notes that the “worst thing that could happen in this life was to have people laughing at you”.

But this was in stark contrast to the more sober and sombre realities of life there. I also found myself immediately and readily responding to Del’s feelings of inadequacy, her inherent feelings of “not measuring up”…

Del observes: “He [Uncle Craig] himself was not hurt or diminished in any way by my unsatisfactoriness, though he would point it out. This was the great difference between disappointing him and disappointing somebody like my mother…”

And, yet, if I recall correctly (from my first reading of this collection, about twenty years ago), Del comes to view her relationship with her mother somewhat differently, if not more positively…

Nonetheless, she becomes (I think) increasingly aware of the connections between the women in her family. Much as is hinted in her consideration of Uncle Craig’s research into family history: “It was not the individual names that were important, but the whole solid, intricate structure of lives supporting us from the past.”

That which supports us and that which falls through: the first two stories in Lives of Girls and Women consider madness and loss, and the intersections between these states. It might not sound like gripping reading, but I am heartfully absorbed by it…See more at: http://www.buriedinprint.com/?p=3135#sthash.819Q6Zb5.dpuf

Munro-Lives-Girls-Women alice munroYoungAlice

Lives of Girls and Women (1971) I

Early in Lives of Girls and Women, readers learn that Jubilee is “not part of town, but it was not part of the country either”. Del Jordan isn’t exactly sure where she belongs either.

Readers of Dance of the Happy Shades will recognize Jubilee; some of its stories take place overtly in Jubilee too, and others might as well (but not “Sunday Afternoon”, “A Trip to the Coast” or “Dance of the Happy Shades”) although sometimes the small town setting is not identified.

Readers of Alice Munro’s first collection will also recognize that sense of being in-between. Between town and country, yes. But also between girlhood and womanhood.

And they’ll recognize Del Jordan from two of the early stories, “Walker Brothers Cowboy” and “Images”. (And I have the idea that “Boys and Girls is about Del too, but I’m not certain of that yet.)

Every story in Lives of Girls and Women, however, features Del Jordan. Some readers think that makes the book a novel rather than a collection of stories. But Alice Munro is a short story writer.

(That must have been a marketing ploy, scribbling ‘novel’ across the cover of some editions, but I can’t sneer at it because I’ve had a lot of years resisting short stories myself: the then-story-resisting-reader in me might well have picked this up as a novel and overlooked it as a collection. And I wouldn’t have wanted to have missed out.)

Nonetheless, I like the idea of settling into Del Jordan’s world for more than a single story.

There, in Jubilee and on The Flats Road, we meet Mitch Plim and the Potter boys –bootleggers– and bachelor Sandy Stevenson who keeps a grey donkey, and we hear tell of Charlie Buckle’s store and Mrs. McQuade’s whorehouse, and there are doings with Irene Pollox and Frankie Hall, who are a little ‘touched’.

And speaking of ‘touched’, there’s Uncle Benny, who keeps e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and Madeleine, what some might call a ‘real piece of work’.

(The heart of the story is right in there, and there’s a lot to say about the two of them, but I’ll leave that for anyone who might like to leave a comment with a spoiler alert: what a lot of questions this storyline raises!)

In “The Flats Road” we get reacquainted with Jubilee and Del, and Del gets acquainted with madness. This continues in “Heirs of the Living Body”, wherein Del interacts with Aunt Moira’s daughter, Mary Agnes (who “is not an idiot”), but in the second story, Del is primarily preoccupied by a death in the family.

Life in the Jordan home strikes me as both bizarre and ordinary. The propensity for practical jokes add some sparkle to the idea of traditional tales of town-life (or, near-town-life) — and I found myself grinning at the antics of Aunt Elspeth and Auntie Grace, although, ironically, Del notes that the “worst thing that could happen in this life was to have people laughing at you”.

But this was in stark contrast to the more sober and sombre realities of life there. I also found myself immediately and readily responding to Del’s feelings of inadequacy, her inherent feelings of “not measuring up”. (This is also, partly, why I think she might be the narrator in “Boys and Girls”, at least in spirit, but her feelings of falling short are also recalled in “Red Dress-1946, which was definitely not a Del story. Perhaps it’s shared by more girls than not.)

Del observes: “He [Uncle Craig] himself was not hurt or diminished in any way by my unsatisfactoriness, though he would point it out. This was the great difference between disappointing him and disappointing somebody like my mother…”

And, yet, if I recall correctly (from my first reading of this collection, about twenty years ago), Del comes to view her relationship with her mother somewhat differently, if not more positively. (Although I think she continues to struggle with the sense of disappointing other people who have varying expectations of her.)

Nonetheless, she becomes (I think) increasingly aware of the connections between the women in her family. Much as is hinted in her consideration of Uncle Craig’s research into family history: “It was not the individual names that were important, but the whole solid, intricate structure of lives supporting us from the past.”

That which supports us and that which falls through: the first two stories in Lives of Girls and Women consider madness and loss, and the intersections between these states. It might not sound like gripping reading, but I am heartfully absorbed by it.

It’s not too late to join in, if you’ve yet to sample Munro’s stories, or if you’re curious about her earlier collections. Doncha want to?

– See more at: http://www.buriedinprint.com/?p=3135#sthash.819Q6Zb5.dpuf

Lives of Girls and Women (1971) I

Early in Lives of Girls and Women, readers learn that Jubilee is “not part of town, but it was not part of the country either”. Del Jordan isn’t exactly sure where she belongs either.

Readers of Dance of the Happy Shades will recognize Jubilee; some of its stories take place overtly in Jubilee too, and others might as well (but not “Sunday Afternoon”, “A Trip to the Coast” or “Dance of the Happy Shades”) although sometimes the small town setting is not identified.

Readers of Alice Munro’s first collection will also recognize that sense of being in-between. Between town and country, yes. But also between girlhood and womanhood.

And they’ll recognize Del Jordan from two of the early stories, “Walker Brothers Cowboy” and “Images”. (And I have the idea that “Boys and Girls is about Del too, but I’m not certain of that yet.)

Every story in Lives of Girls and Women, however, features Del Jordan. Some readers think that makes the book a novel rather than a collection of stories. But Alice Munro is a short story writer.

(That must have been a marketing ploy, scribbling ‘novel’ across the cover of some editions, but I can’t sneer at it because I’ve had a lot of years resisting short stories myself: the then-story-resisting-reader in me might well have picked this up as a novel and overlooked it as a collection. And I wouldn’t have wanted to have missed out.)

Nonetheless, I like the idea of settling into Del Jordan’s world for more than a single story.

There, in Jubilee and on The Flats Road, we meet Mitch Plim and the Potter boys –bootleggers– and bachelor Sandy Stevenson who keeps a grey donkey, and we hear tell of Charlie Buckle’s store and Mrs. McQuade’s whorehouse, and there are doings with Irene Pollox and Frankie Hall, who are a little ‘touched’.

And speaking of ‘touched’, there’s Uncle Benny, who keeps e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and Madeleine, what some might call a ‘real piece of work’.

(The heart of the story is right in there, and there’s a lot to say about the two of them, but I’ll leave that for anyone who might like to leave a comment with a spoiler alert: what a lot of questions this storyline raises!)

In “The Flats Road” we get reacquainted with Jubilee and Del, and Del gets acquainted with madness. This continues in “Heirs of the Living Body”, wherein Del interacts with Aunt Moira’s daughter, Mary Agnes (who “is not an idiot”), but in the second story, Del is primarily preoccupied by a death in the family.

Life in the Jordan home strikes me as both bizarre and ordinary. The propensity for practical jokes add some sparkle to the idea of traditional tales of town-life (or, near-town-life) — and I found myself grinning at the antics of Aunt Elspeth and Auntie Grace, although, ironically, Del notes that the “worst thing that could happen in this life was to have people laughing at you”.

But this was in stark contrast to the more sober and sombre realities of life there. I also found myself immediately and readily responding to Del’s feelings of inadequacy, her inherent feelings of “not measuring up”. (This is also, partly, why I think she might be the narrator in “Boys and Girls”, at least in spirit, but her feelings of falling short are also recalled in “Red Dress-1946, which was definitely not a Del story. Perhaps it’s shared by more girls than not.)

Del observes: “He [Uncle Craig] himself was not hurt or diminished in any way by my unsatisfactoriness, though he would point it out. This was the great difference between disappointing him and disappointing somebody like my mother…”

And, yet, if I recall correctly (from my first reading of this collection, about twenty years ago), Del comes to view her relationship with her mother somewhat differently, if not more positively. (Although I think she continues to struggle with the sense of disappointing other people who have varying expectations of her.)

Nonetheless, she becomes (I think) increasingly aware of the connections between the women in her family. Much as is hinted in her consideration of Uncle Craig’s research into family history: “It was not the individual names that were important, but the whole solid, intricate structure of lives supporting us from the past.”

That which supports us and that which falls through: the first two stories in Lives of Girls and Women consider madness and loss, and the intersections between these states. It might not sound like gripping reading, but I am heartfully absorbed by it.

It’s not too late to join in, if you’ve yet to sample Munro’s stories, or if you’re curious about her earlier collections. Doncha want to?

– See more at: http://www.buriedinprint.com/?p=3135#sthash.819Q6Zb5.dpuf

Lives of Girls and Women (1971) I

Early in Lives of Girls and Women, readers learn that Jubilee is “not part of town, but it was not part of the country either”. Del Jordan isn’t exactly sure where she belongs either.

Readers of Dance of the Happy Shades will recognize Jubilee; some of its stories take place overtly in Jubilee too, and others might as well (but not “Sunday Afternoon”, “A Trip to the Coast” or “Dance of the Happy Shades”) although sometimes the small town setting is not identified.

Readers of Alice Munro’s first collection will also recognize that sense of being in-between. Between town and country, yes. But also between girlhood and womanhood.

And they’ll recognize Del Jordan from two of the early stories, “Walker Brothers Cowboy” and “Images”. (And I have the idea that “Boys and Girls is about Del too, but I’m not certain of that yet.)

Every story in Lives of Girls and Women, however, features Del Jordan. Some readers think that makes the book a novel rather than a collection of stories. But Alice Munro is a short story writer.

(That must have been a marketing ploy, scribbling ‘novel’ across the cover of some editions, but I can’t sneer at it because I’ve had a lot of years resisting short stories myself: the then-story-resisting-reader in me might well have picked this up as a novel and overlooked it as a collection. And I wouldn’t have wanted to have missed out.)

Nonetheless, I like the idea of settling into Del Jordan’s world for more than a single story.

There, in Jubilee and on The Flats Road, we meet Mitch Plim and the Potter boys –bootleggers– and bachelor Sandy Stevenson who keeps a grey donkey, and we hear tell of Charlie Buckle’s store and Mrs. McQuade’s whorehouse, and there are doings with Irene Pollox and Frankie Hall, who are a little ‘touched’.

And speaking of ‘touched’, there’s Uncle Benny, who keeps e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and Madeleine, what some might call a ‘real piece of work’.

(The heart of the story is right in there, and there’s a lot to say about the two of them, but I’ll leave that for anyone who might like to leave a comment with a spoiler alert: what a lot of questions this storyline raises!)

In “The Flats Road” we get reacquainted with Jubilee and Del, and Del gets acquainted with madness. This continues in “Heirs of the Living Body”, wherein Del interacts with Aunt Moira’s daughter, Mary Agnes (who “is not an idiot”), but in the second story, Del is primarily preoccupied by a death in the family.

Life in the Jordan home strikes me as both bizarre and ordinary. The propensity for practical jokes add some sparkle to the idea of traditional tales of town-life (or, near-town-life) — and I found myself grinning at the antics of Aunt Elspeth and Auntie Grace, although, ironically, Del notes that the “worst thing that could happen in this life was to have people laughing at you”.

But this was in stark contrast to the more sober and sombre realities of life there. I also found myself immediately and readily responding to Del’s feelings of inadequacy, her inherent feelings of “not measuring up”. (This is also, partly, why I think she might be the narrator in “Boys and Girls”, at least in spirit, but her feelings of falling short are also recalled in “Red Dress-1946, which was definitely not a Del story. Perhaps it’s shared by more girls than not.)

Del observes: “He [Uncle Craig] himself was not hurt or diminished in any way by my unsatisfactoriness, though he would point it out. This was the great difference between disappointing him and disappointing somebody like my mother…”

And, yet, if I recall correctly (from my first reading of this collection, about twenty years ago), Del comes to view her relationship with her mother somewhat differently, if not more positively. (Although I think she continues to struggle with the sense of disappointing other people who have varying expectations of her.)

Nonetheless, she becomes (I think) increasingly aware of the connections between the women in her family. Much as is hinted in her consideration of Uncle Craig’s research into family history: “It was not the individual names that were important, but the whole solid, intricate structure of lives supporting us from the past.”

That which supports us and that which falls through: the first two stories in Lives of Girls and Women consider madness and loss, and the intersections between these states. It might not sound like gripping reading, but I am heartfully absorbed by it.

It’s not too late to join in, if you’ve yet to sample Munro’s stories, or if you’re curious about her earlier collections. Doncha want to?

– See more at: http://www.buriedinprint.com/?p=3135#sthash.819Q6Zb5.dpuf

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