Monday, January 12, 2009

The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro

This is a collection of twelve short stories by Canadian writer, Alice Munro, many of which were previously published in magazines during the 1970s and 1980s.

Munro’s Introduction gives a revealing glimpse into personal misgivings about her writing and her ‘queasiness’ toward examining her work once she has ‘abandoned’ it to the publishers. She speaks about the way this collection has stories that are “closer to my own life than others are, but not one of them is as close as people seem to think.” (pxiii)

Alice Munro offers this interesting insight into the way experience intersects with her writing:

“When you start out to write a story many things come from distant parts of your mind and attach themselves to it. Some things you thought would be part of it fall away; others expand. So with hope and trepidation and frequent surprise you put the whole things together.” (pxiv)

Some of the short stories come from personal experiences while others come from observation. While they were all written while Munro was living in Canada, Bardon Bus has an Australian setting and was prompted by a visit she made to the southern continent. One of the revealing statements in the Introduction is when Munro says: “I can’t see that travel ever has much effect on me, as a writer.” (pxv)

Munro fascinates with words, drama, humor and pace. She often accompanies her telling of stories with insightful reflection, as in Chaddeleys and Flemings when she recounts a visit by her relatives when she was a girl:

“Connection. That was what it was all about. The cousins were a show in themselves, but they also provided a connection. A connection with the real, and prodigal, and dangerous, world. They knew how to get on in it, they had made it take notice. They could command a classroom, a maternity ward, the public; they knew how to deal with taxi drivers and train conductors.”

“The other connection they provided, and my mother provided as well, was to England and history…” (p6-7)

Like a skilful photographer, Munro often focuses on the unusual, such as her experience of working as a turkey gutter, or the distinctive, as when she highlights the hands of an aunt that were ‘red as a skinned rabbit’.

Each of the short stories are magnificently constructed with introductions that quickly engage, tantalizing images that recur and conclusions that echo in the mind like a rock dropped in a canyon.

Alice Munro, The Moons of Jupiter (London: Vintage, 1982, 2004).

This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 42.00.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of The Moons of Jupiter.