Something wonderful has happened: Alice Munro has been awarded the Nobel Prize! I am so pleased. A long time ago her stories found me. They took me by the arm and sat me down and reached me, when I was having difficulty being reached. I loved Friend of My Youth oh so much that I (unwittingly) gave it to my mother as a present twice, prompting her to ask me if I was suicidal. Which…well, I don't know what that means, but that is a wonderful book of stories. She's one of those writers I feel lucky to be sharing earth-space with. It's like when you see an old, old New Yorker and it has, say, Nabokov or Fitzgerald in it, and you think, "Wow, you got to read those in a magazine, just like it was normal?" That's how I feel when a story of hers appears in a magazine. As though it's something to tell my kids about.
Here is the secret key to making me cry whenever you have a mind to. It's one of the closing paragraphs of "Friend of My Youth." (Please don't show it to me if I am out in public!):
Of course it's my mother I'm thinking of, my mother as she was in those dreams, saying, It's nothing, just this little tremor; saying with such astonishing lighthearted forgiveness, Oh, I knew you'd come someday. My mother suprising me, and doing it almost indifferently. Her mask, her fate, and most of her affliction taken away. How relieved I was, and happy. But I now recall that I was disconcerted as well. I would have to say that I felt slightly cheated. Yes. Offended, tricked, cheated, by this welcome turnaround, by this reprieve. My mother moving rather carelessly out of her old prison, showing options and powers I never dreamed she had, changes more than herself. She changes the bitter lump of love I have carried all this time into a phantom—something useless and uncalled for, like a phantom pregnancy.
Ah—the bitter lump of love. I know it all too well. Everything about that paragraph breaks my heart.
Here is the beautiful first edition I bought at Book-Off for $2.
Oh, Alice Munro, thank you for writing your stories, and breaking my
heart over and over. It is a great blessing that you are in the world.