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Love of a Good Woman
by Alice Munroe



Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (1 of 110), Read 148 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 07:22 AM Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro I always find it difficult to talk about whole books of short stories. Where do we start? Do we talk about the individual stories or about the collection as a whole? And if we talk about the stories one by one, how to we keep things straight? I guess the only thing to do is to dig in and try to keep posts clear. Name the story you’re talking about and re-state questions you are answering. That said, let’s go. I have two stories left in this collection. So far what has struck me is that most of the women, even while trying to strike out on their own, seem to be reacting to men one way or the other. Men are the center -- in the men’s eyes (it would seem) and in the women’s. This seems especially true in the two stories I just finished reading “The Children Stay Here” and “Rich as Stink”. I was going to say that the first story “Love of a Good Woman” has a different feel to it. But on considering the question of “do the women revolve around the men” I would have to say “Yes”. What do you all think? Besides this question, there are so many things to talk about. These stories put me squarely in a time and place, living with real people. In a short span of time, Munro is able to create a universe. Sometimes this universe seems somehow slightly different from the one I’m in, but that is what I think makes her writing so compelling. Sherry
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (2 of 110), Read 90 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 10:43 AM Only pieces of these stories transport me; I think those are the parts that are most purely autobiographical in nature or at least based on Munro's personal experience. Elsewhere, where she seems to be creating out of whole imagination, there is a definite change of tone or style that is ever so slightly off-key to me. An example is from the first story, 'Love of a Good Woman', where in the first vignette the boys find the submerged car, return home and keep their mouths shut for a considerable period of time. The vignette is the setup for the remainder of the story, but it simply didn't ring true to me: 12 year old girls might have behaved and acted in that fashion, but in my opinion, 12 year old boys would not have. Result: slightly off key to my ear. The remainder of the story was more on the market, albeit a slightly gothic one. Although much of it seemed strange to me, much modern fiction from a feminine viewpoint has this effect on me. One conclusion I did draw: if this story makes any general statement about how women choose their mates, then the intra-specie chasm is wider than I had previously suspected. I'm about half-way through now, and so far the first story was my least favorite as it seemed somewhat contrived, overall. Remarkable writing, though, and it is quite clear she has been in Vancouver in the winter. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (3 of 110), Read 93 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 03:23 PM Dick, I suspect your criticism of the episode concerning the young boys in the title story is directed at the fact they took so long to tell anyone about their discovery of the automobile with corpse in the river. If so, I agree. I cannot feature boys keeping their mouths shut like that. On the other hand she had some details correct, such as their nonchalantly acting as if they had easy access to firearms and their not using any names when addressing each other while off alone. This kind of thing struck true with me. I really did enjoy the Rupert/Enid section, macabre though it was what with Enid's weird dreams and all. The depiction of the missus lapsing into the ravings of uremia (a bad way to go) was chilling. As to how women chose their mates, there can be no general observations, can there? This was just one story about one woman in a far different time. No question in my mind that Enid and old Rupert lived happily ever after though. Sherry, I'll reserve judgment on the rest of the stories until I read them (good idea, don't you think?), but as to the title story, it featured a woman who was out there in contrast to the majority who were pretty much house bound. Just because the thought of old Rupert started to get her juices flowing did not mean her world revolved or would revolve around him, did it? Now once she and Rupert got together, she must have sworn off the profession of swabbing down people in their death throes, but we cannot deem that a sellout--or perhaps she didn't give it up. Maybe I am too smug in my assumptions. Does anybody believe that Rupert dumped her in the river? Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (4 of 110), Read 98 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 04:19 PM Not me. I think Rupert was the goner. I have to admit I was genuinely surprised by the plot turn, when she revealed the secret Mr. Willen, not to mention his bad end. Munro does this in the other stories I've read so far as well -- not quite deux ex machina devices, but devilish plot twists nonetheless. Appears one of her deals is the unknown and unexpected depths of the apparently ordinary. Sometimes it seems a little forced, I think. Meanwhile, I'm rethinking that decision not to go to optometry school. The Chilblained Lawyer Doesn't Make House Calls, But Is Still...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (5 of 110), Read 105 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 06:03 PM Actually, the woman whose life was revolving around a man was the wife who died, not the visiting nurse (by this time, I've forgotten all their names and the book's upstairs). It was implied that the worry about the "accident" had somehow caused her affliction. Her anger and bitterness all seemed to be because of what her husband had done (and what the secrecy had done to her). She was dying because of what her husband had done. Was she the "good woman" of the title? I was a little surprised by the silence of the boys at the outset, too, but I don't think girls would have been any quieter. In the King short story "The Stand" didn't the boys who saw the dead body keep it quiet from the adults? Or am I just misremembering the movie? I never read the story. Sherry
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (6 of 110), Read 106 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 06:19 PM I finished the book last night and am pleased to see that the discussion is off to a great start. I'm also glad to see that we will have plenty of opportunity to read some "guy" perspectives, because what impressed me most about this collection is that everything is told from the female point of view. I can't think of any adult male character who has an existence independent of the way some woman views him. The little boys in the first story come closest. What impressed me most about the wife who died was how mean she was. I don't think the accident made her sick at all. The illness was just a quirk of fate. We would like to think that we will be patient and long suffering in our final moments here on earth, but in far too many cases it just isn't that way. Illness makes the best of us crabby and bitter. This woman is an example of what happens to the worst. I really wasn't sure what the ending of this story meant. The nurse was very self-righteous, albeit apparently "saintly." She was more than willing to spend the rest of her life visiting the guy in prison. Remember how she intended to remind the guy repeatedly that she couldn't swim? I think she was going to confront him with the accusation that he killed the eye doctor. If this resulted in him throwing her into the river, that may have been just as satisfying to her as nabbing the guy in holy matrimony. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (7 of 110), Read 111 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 09:00 PM Hi everyone, I am convinced that Enid talked herself out of confronting Rupert with the murder of Dr. Willens. "Through her silence, her collaboration in a silence, what benefits could bloom. For others, and herself." In fact, on the first page, "Also there is a red box, which has the letters D.M. Willens, Optometrist printed on it, and a note beside it saying, 'This box of optometrist's instruments though not very old has considerable local significance, since it belonged to Dr. D.M. Willens, who drowned in the Peregrine River, 1951. It escaped the catastrophe and was found, presumably by the anonymous donor, who dispatched it to be a feature of our collection.'" I think Enid found the box when she was later straightening out Rupert's life and sent it to the museum to get rid of the evidence and to keep old Rupert, as Steve calls him. Jane
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (8 of 110), Read 114 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 09:53 PM Jane: I think that's exactly right. I also found the first two paragraphs of 'Rich as Stink' hysterical. I say this as the father of a 15 year-old girl-woman. Haven't finished the book yet, but so far the male-perspective seems to be primarily from the boys in the first story (and, Steve, I agree: the communcal silence, with all the family stuff, struck me off key as to boys of that age; the rollicking down the muddy trail part could have easily been boys or girls, in my experience). Secondarily, Kent's perspective in 'Jakarta' is male, although he is basically clueless within that perspective -- not that Sophie is much better off, it seems. I liked 'Jakarta' though -- particularly the descriptions of hapless, hopeless lefties in full, if sagging, bloom. Knew a million of 'em in the old days. Anyone find it curious that Munro's characters only have impulses to copulation and not say, 'Habitat for Humanity' or making large cupboards full of jam? She seems to have screwing on the brain. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (9 of 110), Read 117 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 10:17 PM I agree, too, Jane. I think you have that sized up exactly right. In fact, I think that Alice Munro uses little artifacts that she runs across as inspirations for stories. She may very well have seen some little box of instruments like this somewhere. In that story from Greatest Short Stories of the Century, she obviously used a book of verse from the 1800's as a jumping off point to spin a yarn. Dick, as to your last paragraph, isn't this why we're reading Alice Munro instead of reading that other gal's short stories about Habitat for Humanity? Am I missing something here? Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (10 of 110), Read 121 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 10:35 PM I don't know anything about Alice Munro, so if she got picked because of the sex angle(as opposed to housing policy, say), I say power to the people! The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (11 of 110), Read 118 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 01:46 AM And what were you doing around all those lefties, Dick? Were you a fellow traveler? Or were you Cointelpro (is that the word I want?) I mean to say, did you ever work for Tricky Dick, as a political narc perchance? This discussion isn't making me want to read this book again, but it is making me want to re-read Open Secrets or one of the earlier books. I think it's time to go to the library and get a Munro fix. Theresa
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (12 of 110), Read 120 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 08:46 AM Theresa: Aside from my attempted romps with Martha, Teri, and a few others, my past is shrouded in mystery, or an alcoholic haze if you prefer. I can say, however, that I never worked for President Nixon, although I did have coffee with him in 1969. Nice fellow. I can see why the Chinese liked him. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (13 of 110), Read 120 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 11:05 AM There can be no doubt that Enid didn't mention her suspicion to Rupert. I think it began as a doubt within herself as to whether or not to believe Mrs. Quinn's story. (I don't know if I believe Mrs. Quinn's story!) At the beginning of her visit after the funeral, pg. 72, it says "If it was true-- and didn't she believe all the time that it was true?-- ", but that section ends with '"Lies" is the word that Enid can hear now, out of all the words that Mrs. Quinn said in that room. Lies. I bet it's all lies.' Enid had already said that "Mrs. Quinn might crack and crack, but there would be nothing but sullen mischief, nothing but rot inside her." On page 76 of the paperback after the talk of silence that Jane mentioned above: "This was what most people knew. A simple thing that it had taken her so long to understand. This was how to keep the world habitable. She had started to weep. Not with grief but with an onslaught of relief that she had not known she was looking for. " I think the relief Enid felt was not just the abandonment of her idea to confront Rupert with the details of the doctor's death, but the beginning of a life lived on her own terms with her own values. You may recall the times that Enid mentioned thinking about something, and her mother would correct her to say "praying about". Also, there is the stated fact that she failed to pursue nursing at her father's request. After his death and her leaving nursing school, it seemed she was pretty much riding whatever current pushed her along. If there was a murder at the Quinn's house, then Jane is correct again that it was Enid who sent the kit to the museum. On the next page, 77, it says: "A house like this, lived in by one family for so long a time, and neglected for the past several years, would have plenty of bins, drawers, shelves, suitcases, trunks, crawl spaces full of things that it would be up to Enid to sort out, saving and labelling some, restoring some to use, sending others by the boxload to the dump. When she got the chance she wouldn't balk at it. She would make this house into a place that had no secrets from her and where all order was as she had decreed." Another author would have referred to the kit somehow in this list, if they wanted the doctor's death solved in the reader's mind. The only place it fits here is "restoring some to use," a pretty vague reference if you ask me. What strikes me about Enid is her constant duty to clear things up. First her patients, and then the thought to clear up the murder, and finally this old house. I wish she'd cleared up this mystery for me! Did everyone else believe the murder occurred as Mrs. Quinn described it? I feel a lot of uncertainty. Again, another author would have confirmed the tale, or not, by relating some incident that happened at a bridge evening or something (you will recall that Dr. Willens was Enid's neighbor, and after her father's death she took his seat at their games). Munro has said many things about patients at the end of their lives that cast doubt on the story to me. The only confirmation that he died there was the detail about the "the pink stuff" that came out of his mouth, and the freshly painted floor, to cover the stain. But nothing outside Mrs. Quinn's story serves to confirm the story totally. Tonya
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (14 of 110), Read 126 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 11:26 AM I guess I'm Gullible Gertie. I believed the murder. At least until you people here started putting doubts into my mind. I've been thinking about the title, The Love of a Good Woman. Remember the old saying about how the love of a good woman can save a man. I'm thinking that Enid is going to "save" Rupert, by not reporting the murder, by getting him to marry her by subtle or not-so-subtle blackmail, by taking over his house and things and restoring them and his life to what she perceives as order. Ruth
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (15 of 110), Read 128 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 12:05 PM I believe the murder. I also believe Enid wanted to disbelieve the murder, because what she really wanted to believe was that it might be possible to consumate some hot sex on Rudy's floor. And as for clearing things up, as my favorite character on Ally McBeal says, "Bygones." The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (16 of 110), Read 132 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 01:00 PM As I said above, I knew nothing about Alice Munro before picking up this book; I know a teeny-tiny bit more now from a good web site in her honor: http://members.aol.com/MunroAlice/reviews.htm The URL is to a section of the site containing reviews of her work (however the entire site is worth looking at). The reviews of 'LOAGW' are interesting to me, in that I disagree fairly strongly with the takes of the reviewers for the NYTimes and the WashPost -- both men. The review from Cavalier (not the men's mag apparently, unless it's taken quite a turn for the better) was the best, by far, I thought, and was by a woman. One of the comments in the Times review that struck me as way wide of the mark was to the effect, "Munro's work is not autobiographical." Maybe I don't know what that word means, properly speaking, but looking at her bio and her stories in this book, I couldn't disagree more. Here's a quote from Munro, taken from another, otherwise undistinguished site, which bears both on the readings and the quasi-accompanying discussion of Martha Stewart's role in American society over in Salon: "In twenty years I've never had a day when I didn't have to think about someone else's needs. And this means the writing has to be fitted around it. " There was no attribution for the quote, other than the author so I don't know when or where she said it. But it's something a good many of the characters in this book could have said, maybe did say. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (17 of 110), Read 135 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 01:56 PM I read this book back in September, which is a practice I will have to stop since my memory of it is spotty. When I read it, I was coincidentally visiting western Ontario, and I was struck by the fact that Munro has captured the terrain of the region so well in her stories. The lakes, the plains were all as I saw them from my car. MAP
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (18 of 110), Read 133 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 09:34 PM Were you drinking to forget? What were the circumstances of the coffee invitation, and who was your employer at that time? Theresa
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (19 of 110), Read 137 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 10:30 PM Please! Turn off the lights! And not the face, please, please, not the face! The Chilblained Lawyer Is Under Heavy Interrogation....
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (20 of 110), Read 138 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Thursday, December 16, 1999 11:24 PM As I read it, I believed the murder and believed Enid wanted to disbelieve the murder, for slightly more complex reasons than Dick stated. After I finished, and looked back over the story, a few doubts started sprouting in my mind. Just read Jakarta this evening. Not a lot there, so I'll proceed to Cortes Island before sleep. Tonya
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (21 of 110), Read 137 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, December 17, 1999 12:37 AM More complex than sex on the floor? What could be more complex than that? Actually, I found 'Jakarta' to be a very entertaining story. The image of the party featuring the earnest Pacific Northwest radicals of the day with the young organization man was perfect, imo. I also found the character of Kent, in old age and dying, to be arresting -- traveling from old friend to old friend, perpetually disappointed at how they fail to measure up to memory or expectation, and wondering all the while, "Will someone remember how well I look to my long lost ex-wife?" Plus the snapshot of the third (at least) wife: "[despite being a year younger than Kent's daughter there was]...nothing of the toy wife about her. Kent had met her after his first operation....[A] serene steady woman who distrusted fashion and irony -- she wore her hair in a braid down her back. She introduced him to yoga, as well as the prescribed exercises, and now she had him taking vitamins and ginseng as well. She was tactful and incurious almost to the point of indifference." I know this woman. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (22 of 110), Read 98 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, December 17, 1999 07:36 AM Dick, I liked "Jakarta" too, especially for the twist involving the radical husband. ***WARNING: PLOT SPOILER**** Both wife and mother secretly believe that he is not really dead, only pretending to be to escape his responsibilities. This seems rather unlikely, given the fact that there are easier ways accomplish this, but it says a lot about this guy's supreme selfishness that the women closest to him think he's capable of it. The wife at least is well rid of him. It's hard to have any sympathy for a guy who doesn't want his wife to wear make-up and then announces to her that he wants to spend the night with some painted woman who is another guy's mistress. Couldn't he at least have the decency to do it behind her back? Jane, regarding the title story, excellent point about the significance of the optometrist's missing box being given to the museum by an anonymous donor. I forgot all about that detail at the beginning. I think that clinches the fact that Enid does marry Rupert, but leaves him with a permanent reminder that he better tow the line or else. Munro definitely suggests it is possible the murder never occurred ("lies,lies"), but I never doubted it. I don't think the dying woman has the imagination or the motivation to invent it from scratch, although I do think she enjoys embroidering the sexual details as she goes along. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (23 of 110), Read 92 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Friday, December 17, 1999 11:41 AM If I said that I disliked "Jakarta", I shouldn't have done. The story was surprising and the characters were interesting. I just didn't have anything in particular to say about it. Another obscure title. I wondered at Sonje and Kath working until non-personal reasons made them both leave; much later than this my oldest sister and her pals were getting out of high school and getting married soon after, and in very few cases did any of them keep their jobs. It was pretty near exactly what Munro says-- spend a year nesting, get pregnant, etc. Tonya
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (24 of 110), Read 95 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, December 17, 1999 11:45 AM "Rich as Stink" didn't please me greatly, despite the dynamite opening paragraphs. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (25 of 110), Read 102 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 02:14 AM Just remember, Dick, silence can be an admission. Theresa
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (26 of 110), Read 97 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 08:21 AM It's been killing me not to get on here and talk about Munro this week, but school is finally out for vacation! Now, I just have to do everything I've been putting off for Christmas. The same quality about Munro that I always find the most striking in her stories hit me in this collection and that's her absolute honesty. She's writing from the perspective of a woman who was coming of age in a very traditional time for women. Most of these women truly can't spend a day, or sometimes even an hour, not thinking about someone else's comfort. Some people would argue that this situation, at basis, hasn't truly changed a lot, but I don't think that's what is important here. The point is that she presents that perspective so incisively and cleanly that almost any reader can see it. I also love the fact that there are very few villains and no heroes (that I can remember) in her stories. Both the women and men are riddled with imperfections. When I first read her stories in the 70's, I was reading feminist fiction that had lost all literary perspective. The women were too good and the men were too bad to be real. Finding Munro was like a breath of fresh air after that. When Munro combines this honesty with the mysteries in the lives of seemingly uncomplicated people, I think she forges an irresistable formula. I just listened to an audiotape version of Open Secrets and realized that her stories, particularly her last three collections, probably need to be read repeatedly. I saw things and understood things on the second time through that didn't occur to me on the first reading. And, I lovehaving you all read this one with me. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (27 of 110), Read 88 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 12:01 PM We enjoy being here reading these with you, Barb. I have been on the road for a couple of days myself and am very happy to be back here. Ann, I could not agree more with you about that scumbag Cottar in Jakarta! He was one of those guys who can skillfully rationalize things like sending his wife to have sex with another man (while he himself undertakes another woman, of course) as all in the service of the cause. Why does she want to find him again? It seems apparent to me that she still adores the bastard. Okay, folks. I have a question for you concerning Cortes Island. You undoubtedly noticed in the clippings in Mr. Gorrie's scrapbook that the wife of the guy who burned up in his house was away on Mr. Gorrie's boat at time. What do you make of that? What story is being hinted at there? Is it possible that woman is the present Mrs. Gorrie? Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (28 of 110), Read 89 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 01:02 PM That was my take on it; and that dad knew about the affair and committed suicide by kerosene (more common in Canada, I understand), while Ralph the strangely distant handy-man son wandered in the woods with apples and bread. Or maybe Ralph pulled a Columbine High on dad who (we would have to assume) was an abusive brute, thus driving mom away to have an affair with Mr. Gorrie. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (29 of 110), Read 93 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 01:07 PM Steve, that thought never occurred to me, although it is certainly an interesting idea. The reader naturally wonders if Gorrie and the guy's wife were having an affair, but the present Mrs. Gorrie is so incredibly irritating I couldn't imagine anyone involved in a voluntary relationship with her. But then, for whatever reasons, Gorrie did marry her, didn't he? Ah, the plot thickens. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (30 of 110), Read 94 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 01:09 PM My impression is that Munro doesn't put much excess information in her stories. If it's there, it's there for a reason. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (31 of 110), Read 94 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 03:33 PM It seems to me that in her last two books, Munro has gotten more and more inscrutable, never tying anything up in a neat little package. It leaves one pondering and mulling over her stories. For whatever reasons, I find myself more drawn to Cortes Island than to LOAGW. Maybe because it all seemed more connected and plausible. I did think the wife on the boat was the present Mrs. Gorrie. And I didn't think she was so weird. I've known women like that. I especially liked the way the bits out how young marrieds first live, and then move on to better digs, was larded throughout. We really had two stories going here, young newlywed woman and the Mrs. Gorrie, who knows all the "right" way to do things. I have a feeling our young protagonist is going to start worrying about mixing whites and coloreds soon, and stop writing in those notebooks. Ruth
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (32 of 110), Read 97 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 03:43 PM Maybe not, though. Didn't happen to the violinist in the last story. Those last two stories in the book were my favorites; both very strong, I thought. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (33 of 110), Read 88 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 09:24 PM Richard, I really liked the last two stories as well, but I didn't like the ending of MY MOTHER'S DREAM. I think that Munro should have stopped the story when the narrator was a baby. It annoyed me that Munro gave the girl's life story in the last couple of pages. It was just too rushed. Jane
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (34 of 110), Read 90 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 09:41 PM Jane: I'm not sure I care for that technique, either, but Munro uses it in other stories as well. She moves through time and space at her own speed on her own whim (much like memory, perhaps), and the reader just has to keep up. With most of the stories, I would start reading and after three pages have to stop and say, "Who ARE all these characters?" realizing that I had couldn't tell mom from grandma from aunt whois, let alone dad, grandpa, and horny grad student who was hiding in the basement. After a re-read or two of the first three pages, and closing my eyes and reciting the character list until I had it memorized, I could follow along pretty well. Not sure, however, whether that's her problem or mine. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (35 of 110), Read 86 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 09:05 AM Finally getting a chance to talk about specific stories... "The Love of a Good Woman" I had fun playing around with the meaning of the title. Enid was the stereotypical "good woman". She grew up being everyone's friend in high school (but no boy's girlfriend), planned to help others by being a nurse, kept her deathbed promise to her father that she wouldn't pursue that career and then fulfilled the role that even family members often don't want to assume by caring for the dying with next to no compensation. You don't get much more "good" than that. When Mrs. Quinn (do you find it interesting that she is referred to as "Mrs." while Enid and Rupert go by their first names?) tells her the story of Mr. Willens' death, her instinct is to follow the same road she's taken thus far in life. She's going to follow the simple good path, "confession is good for the soul", etc. But, she manages to turn all that around and convinces herself to focus all that goodness on Rupert's life, saving him instead...and doing something about those disturbing sexual dreams in the process. As I've said here before, I enjoy watching people whose lives have been plotted between bright lines, who assume all situations have simple solutions, learning that it may be more complex than all that. Perhaps for that reason, I particularly enjoyed watching this process in Enid. What did you think about her reaction to witnessing her father and the woman who was on his knee (the ice cream cone incident)? I loved the irony of using this scene, which Enid's mother convinced her was a dream, to convince herself that Mrs. Quinn's story was a lie as well. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (36 of 110), Read 87 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 09:18 AM "Jakarta" My favorite scene in this story was Kent in the den of the radicals, sticking to traditional viewpoints (when he wasn't even sure he believed them) while the rest of the crowd vilified him in disgust. Do some of you who were around in the 60's and early 70's remember those scenes? I do and Munro couldn't have painted it more accurately, I don't think. Even though it was ugly and uncomfortable, I found myself smiling at how earnestly they used techniques that they would heartily condemn in the opposition to advance their own viewpoints. I'm sure this was not just a phenomenon of that point in time, but I certainly witnessed a lot of it then. My only criticism in this story (hey, maybe I can distance myself from Munro a bit, after all) is that Cottar is much too much the villain. As I said earlier, I find that one of Munro's strengths is that there are no heroes or villains. Cottar seems pretty one-dimensional, however. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (37 of 110), Read 89 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 09:54 AM The only male figure in the book with even a hint of dimension to him is the father/doctor in 'Before the Change'. And even that character is far off, as if viewed through the wrong end of the telescope. Men have such huge effects on the lives of these women, but they seem to know very little about the men, and often times don't even seem very interested. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (38 of 110), Read 94 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 10:23 AM Barb, Regarding the first story, I found it interesting that the mother gave her approval for the private duty nursing, but wanted Enid to promise that she would never marry a farmer. Rupert was a farmer. I feel quite certain that Rupert's future with Enid would not be easy. I don't think she would be able to suppress her thoughts of his guilt for very long. She felt that guilty people must confess and be punished. He would not go to prison, but I think he would pay in other ways. Dick, I agree that the men are very peripheral in these stories. They are important for the effect they have on the lives of these women, but we don't see things from their point of view. I think this is true even in the story "Jakarta." Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (39 of 110), Read 97 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 04:07 PM I certainly do now see what Sherry was driving at in her initial note about the men in these stories, just as you all have before me. I dunno. I still Enid and Rupert are going to live happily ever after. Enid has a tremendous capacity for good old denial. Things did not really happen but were only dreams or lies. The ice cream cone episode to which Barb refers is a prime example of that. She is going to be able to handle this murder by Rupert in the same old way. Cottar was not a one-dimensional villain though, I don't think. For me he was a three-dimensional scum bag armed with the sincerity of his conviction that he was liberated. The main reason I dropped by this afternoon was to confess that Save the Reaper pretty much defied me. An extremely sad story, nightmarish in places. I could pick that up. It was very difficult for me to compute the import of this brush with lesbian sex toward the end and fit that in. Nobody has mentioned this one yet, or at least not that I have noticed. I remember reading this one when it appeared in the mag. A reread has not helped. As with Dick, I think probably the shortcoming is mine, but is this the weakest story in the collection maybe? Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (40 of 110), Read 94 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 07:58 PM I didn't know about that one either. My main impression of the main character was that she was extremely careless. Maybe the daughter was wise to keep her distance from the mother who conceived her during a one night stand in a sleeping car with a foreign guy she knew she would never see again. Although it was inadvertent, she certainly took her grandchildren to a very scary place. Then, at the end of the story, the mother tells the wacked out girl where she lives even though she is frightened of her. Is this woman self-destructive or what? Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (41 of 110), Read 99 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 08:00 PM Also, what is the significance of the title, "Save the Reaper." The only reaper I can think of is the grim reaper, i.e. death. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (42 of 110), Read 100 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 04:11 PM My point was not the development of the characters, Dick, but the villainy. By making Cotter so bad, she made him two-dimensional. She gives us only sketchy information about many of the characters, male and female, though I agree that the male characters are less developed generally. However, even when she gives us just a little information, there are both positive and negative actions, thoughts, etc. in every character. Cotter was just pretty despicable. BTW, though, as I said, I agree that the female characters are more developed, I thought that I knew a great deal about Brian, the husband in "The Children Stay" and Derek in "Rich as Stink." I still have two more stories to read because I try not to read two in a row. They stay more separate in my head that way. Ann, I totally forgot that Enid's mother had made her promise not to marry a farmer. I've got to go back and see if she actually promised, as she did with her father, or if her mother just told her that. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (43 of 110), Read 103 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 04:24 PM And, Dick, thank you for giving us that Alice Munro website. I've bookmarked it and just read the NYTimes review of Love of a Good Woman. Excellent comments there, I recommend it to everyone. BTW, he doesn't say that the stories are not autobiographical, but that they don't feel autobiographical. Small distinction, but important, I think. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (44 of 110), Read 97 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 07:01 PM I think the thing that impresses me most about this collection, and the preceding one, is Munro’s propensity for twitching us about in a direction we never figured the story was heading. In Love of a Good Woman it turns out the story isn’t about the boys at all. In Jakarta, there we are, happily inside the head of Kathe, when all of a sudden we jump forward in time, and we’re with her husband, and she’s almost offstage. Cortes Island is more of a piece, but in Sarnia we’re twitched this way and that. Just as we think, aha, this is what this story is about, Munro forces us into what seems like a detour. Ruth
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (45 of 110), Read 96 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 08:37 PM Ann, your judgment of Eve seems harsh to me. But you know something? I cannot come up with any logical arguments contra. The significance of the title? You got me. I am going to quit looking back though, and drive on to the next one. Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (46 of 110), Read 95 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 08:44 PM Ann: It's a modified line from Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott". The original verse reads: Only reapers, reaping early In among the bearded barley, Hear a song that echoes cheerly From the river winding clearly, Down to tower'd Camelot: And by the moon the reaper weary, Piling sheaves in uplands airy, Listening, whispers "'Tis the fairy Lady of Shalott." Eve changes it to "Save the reaper" in a conversation with Phillip, after they drop the young slut off, while she is trying to recall the lines of the poem. It' significance? Got me. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (47 of 110), Read 101 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 19, 1999 11:40 PM Bingo! Did I ever like The Children Stay! This one alone was worth the whole trip for me. When we read that Pauline and her father-in-law avoided looking at each other "lest their look should reveal a bleakness that would discredit others," we know right away that something is going to give. Not much "hide-the-ball" in this story, but oh so much wisdom so skillfully conveyed. Anybody pondering leaving the spouse for the lover ought to read the paragraph beginning, "Different in kind," as if it would do them any good, as this story so ironically points out. The separate little paragraph about the chronic pain of lost children is superb! And the thing I found to be perfect in this story: When the children grow up, they don't hate her. They don't forgive her either. Really a super story, I thought! Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (48 of 110), Read 90 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 07:39 AM God, I'm loving these notes, everyone. Would never have found the "Save the Reaper" reference from Tennyson. Now, I just have to figure out what she means. The comments from the NYTimes review of this book keep coming back to me, that most of these stories swing back and forth in time from the 60's/70's to the present doing some comparisons and pondering the effects (ineptly paraphrasing there). Eve, the mother, is the risk-taker in this family. Even though she's getting older, she's still taking risks, leaving herself open though the results could be catastrophic. Sophie (in reaction?) is the careful one with the conservative husband. I thought the reference to "Blackbird" school and Sophie saying "You paid for that!" was classic. What a difference in the choices they were making for their children. Then, you have Philip, initially the product of his father, giving Eve that conspiratorial little smile at the end...I had the sense that we had another risk-taker in the making. BTW, my favorite lines in this story involved Eve's thoughts about why she wasn't telling Sophie's husband all the truth about their experience: There are people who carry decency and optimism around with them, who seem to cleanse every atmosphere they settle in, and you can't tell such people things, it is too disruptive. Ian struck Eve as being one of those people, in spite of his present graciousness, and Sophie as being someone who thanked her lucky stars that she had found him. It used to be older people who claimed this protection from you, but now it seemed more and more to be younger people, and someone like Eve had to try not to reveal how she was stranded in between. Her whole life liable to be seen as some sort of unseemly thrashing around, a radical mistake. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (49 of 110), Read 89 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 08:32 AM On 12/20/99 7:39:29 AM, Barbara Moors wrote: >God, I'm loving these notes, >everyone. Would never have >found the "Save the Reaper" >reference from Tennyson. Now, >I just have to figure out what >she means. > >The comments from the NYTimes >review of this book keep >coming back to me, that most >of these stories swing back >and forth in time from the >60's/70's to the present doing >some comparisons and pondering >the effects (ineptly >paraphrasing there). Eve, the >mother, is the risk-taker in >this family. Even though >she's getting older, she's >still taking risks, leaving >herself open though the >results could be catastrophic. >Sophie (in reaction?) is the >careful one with the >conservative husband. I >thought the reference to >"Blackbird" school and Sophie >saying "You paid for that!" >was classic. What a >difference in the choices they >were making for their >children. Then, you have >Philip, initially the product >of his father, giving Eve that >conspiratorial little smile at >the end...I had the sense that >we had another risk-taker in >the making. > >BTW, my favorite lines in this >story involved Eve's thoughts >about why she wasn't telling >Sophie's husband all the truth >about their experience: > >There are people who carry >decency and optimism around >with them, who seem to cleanse >every atmosphere they settle >in, and you can't tell such >people things, it is too >disruptive. Ian struck Eve as >being one of those people, in >spite of his present >graciousness, and Sophie as >being someone who thanked her >lucky stars that she had found >him. It used to be older >people who claimed this >protection from you, but now >it seemed more and more to be >younger people, and someone >like Eve had to try not to >reveal how she was stranded in >between. Her whole life >liable to be seen as some sort >of unseemly thrashing around, >a radical mistake. > >Barb > > Well -- Barb -- your whole note but especially from your "BTW, my favorite lines...." are tipping the scales and now I have to get this book and read this particular story because I think I know one of these "...people who carry decency and honor around with them, ...." And I agree with her assessment that telling such people things is too disruptive. I have this situation and I have a battle with myself -- should I tell things/should I not and what will be gained and what lost if I tell and what does telling do to the person I tell? I have to read this story to see what else relates to me -- some of these have sounded very intriguing but I was trying so hard not to go after another book right now. I may just put it on the list with 5 stars so I don't forget it -- and I am copying your note as an added reminder. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (50 of 110), Read 93 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 08:52 AM Barb, I said Eve was too "careless". Your choice of words, "risk taker", fits much better. The paragraph you quoted implies that the world is a much more threatening place than many choose to believe. That realization must have come to Eve with age, perhaps as the result of taking risks that didn't pay off when she was young. Many, of course, are programmed to always expect the worst from a very young age. However, very few of us are risk takers. Maybe that's why Eve feels "stranded in between." By nature, she is a risk taker, but life has taught her the dangers of such behavior. Steve, I thought "The Children Stay" was a very good story too, but it is hard for me to imagine a woman going off with a lover and realizing only as an after thought that this would mean giving up her children. The youngest of these girls was only 16 months old. Don't you think this is something she would have agonized about beforehand? Or is that what this story is about -- life makes choices for us that we didn't intend? The next story, "Rich as Stink", is also about a mother who leaves her daughter when she leaves her husband. This strikes me as a rather unusual theme for stories set in the 60's and 70's, when mothers almost always got custody of the children when a marriage broke up. Karin, the daughter in "Rich as Stink", wants to spend time with her mother's lover and his wife, not her mother, when she comes to spend the summer. It seems very important to Karin that the marriage of Derek and his wife Ann be preserved. Does this reflect the price Rosemary pays for leaving her daughter? Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (51 of 110), Read 89 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 09:04 PM Ann, I don't think the loss of her children came an as afterthought to Pauline. It seems clear to me that she knew to a tee and in an instant everything she was giving up "when her life was coming adrift in that moment." Munro only very subtly gives us clues at first as to just how trapped Pauline felt with this manchild, Brian, his parents, and the children, too. It is only by her act of leaving that we finally realize how desperate for something better she was and what she was willing to pay for it. Of course she doesn't get something better, but the illusion was too attractive. I think I can clarify this business about women leaving their children in the 60's and 70's. Those was still the days of divorce based upon the concept of fault--extreme cruelty, desertion, adultery, and the like. Whoever was not at fault for the failure of the marriage got all the goodies, including the children. Certainly, a woman who took off with a lover would know right then and there she would never get the children. This was so with Anna Karenina, and it was so with Pauline. Nowadays, with our so called "no fault dissolution of marriage" laws, it is entirely possible for a woman to do this and still get the children. In fact it happens quite often. Excuse the lecture, but I know you are far too young to remember those days. Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (52 of 110), Read 93 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 09:29 PM This business of women during the 50's (in Canada; don't forget it's Canada) doing what, by our standards, are avant kinds of social things is a recurring theme in these stories. The women who try are all successful in their immediate endeavors, it seems, just unhappy in the long term. Has Munro written stories about women in the 80's or 90's, as a point of comparison? The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (53 of 110), Read 94 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 09:36 PM I know it's Canada, Dick, but I think what I said still holds true. I certainly have never run across explicitly 80's and 90's stories by her, but maybe somebody else has. Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (54 of 110), Read 98 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 09:49 PM The book I have is Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Says here, ". . .Munro in her stories and novels is offering the portrait of a rural Protestant society the like of which existed and drew to an end during her lifetime." This article indicates that the fifties, sixties, and early seventies are the most recent time periods that Munro has generally dealt with. Her early work treats women of an earlier time than that. Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (55 of 110), Read 98 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 09:51 PM The only reason I emphasize the Canadian aspect is, it's more Cleaver than the Beaver, socially speaking, in the time and the place we're considering. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (56 of 110), Read 101 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 09:57 PM Ah, I'm with you now. Well put, young man. I was about to drop a Blue Diamond into the U.S. Mails to you just a couple of days ago when it suddenly dawned on me that I might lose my ticket if discovered. Sorry, but the thought was there. Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (57 of 110), Read 99 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 09:59 PM Good point about "fault" and child custody, Steve. I hadn't thought of that. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (58 of 110), Read 105 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 11:04 PM Steve: And what a kind thought it was; however, I have it on good authority from my significant other, that the millennium will be coming in on wings of blue, with diamond tips. Turns out the family female doctor is an aficionado of Pfizer's finest from the distaff perspective, and believes no family should be without, on both sides of the sheets. More later, if I live. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (59 of 110), Read 108 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 11:07 PM And let me hasten to add, your tribute played no small part in the wife's decision to join in the fun. You should be careful with that kind of influence over women, however; in the wrong hands, it could be misused. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (60 of 110), Read 120 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, December 20, 1999 11:52 PM Just as a point of reference, Steve, I can personally attest to the fact that California had no-fault divorce in the early 70's. But I was surprised by how little introspection Pauline seemed to indulge in before she up and left the kids. I would have thunk it would have at least given her pause. Ruth
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (61 of 110), Read 106 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 05:49 AM Munro often writes about women who worked very hard to fit into their community's concept of what a "good woman" was. Then, when they are thoroughly nested into that life, they realize that they are suffocating and want to get out. But, by that time they often have children who are part of that life...what to do then? Ann commented earlier that mothers leaving their children is a recurrent theme for Munro and wondered if it was at all autobiographical. I have no idea if it is, but I certainly think it's part of that whole question that Munro keeps investigating. I thought "The Children Stay" was particularly good as well. Brian was a very likeable guy. I loved that interchange between him and his father in which the father was commenting on their old house and Brian anticipated and one-upped his criticism...after the father asks what kind of neighbors they have, B. answers "Really poor people, Dad. Drug addicts". Having had one of those old houses which my father-in-law detested, I probably especially related to it. You could actually feel the claustrophobia of living in that situation though. All that emphasis on getting along with the in-laws, spending all their vacations with them, Brian's little jokes, etc. Eventually, I started shuddering and I wasn't even sure why at first. At a gut level, the actual thought of the left children is pretty wrenching, Ann, I agree. My mom died when I was 11 and it was probably the defining event of my life. I kept aching for those little girls even more than I felt for the hole it would leave in Pauline. But, Munro did such a good job of painting the cozy little trap that I understood how Pauline could have been that desperate. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (62 of 110), Read 108 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 07:05 AM Yes, Ruthie, California and Iowa were two of the early states to make the switch. Iowa switched in 1970. Perhaps the fact that both Ann and you feel that Pauline did not give much thought to the loss of the children until later and the fact that I am so sure she knew immediately exactly what she was giving up is a function of our own different perspectives rather than a function of anything in the story. Barb, you speak of missing children. That paragraph in The Children Stay about the chronic nature of that pain is as good a description of it as I have seen in so few words. Perceptive of Munro to use involvement in theater as the catalyst for Pauline bolting. The involvement of one partner in the theater has been the rock on which many, many a marriage has foundered, I think. In the "for what it's worth" department: Munro herself first married in 1951. (She would have been twenty.) Three daughters. She separated in 1972 (she would have been forty) and divorced in 1976. Dick, she lived in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., all those years. In the same year that her separated from her husband, she moved to London, Ontario. Munro is her married name. She was born Alice Anne Laidlaw. She has done a number of biographical essays, one of which is titled "How I Met My Husband," interestingly enough. How old is Karin when she goes up in flames in Rich as Stink? Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (63 of 110), Read 110 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 09:19 AM I hadn't heard of these biographical essays, Steve. I'm fascinated. Did you find reference to them on the website that Dick told us about? And, does it tell where to find them? I haven't had a chance to get back there again. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (64 of 110), Read 116 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 09:37 AM I thought Karin was around 13, but I don't remember the story saying specifically. There was some biographical information at the site Dick referenced. Munro indicates that she had a difficult relationship with her own mother, who developed Parkinsons when Munro was a teenager -- 16 was the age given, I think. Mothers can be emotionally absent, as well as physically gone. The first condition may actually be more painful for the child. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (65 of 110), Read 102 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 05:58 PM Karin is 11 in this story. It says on the first page "But she would not look like the ten-year-old who had got on the plane at the end of last summer, either." In "The Children Stay", perhaps Pauline didn't really want the children. In those days, women didn't really have a choice about having a family. It was assumed that if you were married, you would have babies. I have a friend who walked away from a marriage leaving five children. She stayed in touch but they lived with their father. Everyone seemed happier that way. Jane
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (66 of 110), Read 111 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 07:22 PM Hold the presses, Barb! I made another mistake! The reference book is a big one titled Reference Guide to Short Fiction edited by Noelle Watson (St. James Press, 1994). I purchased it off a sale table in some little subterranean bookstore in downtown Omaha last summer, the name of which establishment Ann undoubtedly knows. I did not have the hang of how it works when I wrote that note because I. . .ah. . .er. . .had kinda forgotten that I owned it and had never looked in it. I know how it works now as a direct result of this embarrassment. There are no published autobiographical essays by Alice Munro. I will spare you the details of precisely how that misunderstanding arose here. It was a multi-faceted confusion. The biographical rundown on Alice herself that I transcribed was accurate, however. Great job, Jane! Thank you. I simply missed that. Eleven years old, huh? Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (67 of 110), Read 110 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 09:59 PM Would that bookstore be Kettersons in the Old Market? It's small, but it's the only one I can think of that is "subterranean." It's one of the few independent bookstores to have survived the mega store onslaught. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (68 of 110), Read 115 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 10:54 PM Yep, Ann. That's it. Which reminds me that I have been intending to discuss the subject of the PINK MARBLE facing on the Joslyn Art Museum, but that's a subject for another thread on another day. Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (69 of 110), Read 121 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, December 22, 1999 10:21 AM But Steve, weren't you impressed that they got such a perfect match on that marble for the new addition? BTW, my son's high school is next door to the Joslyn in a building which once housed the state legislature. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (70 of 110), Read 125 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 22, 1999 10:53 AM I was thoroughly impressed, Ann, and primarily wondering where one would even look for marble that pink let alone find it twice! Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (71 of 110), Read 111 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, December 24, 1999 10:20 PM Quite a few notes back Richard remarked favorably about the the last two stories, Before the Change and My Mother's Dream. I could not agree more. Alice really did end this collection strongly--a good kick in the stretch, if you will. If one has read Cider House Rules, there is a great temptation to compare it to Before the Change, a temptation I have decided to resist. This is a beautiful portrayal of a very complex relationship between a father and his daughter, a family relationship that can very easily be more complex than any other. It could have been done for love? Love of whom? Love for that old bat, Mrs. Barrie? Very tricky to figure this out. On the other hand I do know the feeling of seeing money thrown over a bridge or high up into the air. That certainly can bring a feeling of elation. Love letters thrown up in the air can come down with a completely different context, too. Very, very perceptive of Alice, I think. As for My Mother's Dream, has anyone every lived with a colicky baby? In fact do people even use the phrase "colicky baby" anymore? I know we were not seeing a colicky baby in this story in the sense of a baby ill and in pain. However, the effect is the same. Sooner or later the constant din, the lack of sleep, the nerves worn raw will certainly lead one to consider dosing the little thing with something strong. Has anyone yet read Alice's story in the December 27/January 3 issue of The New Yorker? STEVE
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (72 of 110), Read 101 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, December 24, 1999 11:55 PM A number of years ago I worked with a woman whose husband was in some variety of the foreign service. They had been stationed in Greece and Brazil when they had new babies and in both instances had local house-hold help, a practice which was both common and acceptable in those days. In Greece, she was astonished to find that the housekeeper/nanny dealt with a crying boy-child by changing him, feeding him, chucking him under the chin, and when all that didn't work, sliding a nanny-like finger down his diaper and tickling him into quiescence. When the mother questioned this practice, she was advised, quite strongly, that it was very, very bad for babies to cry and that this was entirely proper behavior for a care-giver. She admitted her skepticism, but also admitted that her boy-children grew up with no more than a normal interest in either their nether regions or in Greek nannies. In Brazil, the she found the nanny practicing another local custom with crying children: saturating a handkerchief in stove gas and draping the hanky across the crying child's face, upon which the sobbing little fellow would gasp a few times and fall asleep. Again, she was surprised to learn that in terms of local culture, this was entirely acceptable and that the idea of allowing a baby to "cry itself out" as we barbarous Americans are wont to do, was completely unacceptable to the gentle and beautiful people of Brazil. She also learned that aromatic effects of stove gas were more than an infantile phenomenon -- that Brazilian roues would saturate their lapel handkerchiefs with gas and pull the hankies in mid-dance for quaffs of some variety of hydro-carbon high. I never knew if the kids grew up to become glue-sniffers. I have no idea if any of this (aside from the fact of their overseas stations) is true. I'm only reporting what I was told by a middle-class woman living in Bethesda, Maryland, in about 1977. Still, I found it all very interesting. And, more or less, on topic with the final Munro story in our current collection. Personally, I never had a colicky baby but did have one with very serious illness. I can testify to the extraordinarily wearing effects of an infant's illness, manifested by crying and fussing, on the parents. Very, very difficult. The Chilblained Lawyer Is NOT...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (73 of 110), Read 109 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, December 25, 1999 11:52 PM Thank you, Dick! Gosh, I will be so elated when the holdiays are all over another time and we can get back to shooting the breeze about books. Arrrrrgh! STEVE
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (74 of 110), Read 111 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 12:18 AM The story of the Greek nanny was, of course, a real touchy-feel episode. We can only hope that our Christmases will, in the end, become more Brazilian in nature. God, I love internationalism. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (75 of 110), Read 105 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 11:03 AM Interesting discussion on international child rearing practices, but if we could return to "Before the Change" for a bit--- Does anyone question that the father was carrying on with Mrs. B.? She functioned as the female head of the household and the father deferred to her in odd little ways, such as leaving the T.V. on when her favorite commercials were playing or steering the conversation away from anything that didn't interest her--which was almost everything. My personal theory is that she satisfied his physical needs (for further explication of the nature of male lust, see Lolita discussion), and that may be as close as he could get to love. I think the money was hidden somewhere in the house and she retrieved it while the daughter went to the hospital. All and all, I don't think the doctor would have disapproved. So why did the old doctor perform abortions? Did it have anything to do with the fact that his wife had died in childbirth? The daughter implies that it stemmed in part from his need to control and to make his own rules. I think she recognized this need for control in her own nature, this need to be always right. Authoritarian parents tend to produced authoritarian children, at least in my personal experience. In fact she explained her decision to carry her own baby to term as the result of her need to prove she was right and her hypocritical boyfriend wrong. That rang a bit false to me. Anyone else? Don't you think the the fate of the baby itself would have played a more significant part in her decision? Maybe the daughter in this story learned to bend more. That seems to be the "lesson" of the last story. The daughter-narrator says of her infant battle with her mother: It was Jill. I had to settle for Jill and for what I could get from her, even if it might look like half a loaf. To me it seems that it was only then that I became female. I know that the matter was decided long before I was born and was plain to everybody else since the beginning of my life, but I believe that it was only at the moment when I decided to fight against my mother (which must have been a fight for something like her total surrender) and when I fact I chose survival over victory (death would have been victory), that I took on my female nature. So female nature is to bend rather than break? Does anyone else find this troubling?
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (76 of 110), Read 104 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 11:51 AM I could see no sexual content in the relationship between the doctor and Mrs. B. Perhaps once upon a time, but not at the time of the story. He was an old man without visible sexual impulse, living in a run-down and decaying house. The housekeeper hovered over him, in my mind, more to protect her source of graft than from any emotional attachment. The doctor performed abortions, in my opinion, because this small, illegal niche in the practice of medicine was all that was left to him at the end of his life. I didn't find the ending of the final story either moving or convincing. Talking infants was already done in a movie by Arnold Schwartzenegger (if I recall correctly), and probably better. And the dichotomy Munro poses here (are women by nature flexible and therefore without principles?) is a false one, I think, based on her chosen phraseology. What greater principle could exist than: "I will survive"? But Munro chooses to have her character dismiss this as some kind of lesser choice. As I said, I don't find the ending the best part of the story. The Chilblained Lawyer Is Back And...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (77 of 110), Read 103 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 12:50 PM Dick, The daughter was a university student. Just how old could the old geezer have been? Shudder--our age? I doubt that the sexual impulse had been totally extinguished. I agree that Mrs. B. is an unlikely object of desire, but the older I get the less I am surprised by unlikely couplings. There truly is someone for everyone. You just have to be willing to lower your standards. I saw the abortion business as an occasional supplement to the doctor's regular practice, not its focus. He seemed to have plenty of patients. He didn't want the daughter disturbing them by painting the waiting room, and he told her they didn't like it when she rearranged the magazines. I missed something in that last story. Could you please explain Munro's dichotomy "are women by nature flexible and therefore without principles?" I don't understand the "without principles" part. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (78 of 110), Read 106 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 01:34 PM Ann: I'll have to go back and take a look at why my impression as to these matters was so strong. Fortunately, I closed the office this week and have the luxury of some time...for a change. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (79 of 110), Read 105 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sara Sauers (stsauers@worldnet.att.net) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 05:59 PM Going back to a question raised about 'Cortes Island'... (I am a bit behind you all in this book.) Okay, I have to admit I was surprised by the various interpretations of the death of Mr Wild. I not only think that it was the current Mrs Gorrie on that boat during the fire, but that Mr & Mrs Gorrie set her first husband on fire so that they could be together. Somehow, as planned or not, Mrs Gorrie's son escaped. That is the (now) nearly catatonic Ray. Doesn't this best fit the darkness in Munro's characters? And, as a bit of evidence to back me up, Ray is introduced only as 'Mrs Gorrie's son,' on the first page. And, in the italic 'thoughts of the bride' that follow the newspaper clippings is this: 'Did you ever think that people's lives could be like that and end up like this? Well, they can.' It's murder they've lived with, I'm sure of it! This book is a scorcher!!!! Sara
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (80 of 110), Read 109 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 06:49 PM Sara, Oh, I do like that interpretation. It makes everything fit together, doesn't it? Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (81 of 110), Read 107 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 08:07 PM I agree, Sara. I think you are right on the money there. In fact it would be good for me to reread that one now. Did you figure this out immediately? I was with Dick on that one at first, Ann. However, you have shaken my faith. That would be the best way to explain this remark that he may have done it for love near the end of the story. There was just was no hint of this earlier though. I think Alice Munro writes out these stories at first telling everything completely. Then she goes back and lops out big chunks of those same stories to make them this ambiguous and mysterious. I'll just bet that's what she does. STEVE
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (82 of 110), Read 108 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 08:34 PM Ann: You asked about a couple of points I raised earlier, and I said I would look at the stories and try to respond. First, as to the infant narrator surrendering her principles, I drew that from the same paragraph I believe you quoted, where she says: "To me it seems that it was only then that I became female. I knew that the matter was decided long before I was born and was plain to everybody else since the beginning of my life, but I believe that it was only at the moment when I decided to come back, when I gave up the fight against my mother (which must have been a fight for something like her total surrender) and when in fact I chose survival over death (death would have been victory), that I took on my female nature." Those lines, to me, state a compromise, on a fundamentally important point for the narrator; the first compromise, arguably of many, that are inherent in "being female", at least in the kind of female life described by Munro. And it is an essentially practical surrender: life in lieu of principle. Hence, my comment. Your second question regarding the nature of the relationship between the Dr. and Mrs. B required me to look back over the story a second and third time. And, it's clear that I misspoke about the semi-retired nature of the doctor, since it is very clear he had a more extensive practice than the occasional abortion. My impression on the age of the doctor and the housekeeper was reinforced by the rereading, partly it turns out because of Munro's descriptions of Mrs. B (Mrs. B has "a small, withered face", and "old toothpick bones") as well as other, smaller clues. Thus, the doctor's breathing is labored and noisy, more like an elderly person; Mrs. B.'s husband has suffered for emphysema "half his life" which to me indicates some significant age for he and his wife; Mrs. B observes she believes the Dr. is "looking poorly", something that sounds aged to me; and finally, the description of the delapidated and decaying house and surgery sounded like the abode of the old, after they pass the point of caring about appearances: "The waiting-room walls are scuffed all round where generations of patients have leaned their chairs back against them....[A]nd the wastebaskets -- they're wicker -- are mangled all around the top as if eaten by rats. And the house it's no better. Cracks like brown hairs in the downstairs washbasin and disconcerting spot of rust in the toilet....It's silly but the most disturbing thing I think is all the coupons and advertising flyers. They're in drawers and stuck under saucers or lying around loose and the sales or discounts they're advertising are weeks or months or years in the past." All this reeks of old age to me, and not merely the stately and dignified age I (for example) have reached. My theory would be the daughter was the product of either a late marriage for the doctor (around 50 or so) or perhaps her mother died after a late, menopausal pregnancy. I know I'm reading a great deal from very few tea leaves here, but of course, that's all Alice left me. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (83 of 110), Read 107 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 09:46 PM Steve, I think you have a good theory regarding Munro's method of writing. My bet is that these stories aren't nearly as ambiguous to her as they are to us, although I suspect she keeps alternate versions in her head that she uses to tease us. Dick, I am not convinced that giving in involves surrendering one's principles, although it obviously requires compromise and flexibility. But there was something about this passage that really grated on my nerves, maybe because because it struck me as a throw back to a pre-feminist era. Why did this need to "give in" define the narrator as a female? Why not as a human being? You make a good case for the age of Mrs. B. and the doctor. I still see their relationship as a pseudo-marriage, which at one point at least was sexual. The doctor deferred to Mrs. B. and showed her much more respect than he ever granted his daughter, much to her chagrin. The two seemed so compatible that I rejected the idea of blackmail, although one could make a case for it. How do you interpret her hold on him? Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (84 of 110), Read 110 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sara Sauers (stsauers@worldnet.att.net) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 10:24 PM Wild Man, interesting idea regarding Munro's writing technique. Even if she does nothing of the sort, that's pretty much what it feels like. The intriguing thing about this is that as I read each story I keep thinking Munro is leaving too much out and that I won't 'get it.' When I am finished, however, I feel absolutely overwhelmed by the information I have taken in. So much so that I have not been able to go directly from one story to the next in this book without sleeping off or working off the previous one. What goes unsaid packs a tremendous wallop. Regarding your question about the 'murder' in 'Cortes Island,' yes, that is what I thought from the time I read the newspaper clippings in the story. That's why I was so interested to read this thread and see the question asked and discussed! I think it's great when this happens, and Munro has always been good fodder for this kind of puzzle solving on this board. Sara
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (85 of 110), Read 106 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 10:30 PM Ann & Dick, I read that "female surrender" business as not so much an innate female characteristic, but one that has often been forced upon women by cultural and societal expectations. Ruth
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (86 of 110), Read 111 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 10:51 PM As for the talking baby, I thought what she gave up was the idea that she could, or should, achieve anyone's total surrender - even her mother's. Many men are able to hang onto this delusion quite late in their lives, very few women (Elizabeth I maybe? Catherine the Great?) Anyway, I don't necessarily see this "surrender" as a bad thing - this is how an infant became a social creature, of sorts, isn't it? I don't think it has anything to do with principle. I didn't think the doctor and the housekeeper had a physical relationship. I did think he was very emotionally dependent on her, in a rather twisted way. And that she may not have been blackmailing him overtly, but that he may have (even wanted to) seen potential blackmail. My impression is, because of the nature of their jobs, many doctors become compassionate for human foibles and trials, but in a very pragmatic way. This could have been his impetus to start the abortions, and the housekeeper could have been his self-inflicted punishment for doing what was not accepted by his community. As for their age, remember the daughter was college age, and she is the narrator. So maybe they just appeared old in her eyes. And the way he lived reminded me of Margaret Laurence's novels - Canadian's in the fifties living very bleak lives, both physically and emotionally, even when it wasn't really necessary. Of course Mrs. Gorrie (great name, huh?) was the former Mrs. Wild. I didn't realize there was room for doubt on that one. I don't buy the theory that Munro chops off parts of her stories. There is always plenty of information there - she is just subtle - you must draw your own conclusions, just like real life. Theresa
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (87 of 110), Read 111 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 11:29 PM Ann: You state, "I am not convinced that giving in involves surrendering one's principles, although it obviously requires compromise and flexibility", and I agree, at least in the appropriate circumstance. My original point was only that, in my opinion at least, Munro's character wouldn't have agreed with that assessment. And Theresa's point is interesting: that some principles are so repugnant they should be given up. I hadn't thought of that as one of Munro's possible lessons but it's at least plausible. And there's no question in my mind that there was a dependency relationship of some sort between the good doctor and Mrs. B. It's just that I never felt it or understood it to be sexual -- perhaps an emotional/financial kind of deal, sans physical aspect, which again suggests something of the elderly to me. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (88 of 110), Read 114 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 11:57 PM I never, ever considered a physical relationship between the doctor and Mrs. B. I never saw one hinted at in the story. I supposed that he wanted to be as accommodating as possible to her, since she knew his illegal business. Losing her would have meant finding not just another employee, but another partner in crime. Upon finishing the story, I assumed that the doctor had paid something for her silence, and I assumed he was successfully blackmailed due to the unplanned return of his daughter. He had been doing abortions in the evenings for her whole life, and he must have been slow to adapt to her as an adult in the house now, and one that he could think about trusting. I guess I assumed he handed Mrs. B. a check at about the same time he wrote his daughter the $5000 check. But now I like Ann's idea that she knew where money was hidden in the house, and she helped herself to it after the doctor died. I like it, but it would take a re-reading to see if I can believe it. Tonya
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (89 of 110), Read 113 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Sunday, December 26, 1999 11:44 PM It is interesting to come back in and see people complaining about the baby as narrator. I didn't exactly see it that way, it was an older person telling a story about when they were a baby, the story ended with many years capsulized in the last two and a half pages. But it is interesting because the style of Before the Change really grated on me; the series of letters to Robin that were never mailed. I have had this problem before, but I can't name the books or stories now. My trouble (and maybe it's just me) is that I don't know anybody who writes letters or diary entries that sound this way-- like a story, with lengthy conversations, using quotation marks, almost totally abandoning the addressee after the "Dear R.". I might have liked the story much more had it been told like the others, as a short story. Now, since last week has felt about a month long, it is hard to remember the last comments I made, but I probably quit posting during the Jakarta discussion. For the record, I didn't think there was any question Mrs. Gorrie was the widow either. Suicide is easier to believe than murder because of the son's immediate recollection that his father had given him an apple or something, and sent him out of the house. When Mr. Gorrie shared the clippings with the little bride, I thought more in terms of "look what we drove him to" than "look what we did". And I thought that her son Ray either knew that or felt it, and that accounted for his cold attitude toward his mother. The next three stories didn't get much attention, probably because of Christmas, but I liked them all. Tonya
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (90 of 110), Read 74 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, December 27, 1999 06:00 PM Tonya, I think the story does suggest the doctor loved Mrs. B., although I may have been leaping to conclusions when I equated love with sex. The daughter says on the second to the last page "I knew where the money had gone." To me, it seems obvious that she meant Mrs. B. On the last page she says: "What I've been shying away from is that it could have been done for love. For love, then. Never rule that out." I interpreted this as a tentative explanation (only one of course) of why her father gave Mrs. B. the money. Did you see this differently? Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (91 of 110), Read 65 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Tuesday, December 28, 1999 11:47 PM Ann, When I read the "What I've been shying away from is that it could have been done for love" line, I was shying away from traditional love. I guess Mrs. B was never lovable enough for me to see it that way. Of course, that is not to say I'm right... Tonya
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (92 of 110), Read 61 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 09:12 AM How could Christmas keep me away from an outstanding discussion of Alice Munro's stories?!? I don't know, but it certainly did. After reading what you all had to say about "Before the Change", I went back and reread that story. Prior to that, I assumed that Mrs. Barrie had been blackmailing the father all along and this steady flow of cash had been the reason he left so little upon his death. However, a couple of points jumped out at me this time. After the funeral, the daughter calls Mrs. Barrie to ask her if she'd like to come back and get a keepsake from the house. When Mrs. Barrie comes and only gathers up cleaning supplies and the daughter asks her if there isn't anything else she wants, Mrs. Barrie is described as possibly chewing back a smile when she says there's "nothing here I'd have much use for." Then, the nephew's wife picks her up in a car that was "not the usual car the nephew's wife drove." Gorgeous car," I called out, because I thought that was a compliment both women would appreciate. I didn't know what make the car was, but it was shining new and large and glamorous. A silvery lilac color. The nephew's wife called out, "Oh yeah," and Mrs. Barrie ducked her head in acknowledgment. So, somehow Mrs. Barrie has come into new money and lots of it. This certainly leads me to believe that she found her "keepsake" when she was left alone at the house after the father's stroke. And, the emphasis on the lawyer telling the daughter to look carefully for a hiding place in the house makes me think that there actually was one. It also fits with that small town way of thinking that Munro generally describes so perfectly. As for the relationship between Mrs. Barrie and the father, I hadn't thought of any sexual possibilities before. I, too, thought of both of them as being fairly old. I assumed that the father was in his 60's or 70's. The scene in which the daughter realizes that Mrs. Barrie is coloring her hair ("Your head's bleeding") happens when she is still a girl. So, Mrs. Barrie was old enough then to be getting significant grey hair. I suppose their relationship could have been sexual at one time. But, I'm guessing that whether it was sexual or not, the father may have appreciated Mrs. Barrie because she kept her mouth shut and did her job including the abortion assistance. But, how to interpret the "for love" then? The implication is that it was love for Mrs. Barrie and that the money was given to her for that love. In that case, it wouldn't have been a case of Mrs. Barrie finding the money, but perhaps that the father had told her where it was and that she could get it upon his death? I'm starting to think that one of Munro's classifications could be mystery writer. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (93 of 110), Read 60 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 11:36 AM The daughter also toys or at least suggests obliquely, the blackmail theme, I think. Overall, I put the entire question down to the essential mystery of the father-daughter relation here. She didn't understand damn-all about him and vice-versa. I suppose from Munro's standpoint, it didn't matter much whether it was love or blackmail -- just that there was an inscrutable tie that the daughter simply didn't understand. I'm just glad Alice isn't my mum, if her fiction in fact reflects the workings of her inner life. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (94 of 110), Read 62 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 11:40 AM Sara, I'm delighted that you have the time to be in on this discussion. But, now I'm going to need to reread "Cortes Island" as well as the other stories being talked about here. I had assumed that Mr. Gorrie had been the one who had had the affair with the woman who left the island, but I had also assumed that the husband had committed suicide. The idea that they had plotted to kill him is quite a juicy one. I had already been wrestling with the idea that Mrs. Gorrie was the woman on the island. All of these ideas fit in with Munro's theme of the layers of secrets beneath people's seemingly mundane lives, however. I'll be back after this reread. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (95 of 110), Read 61 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 12:20 PM Ann, regarding that paragraph in "My Mother's Dream" about learning what it is to be female, I don't think Munro usually writes about what she wishes were the state of things, but what she perceives as the reality. Also, I agree with what Ruth said about what is innate versus what is imposed by the culture. The narrator was learning what it was to be female in that time and in that place. And, Jill's decision to accept motherhood is part of that as well. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (96 of 110), Read 62 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 03:13 PM Which of course may explain to some extent why Richard and I, handicapped by our gender as we are, have floundered a little bit with these stories. We are doing our utmost to understand this female stuff though, aren't we, Dick? Giving it our best try anyway. STEVE
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (97 of 110), Read 65 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 05:10 PM Dick, You referred to the essential nature of the father-daughter relationship in "Before the Change." Of course, we only see the daughter's side of it, but that father sure could be mean. On page 279, the daughter says that when she told her Dad about the broken engagement, he replied: Oh-oh. Do you think you'll ever manage to get another one. Earlier in the story she describes his expression as follows: It's as if he's got a list of offenses both remembered and anticipated and he's letting it be known how his patience can be tried by what you know you do wrong but also by what you don't even suspect. No wonder she had such an exhilarating feeling of freedom after she turned over most of the money to Mrs. B. I'd want to sever all connections too. Stories like this make me think I'm a pretty good parent after all. Okay, you guys, so I'm the only one who thought about a sexual connection when reading the story. I must have spent too much time with Lolita recently. In another lifetime, I worked as a caseworker for the county. My caseload consisted of elderly and disabled people and included the downtown wino hotels. That experience taught me that sex has little to do with personal attractiveness. Could be it also made me more likely to look for the dirt in personal relationships. Ann, not really perverted, in Nebraska
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (98 of 110), Read 63 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 08:37 PM Ann, I thought that there was a sexual relationship there as well, so don't feel bad. I haven't posted about it, because you were expressing my feelings exactly. I was just being lazy. These other people are just puritans!! Jane
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (99 of 110), Read 65 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 09:20 PM BTW, I was dyeing my hair at 33, and certainly not ready to become a nun. Ruth
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (100 of 110), Read 67 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 10:08 PM Jane, It's most reassuring to know that there is at least one other non-Puritan out there. Ruth, I started coloring my hair in my late 30's. At the time, I told myself I'd stop when I was 50. Guess I was operating under the assumption that by that time I'd be so decrepit that it wouldn't matter any more. Well, here I am at the grand old age of 52, and I'm still washing that grey away. Also, like the girl in the story, my kids probably think their parents are ancient history too. I know I did when I was their age. Time does tend to change one's perspective. Ann
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (101 of 110), Read 67 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 10:12 PM Steve: I've been trying so hard for a distaff viewpoint on these stories, I dressed up in nylons and a Wonder-Bra just to read 'em. Some this feminine viewpoint is apparently more than skin-deep, however. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (102 of 110), Read 90 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 10:45 PM Frankly Scarlett, I don't understand what you men are finding so upsetting about this book, but it sure seems to have set you off your feed. Slightly mysterious, open-ended, heck even open-middled, the stories are, but I'm damned if I see anything so mysteriously "feminine" as to preclude any understanding by bearers of the Y chromosome. (And Ann, I told myself I'd stop at 50, then I moved it up to 60. Heck, they had to shave my head before I finally kicked the habit.) Ruth, in a bit of a snit
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (103 of 110), Read 85 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 11:22 PM O.K., Ruth, I'll read 'em again in my boxers, and give you the straight, unadulterated male viewpoint. No more Mr. Sensitive here. The Chilblained Lawyer Has Slapped On An Extra Testosterone Patch, But Is Otherwise...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (104 of 110), Read 85 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, December 30, 1999 01:37 AM Di-ick. You don't get it. I'm complaining that you're reading this with the testosterone patch. I want you to take it off. Forget the male/female gig. Just read the stories. Ruth
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (105 of 110), Read 83 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, December 30, 1999 07:48 AM Actually, Steve and Dick, I've been overjoyed that both of you joined in for this read. And, I didn't feel any of this gender reaction stuff until Steve's note after my comments on the "learning what it is to be female" paragraph. What was in my note that set this off? I'm baffled. Barb
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (106 of 110), Read 85 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Steve Warbasse (warbasse@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, December 30, 1999 09:51 AM Ladies, Ladies! Let us pretend I didn't say that. Richard and I just like to roil the waters occasionally to see what floats to the top. I know that I speak for him, too, when I say that we both have enjoyed these stories immensely. Steve
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (107 of 110), Read 46 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, December 30, 1999 09:07 PM Sir Richard, I know what your problem is. Those Wonderbras are damned uncomfortable. They are just a re-working of the old push-up bra from the 60's. Throw the thing away. Get rid of the nylons and then you will feel truly liberated. (Am I turning into Gloria Steinem as I approach my 53rd birthday?) Jane
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (108 of 110), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, December 30, 1999 10:08 PM Plus, I didn't develop enough of a bust line to really justify a Wonder-Bra until I was into my 40's. Talk about a late developer. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (109 of 110), Read 60 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Friday, December 31, 1999 12:59 AM Dick, I think you've somehow missed the entire point of the Wonder Bra. Now that you have that bustline, you don't need it! Theresa
Topic: LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN by Alice Munro (110 of 110), Read 62 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, December 31, 1999 01:20 AM Theresa: It's one of those unfortunate guy things. When you get a bust line, you need the bra. We never have a firm moment. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...

 
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Alice Munro

 

 
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