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Open Secrets
by Alice Munro



 
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/17 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 1:02 PM Steve, Ann, Barbara, Princesses, et al: I was emboldened enough by my (apparent) understanding of the story "A Real Life" in Munro's collection OPEN SECRETS to venture farther, reading the title story and "Spaceships Have Landed" last night to soothe my mind after the family Easter hurrah. But now I find myself in over my head again, and desperately seeking enlightenment. I think Munro's style is gorgeous, distinctive, and occasionally studded with those small turns of phrase that capture a difficult concept so perfectly, and so simply, you wonder why nobody's ever thought to say it that way before. The stories are thick with a beautifully understated atmosphere partway between menace and mysticism--an atmosphere created as much by what's NOT said as by what is. And her skill at juggling point-of-view and narrative transitions is amazing. But... Each story seems to end with a definite Joyce-like epiphany in which the "secret" is laid open for all. But I'm left clueless as to what the endings mean, and how they relate to everything that went before. It's not that I'm of two minds about the ending, as in some stories that leave you with a delicious ambiguity--wondering whether (a) or (b), both equally valid outcomes, is the case. With much of Munro I'm of NO mind about the ending, i.e. in the dark. For instance, the last line of "Open Secrets," when it's said of Maureen, who's making custard, "...In kitchens hundreds and thousands of miles away, she'll watch the soft skin form on the back of a wooden spoon and her memory will twitch, but it will not quite reveal to her this moment when she seems to be looking into an open secret, something not startling until you think of trying to tell it." Meaning (as I suspect, from the choice of language) that something in what she's seen or heard that day gives her a specific clue about what really happened to the missing girl? Or rather, is she just feeling a general amazement at how weird and unknowable the world is? Comments, please. Reptilian-brained Dale in Puzzled, Ala. =============== Reply 3 of Note 1 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/17 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 2:15 PM Dale, I love that you all are reading one of my favorite writers with me. I enjoyed "A Real Life" as well. I liked Dorrie Beck intensely and loved the interplay between these three women who were symbols (to me) of three such very different kinds of women. However, I too am stumped by "Open Secrets". I don't have a clue what the hand pushed onto the burner signifies and who Maureen sees doing that. I got the feeling that she thinks that Theo, Marian's husband, had something to do with the girl's disappearance and that they are trying to blame it on Mr. Siddicup, but I didn't understand how it all came together. Ellen said on another note that she's reading these stories too, so I'm hoping she'll have some insights...or maybe others who are reading this collection? I enjoyed your description of Munro's style. It put into words so many things that I feel about her writing. Also, the characters that she frequently uses in her stories remind me of my relatives in Nebraska or people I grew up with in Indiana, though her's are freqently from small towns in Ontario. In "Open Secrets" when she said, "Like many country women and Carstairs women too, she referred to her husband as *he*-it was spoken with a special emphasis-rather than calling him by his name", I thought how often I've noted the same habit of language in certain women. I also loved the following description of adolescent girls: "She remembered how noisy she had been then. A shrieker, a dare-taker. Just before she hit high school, a giddiness either genuine or faked or half-and-half became available to her. Soon it vanished, her bold body vanished inside this ample one, and she became a studious, shy girl, a blusher. She developed the qualities her husband would see and value when hiring and proposing." "*I dare you to run away.* Was it possible? There are times when girls are inspired, when they want the risks to go on and on. They want to be heroines, regardless. They want to take a joke beyond where anybody has ever taken it before. To be careless, dauntless, to create havoc--that was the last hope of girls." I never fail to smile and nod by head at some point while I'm reading a Munro story. And, that's keeps me reading them even when I'm puzzled by an ending such as the one in "Open Secret". Again, can anyone else enlighten us? Barbara =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/17 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:46 PM OPEN SECRETS readers: Dale, I liked your note about these stories. Although I don't doubt that they are very well written, I found myself unsatisfied after reading most of them, wondering what had really happened. I had to keep reminding myself that the title of the book was OPEN SECRETS, so maybe the plot was a secret from the readers as well. At the end of the Albanian Virgin I wanted some resolution, instead of the couple just leaving the hospital. Perhaps because they were short stories rather than novels, I found I didn't get too emotionally involved with any of the characters. The one exception that I remember was the story about the librarian who had the young, unknown soldier fall in love with her and write her letters during the war. Then he died in a hideous accident. What about the end of that story? It was really unusual and I didn't know what to think about it at all. Have any of you gotten to that yet? Sorry, I don't remember the name of the story. It's been awhile since I read it. =============== Reply 5 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/18 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 0:24 AM I believe I have an explanation for these differences in the ways men's and women's brains operate: deep inside every male's cranium there must be what we may call a Neural Resource Allocation Center, whose task it is to evaluate demands being made on the brain and assign them to this or that lobe, gyrus, or convolution. (Picture a little guy sitting in a chamber of wall-to-wall switchboards.) So, when faced with one of the problems they give to subjects in these kinds of experiments, the immediate reaction is: "If you think I'm releasing one synapse more than the minimum to deal with this tripe, you're nuts!" I bet that if you gave a guy in such a study something meaningful and significant to do, like, for example, analyzing a page of box scores, you'd see lights going on all over the place. How ever did we get to this point from Theresa's original note about THE ENGLISH PATIENT? What an unruly lot this is..... Allen =============== Reply 6 of Note 1 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 04/18 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:09 PM Hi, Theresa! I've been crouching in the corner of CR for a while now, and I've decided to pop up today for an answer to your survey. I admire GREATLY the style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I've been singing his praises elsewhere on the boards whenever I get the chance to plug him. His writing style is nothing less than magical. Lisa, crouching no more =============== Reply 7 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/18 From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 6:22 PM Hi Barbara, and all OPEN SECRET readers, Thanks for letting me know the discussion about this book was going on in this note...I was missing it all along. In THE ALBANIAN VIRGIN, I agree with you Barbara that Lottar and the Franciscan are the same as Charlotte and Gjurdhi. My question is...did anyone get the impression that Gjurdhi stole the money from the notary and killed him? "I was also thinking about the notary public, who had been beaten about the head the night before, in his office on Johnson Steet." Why else would this be mentioned. After- words, Gjurdhi comes to the hospital and is throwing around piles of money. What do you think? And in CARRIED AWY, which I enjoyed reading tremendously as I felt the librarian was a well drawn character, was she talking to the soldier at the end? Did he manufacture his death somehow to escape? I couldn't really figure out how he could have done that. Or was she dreaming that she was talking with him? Help! The stories are puzzles but I am enjoying them very much as I like a challenge. And two more quick thoughts on THE ALBANIAN VIRGIN...didn't the story loosely remind you of THE FRENCH LEIUTENANTS WOMAN with the connected relationships,and what does all this say about the narrator's relationship with her returned lover, Nelson? I didn't care for any of the three men in the story, Nelson, Gjurdhi or the Franciscan but liked all three of the women and will have to ponder that point for a while also. Ellen ********** To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 04/19 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 0:12 AM Lisa: The only thing better than having a former lurker join the Constant Reader extended family (welcome!) is if he/she arrives with praise of my favorite author, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. There's been sporadic debate here as to whether a particular writer or book can actually "influence" someone, but I must say that since I first read GG-M's ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, 15 years or so ago, my reading and writing lives have never been the same. I'm also in awe of his short stories, such as "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" and "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," which have changed the way I view the world and have added a powerful interpretive voice to my subconscious. As we say here in the South, whereabouts are you from? Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 4 of Note 2 =================  
To: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Date: 04/19 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 8:54 AM Ellen--Glad you found us and glad that it occurred to me that the discussion might be hard to find under an English Patient note! I had never thought about Gjurdi stealing the money from the notary public, but that certainly makes sense. Munro does throw in a lot of information in stories that I can't connect to anything. I never mind because I like the stories so much. Would like to believe that the death of the notary public was incidental because I hate to think that Gjurdi had none of the Franciscan priest left in him, but his religion in Maltsia e madhe certainly did seem to be of the pragmatic sort. Also, I haven't read THE FRENCH LEIUTENANT'S WOMAN for a *long* time so I can't compare them (unfortunately.) I'm trying to remember if there are male characters in Munro's stories that are truly clear or that I like much--that's a sobering thought, eh? Her female characters ring so true with me, to a greater extent than any other author I can think of at the moment, that I hadn't noticed the lacking in the male ones. In CARRIED AWAY, I thought that the whole final scene with Jack Agnew was a hallucination (maybe too strong a word...maybe more like mental wandering). Remember that she had gone to Toronto to see a heart specialist and that the doctor said that "her heart was a little wonky and her pulse inclined to be jumpy" (couldn't you relate to her irritation with doctors who patronizingly describe things like that?!?). Then, when she crossed through the park and saw the gathering, she said that she was beginning to feel a "faintly sickening, familiar agitation. She could feel that over nothing. But once it got going, telling herself that it was over nothing did no good." I sort of felt that the stress of her life had finally caught up with her, with maybe some anxiety attacks and periods of leaving reality. When I went back and thought through the events of her life as they are given piecemeal throughout the story, she had learned to be one of those stalwart sorts who represses her own needs to cope with what life has given her. Other than the doctor in the sanitorium when she was a girl, Agnew represented her one romantic hope, memory, etc. Does any of that make sense or am I just off rambling? What did you think of "A Real Life"? I couldn't get over how much I liked the character of Dorrie. And I liked the constrast of her with Millicent and Muriel. And also loved "A Wilderness Station". In the front of the book, it says "Some parts of the journal section of 'A Wilderness Station" are taken from the account written by Robert B. Laidlaw in 1907.' " I've read one other story of her's that tells the story of a woman in an earlier time period based on historical papers that she had found and that one was excellent too. And, what about the "Open Secrets" story that Dale and I were talking about. For me, that was the most puzzling story yet (I'm only as far as "Wilderness Station". When love to know what others thought about it. I don't understand the hand on the stove, etc. Saw your comments in Classics regarding short stories and I agree totally. Short stories are an art form in and of themselves to me and I always hate to see them treated as some lesser form. Barbara =============== Reply 5 of Note 2 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 04/19 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 8:54 AM Ann--Meant to get back to you right away on your note, but my life got in the way. Hopefully, you'll read the note before this one about the story that you are talking about ("Carried Away"). Let us know what you think. Barb =============== Reply 6 of Note 2 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/19 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 10:59 PM Barb, I wasn't sure what to make of the ending of Carried Away, although it was my favorite story in OPEN SECRETS. This seems crazy, but I almost felt that there was some kind of parallel universe in which Jack Agnew really did survive and have another life. I think your explanation actually makes the most sense. Ann =============== Reply 7 of Note 2 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 04/19 From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 11:47 PM Ann, In CARRIED AWAY, Jack thinks his life is successful in the fact that his wife and daughter a doing quite well when actually they are not. I wondered what you think about this? Does this mean that Jack was always a dreamer beginning with his letters to a girl professing love when he actually had an engagement going at home and now continuing with the fact that he thinks his daughter is a teacher when she actually is a part-time maid. I think the parallel universe theory sounds realistic too. Maybe this is what was going on in THE ALBANIAN VIRGIN with Gjurdhi and Charlotte. And still I want to know what Charlotte, Gjurdhi, the Franciscan and Lottar had to do with the narrator and her love relationship, who reappears out of nowhere in the end. Help! Ellen =============== Reply 8 of Note 2 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 04/20 From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 11:16 AM Ann, Barbara et.al, One more thought on CARRIED AWAY....when she is talking (?) to Jack and mentally commenting how he is fooling himself about his poor family, couldn't this somehow show that she is in control and Jack is out of control, making her feel better about being 'carried away' with the original love affair. This would show that she made something out of her life...marrying the well to do man, wearing nicer clothes than the average woman, giving hand-me-downs to Jack's family....she is the victor in the end. Maybe she needed this to keep her self-esteem. If this , indeed, is Munro's point then it shows the strength of this woman, as all the stories show women overcoming their circumstances, yet Munro does it such a subtle manner. Ellen =============== Reply 9 of Note 2 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 04/20 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 6:35 PM greetings THERESA...you highly recommend SANCHEZ'S book...i shall acquire it quickly...i desperately need a book to INTERRUPT MY LIFE.... keep those reco's coming... gail..a passionate reader in awfully windy SAN FRANCISCO...where i would pass on the film JEFFERSON IN PARIS...nolte is so repellent...repulsive..repugnant...that even the elegant costuming and scenery could not eraseNOLTE from my thoughts.... =============== Reply 10 of Note 2 =================  
To: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Date: 04/21 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:03 AM I sort of like that idea about a parallel universe, Ann. It fits with some of the feelings I get about a sort of mysticism in some of the stories in this book. Also, Ellen, the control theory makes sense to me as well. By the way, do you think that titling the book Open Secrets has something to do with open secrets on the subject of survival...or was this just the decision of an editor to pull one of the titles of the stories to name the whole book. Haven't gone back and re-read the whole story of "The Albanian Virgin" again as I meant to when I read your questions about how Nelson related to the whole thing. However, I did note in glancing through it that Nelson was from that city that she went to in the first place (was the smartest kid in the class, etc.). Could he be Gjurdi and Charlotte's son? Or is that too far out?? And, please oh please, tell me what you thought of the story "Open Secrets." Barbara To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/21 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:46 PM Oh, I hate it when I say something stupid, upload it to the bulletin board and then can't delete it from the boards. The bookstore is in Victoria, British Columbia. Nelson was from northern Ontario. So, please forget that I ever made the remark in my last note, re: Nelson, Gjurdi and Charlotte. Reread the story tonight and the only connection I could glean was having her discovering Nelson inside the bookstore and not realizing who he was until he bumped her shoulder just before they tell the story of Lottar seeing the Franciscan's "wan face hanging in the tree." There's sort of this whole comparison of her relationship with Nelson with Charlotte and Gjurdi's relationship. I assumed when I first read it that the aim was to point to the emptiness of the relationship with Nelson, but am not so sure now.... Barbara =============== Reply 3 of Note 2 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/21 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 11:42 PM But do you like Nolte? Lisa =============== Reply 4 of Note 2 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/22 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 2:57 AM Okay, all you Munro fans out there (see what you've started, Barbara?)--I plunged into Border's and claimed 'Open Secrets' for my very own. I was afraid to get further behind, and I purposely read very little of the previous discussions so that I could form my own impressions, such as they are. Having now finished 'The Albanian Virgin' (as that had engendered such serious debate) I just read the notes pertaining to that gem. First, may I say that now (sorry Dale, Steve) I understand Sara, Ann, and Barbara's incredulity that the connection between Lottar/Charlotte and the Fransciscan/Gjurdhi was not more apparent to the male readers. I, too, SWEAR that I read no notes that would have clued me in. I was all prepared, as I read through your posts tonight, to elucidate the details, but I find Barbara has done a stunning job most worthy of the one who proposed the book in the first place. That being said, I truly enjoyed Munro's spectacular flow through this great story. There is nothing like being thrown right into the action, and being carried through the Maltsia e madhe wrapped in a wool blanket and bathed in raki, then spending a few years with the Ghegs, certainly qualifies for an abrupt opening. The part that left me interested? uncomfortable? yearning for more explanation? was her unquestioning and totally accepting attitude toward her new life with the Ghegs. Munro spends very little time with the internal life of her characters; Claire is granted a few musings about Nelson, Donald, and Charlotte, but generally the story moves on very briskly. thanks, Barbara, for recommending this...I am on to read "A Real Life,' which I gather from skimming your notes is the next one discussed. One of these days I'll catch up to you. Princess Sarah 4/21/95 11:56PM MT =============== Reply 5 of Note 2 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/22 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 7:46 AM greetings BARBARA... oh yes..you can delete it...i read somewhere and wrote it down for further....it was one of the tidbits i learned recently...i decided ..slowly but surely..i would learn my computer this year.... i have it written in my little BIBLE...and as soon as i locate it will transmit the information to you... gail..a passionate reader enjoying A RIVER SUTRA by gita mehta..i am now in INDIA..inconjunction with THE HOUSE OF MR. BISWAS by v.s.naipual..AND that location is TRINIDAD... =============== Reply 6 of Note 2 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 04/22 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 7:53 AM greetings PRINCESS SARAH...CERTIFIED BOOK JUNKIE...BARBARA...ELLEN OF BRANDON...WILD MAN... i have not been reading your dialogue on OPEN SECRETS for fear i would become infected and had to rush out and procure the book...it was on the shelf on my library and i said 'no'..I WOULD not get involved... now a friend rings me up and mentions one of the stories that is exceptional... QUESTION...which one...would you recommend...i stillthink about SHIRLEY JACKSON'S THE LOTTERY...perhaps one day we and chat about that gem.... LOVELY SARA...i think i glanced at your name who is contri buting to this lengthy subject....don't want to miss anyone gail..a passionate reader who is immersed in THE HOUSE OF MR. BISWAS by v.s. naipual..transported to TRINIDAD and also finishing up A RIVER SUTRA by gita mehta..transported to INDIA... it sounds as if i really need to drift out of the UNITED STATES at the present...you are correct...news is not pretty...lately...as you all are cognizant ..thank god for our magical carpets....our WORLD OF BOOKS.. =============== Reply 7 of Note 2 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 04/22 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 8:02 AM greetings LISA... yes i am definitely into MAGICAL books...and the latin american writers engender books of that category...i am now reading THE HOUSE OF MR. BISWAS by v.s.naipaul..which has transported me to TRINIDAD...i am enjoying the chacters and it is a large book which will keep me involved for sometime... gail..a passionate reader in sunny and beautiful san francisco...NOLTE is simply awful in the part of JEFFERSON...he was never my favorite but i was able to tolerate him......every since i viewed the film ..i have been staying far away from the theatres...however today i wi ll break that pattern.... LISA..so glad you are joining up...what are you reading..i am always anxious to learn of what you all are immersed in......any INTERRUPTER'S OF LIFE ..books... you must have read my notes on CORELLI'S MANDOLIN ..A REAL interrupter of life... =============== Reply 8 of Note 2 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/22 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 8:40 AM greetings BARBARA... searched for my notes on deletion and here goes.. MAIN MENU...GUIDELINES...HELP AND NOTE ALERT screen will appear allowing you to choose PROBLEM NOTE ALERT click and request note removal... gail..a passionate reader who is delighted to share some of my limited knowledge to all... =============== Reply 9 of Note 2 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 04/22 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:31 AM Oh good, Sarah. Glad you've "joined on." Re: Charlotte's "unquestioning and totally accepting attitude toward her new life with the Ghegs", I must say it didn't strike me as unusual at all. Probably a good parallel is Patty Hearst's kidnapping and brainwashing by the SLA (or am I recalling something from ancient history that no one will remember?). When you have total control of a person's environment with no help to be had, people usually come around to your way of thinking. I also think she sort of started enjoying the positive sides of their culture. The following excerpt sort of says it for me: "Lottar no longer spoke to the priest about going to Skodra. She understood now that it must be a long way away. Sometimes she asked if he had heard anything, if anybody was looking for her, and he would say, sternly, no one. When she thought of how she had been during those first weeks--giving orders, speaking English without embarrassment, sure that her special case merited attention--she was ashamed at how little she had understood. And the longer she stayed at the kula, the better she spoke the language and became accustomed to the work, the stranger was the thought of leaving. Someday she must go, but how could it be now? How could she leave in the middle of the tobacco-picking or the sumac harvest, or during the preparations for the feast of the Translation of St. Nicholas?" Also, your comment that Munro spends very little time with the internal life of her characters is very true. I usually like a lot more "internal life" in my reading, but, for some reason, Munro's stories pull me in anyway. As I thought about that, remembered reading a book of Raymond Carver's (do I have his name right?) short stories last summer after reading about him on one of the boards (CR, I think). His sort of minimalist realism seems to be somewhat present in these stories of Munro's. I know that Carver is much more of a force than I, in my ignorance last summer, realized, so it makes sense that this might be true. Remember reading Dale say that Nicholson Baker had been a student of his, I think (though Baker's characters have an *enormous* inner life.) In any case, am looking forward to your comments. These stories are much more fun with this great discussion group. Barb (my husband pointed out to me this morning that F. Lee Bailey--ahead of his time--first asserted the "stress syndrome" defense to a crime in Patty Hearst's case. Now it is being used as a defense in domestic abuse cases and was used in a parental abuse case with the Menendez brothers. At the time, everyone thought that Bailey was a little crazy.) =============== Reply 10 of Note 2 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/22 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:31 AM But, gail, I don't think I can delete it from the boards on Prodigy once I've uploaded it, can I? Let me know how if I can, just for future reference. Actually with a little distance from my silly comment that precipitated this note, I'm not as embarrassed as I was initially. And I think that "The Albanian Virgin" is probably the one that would initiate the most discussion if our experience here is any indicator--for a book group, etc. Two that I don't find to be as much of a puzzle--just enjoyable reading--are "A Real Life" and "A Wildnerness Station." And, gail, I remember that you don't like short stories because you want the characters to go on and develop, so I assumed you wouldn't join in on this (though we miss you.) I can certainly relate to those feelings, but somehow the art of forming these little nuggets in such a circumscribed number of pages always fascinates me. Which story did your friend comment on? And what did she say? Barbara =============== Reply 11 of Note 2 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/22 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:31 AM So, Steve and Dale, where did y'all go? Did you give up on Munro? We miss you! Barbara =============== Reply 12 of Note 2 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/22 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 4:36 PM Barbara: I shall return...to Munro, I mean. Just as soon as I find a stopping place in CORELLI'S MANDOLIN (much easier said than done), and tie up some loose ends from earning my daily bread. Groan. I hadn't realized until Sarah mentioned it, though, how comparatively cut off we are from the inner lives of Munro's characters. We come to know them almost entirely by what they do and say, not by what they think. As a result, when one of them takes some bizarre course of action at the end, I might look back at their previous behavior and think, "Well, I should have seen that coming" (though, me being a male, usually not), but their reasons remain a mystery. It occurs to me the same thing might be said of fables and fairy tales in general--which much of Munro's work reminds me of, somehow. They appeal more to the intuitive part of the brain than to our sense of logic. By comparison, a writer such as Anne Tyler is certainly no stranger to oddball characters--but she usually lets us vicariously follow their inner reasoning, no matter how skewed or convoluted, which to me is a big part of the attraction of her work. (My favorite Tyler lines, from ACCIDENTAL TOURIST: She: "What kind of work do you do?" He: "I make bottle caps." She: "Ah." He (modestly): "Well, it's not as interesting as it sounds.") In any event, I'm glad there are so many kinds of writers (and readers), and I'm glad I got introduced to Munro's striking stories through CR. Dale in Ala. (PS: Please backdate several days and check the Southern Writers subject; I replied to your note about Pat Conroy but accidentally mislabled it. If you can't locate it, let me know and I'll re-post.) =============== Reply 13 of Note 2 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/22 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 5:46 PM Dale: Will look forward to your return. Do you see any similarity in these stories of Munro's and Carver's? Am hoping that I have the name right. The book I read last summer was CATHEDRAL. The books I've read before of Munro's (THE BEGGAR MAID, FRIEND OF MY YOUTH and LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN) were much less puzzling, more to the style of "A Real Life." I like Tyler too. Always read her books, but don't tend to like her characters as much as Munro's. Love those lines you quoted though. And check for my reply on Southern Writers--finally got it on there. Barbara =============== Reply 14 of Note 2 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/22 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 7:15 PM Last night, after posting my reaction to 'The Albanian Virgin,' I lay awake pondering the connection between the foursome. Perhaps this makes sense--the Fransciscan followed Charlotte, who in a sense was embarking on new territory (even though it really was a return). He felt able to accompany her where she was going, and wanted to be a fellow journeyer (?) in her life. Similarly, Nelson finally decided to follow Claire and join in her life. Both women thought they had lost the men; Charlotte, when she called and called for him, and thought he was gone until he appeared at the dock, and Claire, who kept writing Nelson letters until he appeared where she was not expecting him. Might be kind of stretching it, but it made sense last night at 1:30 AM. Princess Sarah 4/22/95 4:14PM MT =============== Reply 15 of Note 2 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/23 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 2:13 PM The story OPEN SECRETS is a haunting one, Dale--a real nightmarish tale, I think. Here is my take on it for what it's worth. Maureen is such a highly intuitive female that she is a near clairvoyant. She has visions at times of a parallel life that she has lived or is living. (Perhaps a better title for this collection would have been PARALLEL LIVES.) She has visions, but her visions are wispy ones of events that have actually occurred. I am certain that Theo Slater, Marian's husband sexually molested and killed Heather Bell. This occurred after Heather took the game of Truth or Dare too seriously and determined to actually run away. She did hate her mother. Please see page 139. Unfortunately, she happened upon Theo in the process, this while Marian was back home drugged with the pain killers. Here are the clues as I see them. Heather was a sexually precocious child. She was the most rambunctious of the lot when the girls were spraying each other with the hose in Theo and Marian's yard earlier in the day. Please see the description of that at the top of page 130. Theo participated in that. Please see the top of page 151. This girl's hijinx aroused him then. Marian is a take charge woman who finally has a man, and defective as he is, one with whom she is not dissatisfied and certainly the only one she will ever have. She does not want to lose him to a prosecution for this crime. She therefore determines to divert suspicion to the mentally defective Mr. Siddicup. This is the reason that she comes to Lawyer Stephens with her tale of Mr. Siddicup's pantomime that she witnessed. Did she invent this story entirely, or was there some truth to it? I think there was truth to it. I think Mr. Siddicup actually witnessed the murder, but was simply incapable of communicating accurately what he had seen. But this is what gave Marian her first clue as to what had happened. She interrogated her husband, found out that he had done it, and devised a plan to throw suspicion elsewhere. Now as to the vision of the hand on the burner that Maureen sees while she is stirring the custard, there can be no doubt that this is Theo's hand. In fact it it clear that she recognizes it as such. I believe that while Marian works hard to protect her husband from the authorities, she also determines that he must be punished for his crime, like a child. They mutually agree that his punishment will be to have his hand burned on the stove. She does this with the sick rascal's cooperation. Why do I believe that there was a sexual assault that evolved into a murder? Because Maureen has a vision of Theo's hand in the feathers while she herself is essentially being sexually assaulted by her own sick husband. Please see page 156. So Maureen was in on the secret for a moment, but she is amnesiac about her visions in later years when she only has a twitch of memory as she stirs custard. I'll tell you! What a black, nightmarish, troubling story this is! What a collection of male characters! Gives me the shivers! Steve 4/23/95 1:09PM CT =============== Reply 16 of Note 2 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/23 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 5:13 PM I'm here! I'm here, Barbara! With bells on my toes. Was it you that offered the praise of the short story as an art form here a short time ago? I purged my notes recently and lost that one. It must have been you. I couldn't agree more. It seems to me that there is this notion out and about that writers do short stories for the most part to hone their skills for the effort at the big novel, and therefore, it is some lesser form. Actually, it seems to me that the short story must be extremely difficult in its own way. I have read of great writers rewriting and rewriting and rewriting a short story over a period of years in the attempt to leave out just enough, include just enough, and insure that every single word is precisely the right word. In no other form is the art of omission so critical. It is what is left out, as opposed to what is included, that gives the form eloquence. Which brings me to a public atonement that I wish to make here. Ernest Hemingway has been the butt of no few jokes here on this board, and I have participated in them as avidly as any. Certainly, there is much to criticize in his novels, although I am confident that A FAREWELL TO ARMS and THE SUN ALSO RISES will endure. But I would submit in all seriousness that he is the best male short story writer this country has ever produced, although admittedly not for everyone. I say that because of the large number of stories of consistently good quality. It would be a shame if readers put off by some of the tripe in his later novels, or the ass that the man himself could be, were to miss the opportunity of some of these stories. In his later novels it seems to me that he created the illusion of depth with that spare style and the terse bons mots from his characters, but it was only that--an illusion. The short stories, however, have real depth, whether the emphasis be on a character sketch or the portrayal of an emotion or a meaningful exchange between characters. One of my personal favorites, although certainly not his best, is one of the Nick Adams stories, THE BATTLER. I love that story. So there. I feel better. I have given the man his due as I see it. Steve 4/23/95 4:07PM CT =============== Reply 17 of Note 2 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/23 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 6:04 PM Steve: Holy ****!, as we say here on the family BBs. Absolutely brilliant, if I may say, and convincing in every particular. If this is the work of a male/reptilian brain, I'm proud to be of the same species. Tell the truth...you haven't gone and had a sex-change on us, have you? A dark, dark, dark story indeed. Munro's males are a pretty sorry lot. Most are, as my old granddad would say, "not worth the powder and lead it'd take to shoot 'em..." As opposed to KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS, which I believe contained the greatest number of noble characters--of both sexes--in one volume I've ever seen. Congratulations again on an insightful analysis, Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 18 of Note 2 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/23 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 7:22 PM No sex change, Dale. I have resolved never to go any further than a simple neutering. If I had gotten that done thirty years ago, I figure that I would be worth approximately $3.1 million now--net. That's a conservative estimate. Geez, do you really think I finally nailed one of these stories? I am going to sit back and enjoy this puffy chested feeling until the female CR contigent descends upons my theory and picks it apart down to the bone. Steve 4/23/95 6:20PM CT =============== Reply 19 of Note 2 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/23 From: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Time: 9:17 PM Wild man, v. delighted to see that your literary criticism comes complete with page-numbered citations; I found this care and caution both disarming and entirely unexpected, given your usual recklessness. Not that I'm going to take the unnecessary step of reading the story in question--it sounds too scary. =============== Reply 20 of Note 2 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/23 From: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Time: 9:18 PM No chance. Poe has Hemingway beat eight thousand different ways. =============== Reply 21 of Note 2 =================  
To: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Date: 04/23 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 9:36 PM It's close I admit, Cherie, and Edgar's name did flit across my mind as I wrote that, but the Kewpie doll goes to Ernest. Trust me on this one. Steve 4/23/95 8:33PM CT =============== Reply 22 of Note 2 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/23 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:05 PM Steve, you are definitely back! Why the long absence? Your explanation of the "Open Secrets" story is intriguing. It certainly makes sense. It's interesting to me that both "Open Secrets" and "Carried Away" and, to some extent, "The Albanian Virgin" have these mystical qualities. The two other books of Munro's short stories that I've read recently seemed to have none of that. What did you think of "The Wilderness Station"? Re: short stories, I was the one who said that they are an art form in and of themselves and I agree wholeheartedly with what you said about the difficulty of creating a good one. It's been a long time since I read Hemingway (the two you mentioned plus THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA), but I liked what I read. I've always liked that ability to say a great deal with a few words. However, I've never read any of his short stories;will definitely try them. Any particular collection that you like the best? Regarding Hemingway personally, I would sometimes rather not know about an author on a personal level...just enjoy the art. Barb  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/24 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 10:06 AM I was interested in your observations about Munro's earlier stories, Barbara. This is the first heavy sampler of her that I have indulged in. I take it that you would not characterize the three that you mention as in any way typical of her earlier work. Interesting. I must admit that while these are not type of stories I would have expected to enjoy, I am in fact enjoying them greatly in a perverse sort of way. That is one of the things that is so great about CR. One is tempted into reading things that one otherwise would probably not. As to EH, the COMPLETE SHORT STORIES is now commonly available everywhere (Finca Vigia Edition). However, if you can find a collection called "THE FIRST FORTY-NINE," you will have all you need. THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, THE KILLERS, THE BATTLER, THE THREE DAY BLOW, FIFTY GRAND, BIG TWO-HEARTED RIVER, etc. Just jump around. Not a lot of interesting female characters in those, however. There has been some discussion in the past among the critics about his inability to do a female character that is anything but one-dimensional. But someday you really should try A FAREWELL TO ARMS and THE SUN ALSO RISES. I don't see how a male reader can fail to fall in love with Catherine in the former, and as for Lady Bret in the latter--well, I think she is a classic female character in American literature. Right up there with Hester Prynne. Boy, would I love to have a couple of beers with her! Since she is fictional, I would settle for Ava Gardner. But since Ava is now deceased, God rest her soul, I guess I will just have to make do some way. Steve 4/24/95 9:02AM CT =============== Reply 2 of Note 1 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 04/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:38 PM Gail: I'm working on The Shipping News and Jane Eyre presently, but I'm hoping to join the Dorian Gray discussion that I see starting to heat up here. I read that last year and was tremendously impressed with Wilde. Shipping News is o.k. but a little of a chore at times. Maybe it's because I've had to put it down so often to tend to other things. Jane Eyre is great, although I think Wuthering Heights is more masterful. However, far be it from me to criticize the sisters Bronte! I'm just about ready to start something new, though. I'm scoping for others who may need a reading buddy/discussion partner. Lisa whose toddler has just awoken from sleep.. =============== Reply 3 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/24 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 6:30 PM Open Secret readers--Was looking through these stories again last night and re-read the summary on the flyleaf. Always wonder who writes these--would Munro let something go on there that was totally nonsensical? Anyway, it describes the stories thusly: "Their power accumulates layer by layer as time and reality shift, identities become uncertain, truths surface." The part about time and reality shifting seems pretty pertinent to our discussion. No comments about the other stories (other than the three we've talked about)? Barbara =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/24 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 6:30 PM Steve--Am putting the Hemingway collection on my list. I agree that Hemingway has always struck me as having difficulty creating female characters. However, Munro's not so wonderful with male characters. I guess you just have to accept an author's strengths. Barbara =============== Reply 5 of Note 1 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 04/24 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 8:05 PM greetings LISA...do you tend to read PULITZER PRIZE winners or for that matter any award winners...how do you select your readings...i would like to recommend CORELLI'S MANDOLIN...by louis de bernieres...MAGICAL... OSCAR WILDE is my favorite..i was supposed to pick up the ELLMAN bio today...but i was too busy working... i am a WUTHERING HEIGHTS FAN...in girl scout camp we had two factions...the JANE EYRE lovers and the WUTHERING HEIGHTS contingency...late in the night when any of the JANE EYRE fans went to the john...we all would murmur in the dark...'HEATHCLIFF...' HEATHCLIFF....what fun! gail..a passionate reader in foggy...cold..windy S.F. =============== Reply 6 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/24 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 8:19 PM Your discussion of the Munro stories has been fascinating to me and I just had to interrupt SOPHIE'S WORLD to read THE ALBANINAN VIRGIN. I am now in the second reading and being a kind of linear person decided I wanted to try to keep track of what happened when, so I am constructing a kind of time line. In this second reading I am finding what I think are clues that definitely mean that Charlotte and Lottar are the same person, but which also link Clair and Charlotte. I haven't finished the timeline yet (it's more time-consuming than I thought it would be), but if anyone's interested in seeing it after I'm done, let me know. Sherry =============== Reply 7 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/24 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 9:01 PM Steve, I don't think that you'll have any argument from the female contingent on your interpretation of Open Secrets. Wow, page references and everything! I was inspired to check the book out of the library and reread the story. I think you've come up with a good explanation of Marueen's vision of the hand being burned, something that really perplexed me the first go around. I had forgotten how truly terrible the male characters are in this story. I was interested in your observation about the weak female characters in Hemingway. I read The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms many years ago. They didn't appeal to me much at the time, although maybe now that I am into a 'mature' middle age I would respond to them differently. I always think of Hemingway as a 'man's' writer. In general, I think it's difficult for male writers to write about strong female characters, and the converse is also true, don't you think? Ann =============== Reply 8 of Note 1 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 04/24 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 9:03 PM Lisa et al,, In regard to the nature vs nurture argument, I don't remember being read to as a child, but my mother did subscribe to a Catholic book club for me and I do remember looking forward to reading about the saint of the month. I always loved to read, my two brothers show little interest in it, but my younger sister is an avid reader. Even as a child, I didn't care that much for TV, so I am beginning to think that there is lot to the born reader theory. For people who love to read, the characters in books are every bit as real as those in their everyday life, and generally far more interesting. That can't be true for those unaddicted. Glad to hear that you are enjoying Jane Eyre, Lisa. I read it twice as a teenager, and wondered what it would be like from an adult perspective. I loaned my copy of Shipping News to a friend and admonished her to keep reading past the slow part in the beginning. However, as I recall, the book jacket made it sound like this book was humorous, something I did not find true at all. I personally found it very sad. What did you think? Ann =============== Reply 9 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/24 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 10:13 PM Steve W., Esq.: I agree with you completely about Hemingway. Whatever the defects of his novels, his short stories, the best of them, are just about as good as fiction (short) can be. I haven't read THE BATTLER, but I will on your recommendation. My favorite is THE BIG TWO-HEARTED RIVER, where no word seems out of place, or replaceable. This story also benefits from the total absence of other characters besides Nick Adams. Description of place and process, with a microscopic examination of Nick's feelings, carry the whole weight. And your point about omission is borne out here, too. Nick never mentions the outside world (except for a brief memory of another fishing trip), but the very intensity of his concentration on every detail of his camping and fishing on this trip gives depth to the story. I re-read this story every year or so. Now I'll give others of the stories a look. Truly and well, from Lookout Mountain, Felix Miller. =============== Reply 10 of Note 1 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 04/24 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:22 PM Sherry--Glad to have you in on this. Yes, I would definitely like to see the timeline...linking Clair and Charlotte, eh? Interesting. By the way, to all the OPEN SECRET readers who have read Munro before, do you think these stories are a departure from her previous writing? Barbara =============== Reply 11 of Note 1 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 04/24 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:22 PM Ann--We've had a couple of discussions here about females who can write convincing male characters and males who can do the same for female characters. I don't know if we used the word "strong" or not. Steve and Dale introduced me to Josephine Humphreys who wrote a really good male character in THE FIREMAN'S FAIR. There's also a wonderful short story called "The Woman Lit by Fireflies" by Jim Harrison (a Hemingway sort of guy who I never expected to write a convincing female character.) And, also there's been a lot of discussion here about THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore which I haven't read yet. I actually never realized before how undeveloped the male characters are in Munro's stories. Before, I think I was just always so amazed at how well she "got" the female characters. Barbara =============== Reply 12 of Note 1 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 04/24 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 10:24 PM Absolutely, Ann. Absolutely! I couldn't agree with you more. In fact the exceptions prove the rule. When Flaubert creates Madame Bovary, one NOTICES. When Bronte creates Heathcliff, one NOTICES. Now let me think. You've got me going. Anna Karenina. Daisy Miller. Rochester. (I'm thinking of great, vivid characters created by writers of one of the other genders. I know I can get some help here.). . . . . and . . . . .wait a minute. . . . . .yes!. . . . . . .Rhett Butler! If we had an evening and a six-pack we could list them all easily. And you know, you're may be right all along in another respect. EH probably is a man's writer. I suppose that a woman might very well conclude that Catherine in A FAREWELL TO ARMS is a simpering idiot. But I'll tell you! To a young man reading that book for the first time, she is a dream come true. And therefore, of course she had to be killed off in the end. Steve 4/24/95 9:20PM CT =============== Reply 13 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/24 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 10:51 PM Well, on second thought--a twelve-pack--but certainly no more than that. Steve 4/24/95 9:49PM CT =============== Reply 14 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/24 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 10:56 PM No. No. No. I was right the first time. A six-pack will do it. Two for me and four for you. Steve 4/24/95 9:55PM CT =============== Reply 15 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/25 From: DCTW04A MARTY PRIOLA Time: 2:07 AM Barbara, Minutinae from the book industry: It's my understanding that the book's editor generally writes the dust jacket copy. Just thought you'd like to know. --Marty in Memphis 4/24/95 6:45PM CT =============== Reply 16 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/25 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 8:43 AM Alice is not going to get off scott free here. I did think that THE JACK RANDA HOTEL was by far the inferior story so far. Just a matter of personal taste, I'm sure. "Love--forgive Love--forget Love--forever Hammers in the street." That was a little thick. And a little too cute. I am not quite finished with A WILDERNESS STATION. Will get back to you. I will say now that I think this is one of the better ones. "In case she should not come to the Gaol but wander in the streets, I ought to tell you that she is dark-haired and tall, meagre in body, not comely but not ill-favoured except having one eye that goes to the side." I loved that, for example. And Felix, I will anxiously await your opinion of THE BATTLER. As I said, not the very best, but yet a very poignant story for me for some reason. ["Poignant. Poignant. Isn't is fun to say that word, children? Let's say it together. Poignant! POIGNANT! Very well done. That WAS fun!" (For those of you not old enough to remember, that was Miss Francis of DING DONG SCHOOL. 8:00 a.m., 1954, CBS-TV, 225 lbs. with bun. I always said the fun words with her. I'm not sure why she popped into my head right then.)] Steve 4/25/95 7:41AM CT =============== Reply 17 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/25 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:47 AM Barbara, I describe each section as blocks, usually they are one time period and at first they switch times for each block. But later on, this does not hold true and then the timelines converge and it becomes harder to separate them. I used Roman numerals to show the order in which things happend, and block numbers the way they appeared in the story. I took notes of things that interested me and seemed to be clues to the connections. II--1st block - first in the madhe-she is Canadian. I -- 2nd block - pre-madhe, guide killed--she was traveling on money she inherited when her parents died. Her brother was angry--"who will look after you after inheritance spent." On her ride back with her captors why do we get this line "She fastened her eyes on the bundle that was hanging from the saddle of the man ahead of her and knocking against the horse's back. It was something about the size of a cabbage, wrapped in a stiff rusty-looking cloth." I think it was the guide's head. (But you have to remember, I just read BLOOD MERIDIAN.) IX-- 3rd block - Narrator "I". First mentions Charlotte. In Canada. Starts off "I heard this story" suggesting the first two blocks were the story she heard. Charlotte's "voice" seems different from Lottar's. Older (because time has passed) and more peevish. She was "extensive" and "lumpy" which seems to indicate she was much heavier than Charlotte, although time could do that (as we all know). Charlotte's "story" was in 1920's; she wanted Jennifer Jones to play the lead. When was she popular, anybody? (Later in the story, the narrator says she opened the shop in 1964) So about 40 years has passed. So she would have grayed and heavied. III - 4th block -- We're back in the madhe. Lottar sees the Virgin. IV -- 5th block -- cont. from 4th block. Women try to sell her. (This is about a year after she arrives.) The Franciscan makes her a Virgin. After he had shooed off the women and dressed her in men's clothes and she had sworn before 12 witnesses, he gave her a cigarette which "smelled of his skin." I think this is a clear indication that she loves him, or is beginning to. X-- 6th block -Charlotte in the hospital, eating canned peaches. Nurse recounted how she wanted to sell her bracelets. Narrator recalls Gjurdhi trying to sell her books. They were travel books of Albania (where did they come from? I think maybe from Bishop's place.) from the turn of the Century (60 years old). Recalls Charlotte in the bookshop with her big black cloak giving her small gifts. Gjurdhi has a big wooden crucifix. V--7th block -- Lottar is now a Virgin and a shepherd. Has been for 3 to 6 months, winter approaching. The men joke and treat her like one of them. What do you make of the "joke" about the wizard who made a bowl of water the sea and sailed away? Does it have any meaning that the joke has elements of Charlotte's life? A boat, sailing to America, etc. VI--8th block -- cont. from 7th block. The Franciscan realizes Lottar has no future as a Virgin in winter and takes her out. She has made a life as a shepherd and each small possession she leaves has meaning. Her life has been reduced and enriched. They go to Skodra. Lottar asks if they would have sold her in spite of her virgin oath; the Franciscan replies, "Oh, yes. But to sell a woman is a way to get some money. And they are so poor." This establishes a link between Lottar & the Franciscan and Charlotte and Gjurdhi's selling attempts. (more next reply) =============== Reply 18 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/25 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:49 AM (cont.) XI- 9th block -Narrator having a flashback to when she first opened bookshop (technically this could be first in line after Lottar story ends). She describes the opening of the shop and her initial disappointment at the lack of customers. She describes her apartment. I find interesting that she was afraid her "bed might leap out of the wall sometime when I was eating my tinned soup or baked-potato supper. It might kill me." After her disastrous experiences with men I can imagine where a kind of fear might be running her now. Even though she is proud of the changes she has made in her life I think she is still very frightened. Also very raw as she says in the next line "I felt as if I had finally come out into the world in a new, true skin." I think this is a major connection between her and Charlotte "Lottar". Becoming an Albanian Virgin had been like coming out in a new true skin. We don't know the narrator's name yet. I like her explanation of why she bought a shop in such a "nothing doing" town -- a refuge and a justification, like someone else might have a cabin in the woods. Another link between her and Charlotte - she had "inherited a little money" and used it to buy the shop. Charlotte had used her inheritance to travel. Later we find out that Claire's parents had died, too, I assume this was the reason for the inheritance. VII - 10th block - Lottar and theF Entering Skodra. The Franciscan is not so important here. Charlotte understands how much she needs him. "She had not understood how much she depended on the smell of his skin, the aggrieved determination of his long strides, the flourish of his black mustache." When a woman depends on the smell of a man's skin, she is in love. He finds the Bishop's house. Lottar is led to the consulate, cleaned up and put on a boat. Here there is no division of blocks between division of times. We go directly to Charlotte in the hospital telling the story and she says "That part is not of interest." (Goes to Part XV) XII - 11th block - Continuation of narrator's flashback. She has a flashback within her flashback. Now she is telling us why she came to buy the bookshop. In the narrator's tale we seem to be starting at a point in time and taking backward steps. (In Charlotte's story we are making a big circle.) Here we first find out her name, Claire. Then the story of her affair with Nelson. Within this description is her Mary Shelley thesis story about Byron and the Romantic "mishmash" of couplings that proved to be uncharacteristic of her own marriage, affair and breakup. She was forced to wake up to reality. After she left Nelson by getting on the train she tried to trick herself into thinking that all men were alike, but she realized "No. No. Nelson would still be Nelson to me. I had not changed, with regard to his skin and his smell and his forbidding eyes." Here we are with the smell and skin again and also forbidding eyes. XIII- 12th block -- Claire stops this flashback and starts in on original flashback. She is furthering her history of her bookshop, etc. The notary public knows Charlotte well enough to call her "the Duchess". Does Claire's trying to get the Notary Public together with the chartered accountant remind you of the Cozzen's trying to get Charlotte together with Dr. Lamb? Charlotte's cape was dark gray velvet with fur trim--looked like a costume. Gjurdhi wore a cap "a clergyman might wear in an English movie." XIV - 13th block -- cont. from last block. The dinner at Charlotte and Gjurdhi's. I think this line is interesting, when Charlotte surprises Claire with her knowledge of Perkin Warbeck, "The question I always think about Pretenders like that is who do they think they are?" Is she pretending? Is =============== Reply 19 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/25 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:51 AM (cont). her life a pretense now? Was her life a pretense as Lottar? I think she is trying to live Lottar's life in Charlotte's surroundings and that makes her think she is pretending. We find out Claire's parents are dead, same as Charlotte's. Claire is disappointed there is not more personal exchange between them at dinner. XV - 14th block - Short section -continuing flashback up until the time of Charlotte in the bookstore being eyed by the new clerk who says, "There's something I ought to tell you about that woman." Now we are done with the flashback and it puts us back up to p.96 where the clerk says "I don't want to be any kind of character assassin, but..." This is almost like a cut and paste. XVI --15th block (this is where the two stories converge) "That part is of no interest." continues directly from p. 109. We are in the hospital, Claire is thinking to herself and wonders about the Notary Public who had been beaten and robbed. I think that Gjurdhi did do it for the money -- remember the Franciscan's line about "they are good people, but they are so poor"? Claire is worried Charlotte might die. "She told a little more." (but that is not told just yet) XVII -16th block-- Claire at hospital and Charlotte gone, nurse describing the throwing of money around. Their vanishing made Claire loose her grip. Claire imagines what life would have been like with Nelson. Then she does indeed find Nelson outside her store and he "claims her". Then the italicized part which seems to be the end of her story. VIII - 17th block - (this is the "little more" that Charlotte told at the end of XVI) Lottar leaving courtyard of Bishop. They gave her a cloak (same one?) to conceal ragged clothes. She called for the Franciscan. She saw him half concealed in the tree, his face pale (he was in love, too) "all the swarthiness drained away." "Then it (the face?) was gone, taking the breath out of her body (when she thought he was gone forever, it left her breathless), as she knew too late (because she thought he was gone forever). VIII - cont. 18th block - "She called him and called him..." This is the part I don't quite understand. Was she calling to him in her mind? Was she praying to him, "Oh, please, oh, please, come to me"? I think that must be the explanation. "...and when the boat came into the harbor at Trieste he was waiting on the dock." My ideas -- We have three sets of couples, two obviously the same and the other couple, Claire and Nelson, not the same, but with similarities. Can you make any comment about these similarities? Is it just the universality of the situation, of women's experience? =============== Reply 20 of Note 1 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 04/25 From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 10:13 PM Hi Sherry, Thank you for the timeline...it is a fascinating way to organize your thoughts. Charlotte and Gjurdi got to go on with life Part II-could Nelson and Claire be headed in this same direction? Perhaps Claire's deisre for Charlotte's return to health and also for her disappointment with the lack of deeper conversation at Charlotte's house stems from her desire to have Charlotte tell her the next part of the story of her (Claire's ) life. Claire already had a change of venue as Charlotte and Gjurdi had....maybe her story will soon parallel theirs. What do you think? Ellen =============== Reply 21 of Note 1 =================  
To: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Date: 04/26 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:10 AM Dear Ellen, You said that Charlotte and Gjurdhi had a life Part II, did I think Nelson & Claire could be headed in that direction. I think they did, "For this really was Nelson, come to claim me. Or at least to accost me, and see what would happen. "We have been very happy. I have often felt completely alone. There is always in this life something to discover. The days and the years have gone by in some sort of blur. On the whole, I am satisfied." That seems to be the rest of Claire's life in a nutshell, and it seems to me that the implication is that Nelson is a part of it. I think her disappointment in not talking more deeply with Charlotte was what she saw as a missing of opportunity. She felt a deep connection with Charlotte, but didn't exactly know why. I think WE know why, because we can see some of the parallels and similarities in the two lives that Claire was unable to see. She FEELS the connection and is therefore disappointed that these feelings don't get explored, but she never knows WHY. Sherry =============== Reply 22 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/26 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 6:58 PM I've finished two more stories from Alice Munro's OPEN SECRETS (just two more to go). As different as the two are stylistically--"The Jack Randa Hotel" and "A Wilderness Station"--they had something in common, for me. Namely, I felt they were more straightforward than some of the other stories, and that I had somewhat of a "handle" on them--until I got to the last page of each, and now I'm puzzled again. At the end of "The Jack Randa Hotel," is the voice Gail hears outside her door real or imagined ("such words can become a sound of hammers in the street")? And in any event, what does the elderly neighbor and his young lover have to do with the story? For a while I wondered if it might be the young man's voice she hears outside the door--agitated over discovering the old man is gone--rather than her husband's, but there's no real evidence of that. And at the end of "Wilderness Station," after things seem resolved, what is the point of Old Annie telling the bizarre story about the girl in the Home who had a baby born out of a boil, which they revived by putting into an oven? Is it just senility, or is she affecting senility, or does it shed light backward on the time when, younger, she told the police at the jail she was pregnant? Was she, and was the baby's father her husband's brother? I know I'm grabbing at straws here, but... On the other hand, I enjoyed the powerful atmospheres of both stories. In "The Jack Randa Hotel" Munro captures wonderfully, I think, the terrible love/hate ambivalence of a romantic estrangement: "She shivers in the heat--most fearful, most desirous, of seeing Will's utterly familiar figure, that one rather small and jaunty, free-striding package, of all that could pain or appease her, in the world." Yep, that's it, all right. Onward to "Carried Away" and "Vandals"... Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 23 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/26 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 8:46 PM Barbara and Steve, Thanks for the reading suggestions, Barb. One of the things I am enjoying most about CR is finding out what others have read and enjoyed. And to think, I sometimes used to be at a loss about what to read next! Steve, how generous to offer me 4 beers to your 2. According to my admittedly arbitrary criteria, only a male can judge whether a female author has written a convincing male character, and vice versa, of course. So I was interested in your mention of Heathcliff and Rochester. These two characters are kind of romantic ideals for teenage girls, and I always thought of Wuthering Height and Jane Eyre as 'woman's ' books. What do you think? Are there really men out there like that, and , if so, where can we find them? I nominate Hana in Ondaatje's The English Patient as a wonderful female character in a book written by a man. Ann To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 04/26 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 11:00 PM Sherry--I am so glad that I proposed this book for the group. Would never have gotten this far with my understanding of it by myself. Really like your method of breaking it down. I was stopped by that bundle hanging from the saddle of the man in front of Lottar the second or third time I read the story and hadn't even noticed it before. I thought it was the guide's head as well, especially noting the Franciscan's description of them being "in blood" with him. By the way, do you remember when Lottar said in response to the explanation of their revenge that her guide did not seem so ready to die for the honor of his family, since he had fled to Crna Gora. Then the Franciscan said, "But it didn't make any difference, did it? Even if he had gone to American, it would not have made any difference. Do you think that is significant? Jennifer Jones was popular in the 40's and 50's, I think. By the way, I loved the concept of the Virgin. Take the possibility of sex away and the women suddenly have an equal or near-equal relationship with men. I couldn't figure out the concept of the "joke" about sailing to American either, other than that it sort of established that they wanted to go to America--therefore it first gives you the idea that the Franciscan might be amenable to the trip, given the love of Lottar, etc. I also didn't connect the cloak that they covered Lottar with as she left and the one that Charlotte wears. One connection I wondered about between Charlotte/Lottar and Claire was the Albanian Virgin title...that in going to British Columbia and starting the bookstore, Claire was sort of doing what Lottar did when she became a Virgin and a shepherd...removing herself from her relationships, exposing herself to some deprivation (the thin, red soup, constant cold, etc.) while she sorted out where she was going next. Lottar realized she was in love with the Franciscan after that period and Claire realized the same with Nelson?? The let-down here is that the visualization and even italicized description of their future relationship doesn't sound terribly fulfilling. And, the relationship between Charlotte and Gjurdi still seemed somewhat electric (remember Claire's sense of sexuality as she was leaving the dinner?) even in their older years. However, few of Munro's long-term relationships sound terribly fulfilling. Barbara =============== Reply 2 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/26 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 11:00 PM Yes, I agree, Steve. "The Jack Randa Hotel" was my least favorite as well. I got rather impatient with them all. I love "A Wilderness Station" though. Like the slant she brings to history. One of my favorite little pieces of that story was at the end when "Old Annie" tells the girl that "a girl in the Home had a baby out of a big boil that burst on her stomach, and it was the size of a rat and had no life in it, but they put it in the oven and it puffed up to the right size and baked to a good color and started to kick its legs." When the girl tells her that it wasn't possible, that it must have been a dream, she says, " Maybe so, I did used to have the terriblest dreams." What an understatement given her childhood and young adult years!! And, can't you just hear an old person repeating this horrible story that was probably told her by the nuns and realizing belatedly how impossible it was. And I loved the contrast between the independent girl narrating the story at the end and Annie Herron. Barb =============== Reply 3 of Note 1 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 04/26 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 11:06 PM Well, it WAS kind of generous of me, wasn't it, Ann? You are a good sport. The fact is that Heathcliff and Rochester come to mind immediately when the subject of cross-gender characterization comes up. These are NOT strictly ladies' books, I assure you. I must admit, though, I am a bit disappointed that you omitted any reference to RHETT in your note, however! Haven't you read that book? Steve 4/26/95 10:03PM CT =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/26 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 11:28 PM This is an absolute delight! I log on to send my note to Annie and I find these two notes simultaneously from you and Dale, Barb. I was jarred--JARRED-- to read your quotation of this passage. And Dale noticed it big time, too! I still don't know what to make of it. It just kind of comes out of the blue! Actually, the thing that impressed me most about this story is the epistolary form early on. These letters sound so authentic. She is able to mimic another's voice so believably. Wonderful stuff. But I am so interested to read your response to Dale's note. I really am stunned by the passage that you quote. What do you make of it, Barb? Is it necessary that I experience child birth before I can understand whereof we speak here? If so, I guess I am ******! Not gonna happen. Steve 4/26/95 10:26PM CT =============== Reply 5 of Note 1 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 04/26 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 11:40 PM Sherry, I want you to know that I printed off your three-part note such that I could study it in my easy chair last night. It was as good a piece of CLOSE reading as I have seen in recent times. I VERY much enjoyed it. Thank you. Anyone who understands the importance of the sense of smell as much as you do is a pal of mine forever. The most important of the six senses in my humble opinion, and the most neglected in literature! Stick around, please! Steve 4/26/95 10:37PM CT =============== Reply 6 of Note 1 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/26 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 11:55 PM Hmmmm....Dale, just uploaded my most recent note re: Munro's stories and got your note back and you've got me thinking again...maybe the pregnancy story is a bigger deal than I thought. And I'm also wondering about the points you raised about the Jack Randa Hotel story. It's too late (there's that work getting in the way of my reading again....) to do it now, but I'm definitely off to reread these two and get back with you. Just when I thought these were two relatively simple ones too.... Barbara =============== Reply 7 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/27 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:21 AM Steve, I am very glad you appreciated my endeavor. I was worried that I had clogged up too much of the board. Working through it chronologically had unforeseen advantages. It made me really try to read between the lines. (Forgive me if this sounds choppy; I cut my right pointer finger while foraging in the knife drawer & I am reduced to hunt & peck which is most uncomfortable). I discovered that so much of the story was conveyed on a subliminal level. I look forward to reading her other stories, but I need to finish SOPHIE'S WORLD first since I see Allen has started posting on that. Sherry =============== Reply 8 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/27 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:03 AM Barbara, I'm glad you suggested this book, too. It's impossible (at least on the boards) to examine a novel as in depth as you can examine a really well-crafted short story. I think Munro (as someone has mentioned already) is a master at "leaving out". We perceive the meaning of things intuitively, or more accurately, perceive that there IS a meaning and have to push ourselves to find what that meaning is. A perfect example is the "cabbage"-like bundle. I think most people wouldn't know immediately what that is, but somehow it's presence gives us a sense dis-ease or violence. It works on our unconscious to give a particular aura to the setting. I think that the Franciscan saying "it didn't matter" about going to America to escape the blood feud was an indication of how "center-of-the-universe" the people of the madhe were. These blood feuds obviously were a very important binding force, more important than Christianity (remember the crosses with thin people and rifles?). So their belief in these feuds had to be strong enough for them to think that they would follow their enemies to the end of the earth, even though we know that this would probably not happen. I think even the Franciscan, who was not wholly of the madhe had this "central" feeling about this culture. I think you're right about the connection between Claire and Charlotte/Lottar BOTH becoming Virgins. I hadn't articulated the thought clearly, but I think I FELT it. I remember reading about the thin broth lasting an hour and having a small gleam of recognition come to me, but only dimly. The italicized description of the rest of Claire's life sounds more fulfilling to me than non fulfilling. It sounds like the honest description of a real life. I think most of us, if we've had long-term relationships (& I have) know that sometimes you feel alone and sometimes you don't. I think that is the dynamic in a lot of relationships. But I know what you mean as compared with the electricity of the Charlotte/Gjurdhi relationship. If you think about it, that relationship HAD to be EXTREMELY electric to have been able to come together. Think about the cost to both sides; the Franciscan leaving his entire culture and the position of leadership he had in the madhe, and Charlotte giving up her culture and her history as well and both of them living in poverty -- just so they could be together. They made their own culture of two, and there had to be enormous binding forces for them to stay together for so long. Sherry =============== Reply 9 of Note 1 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 04/27 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:45 PM Oh, dear, doesn't anyone read mystery and suspense fiction? To me there would be nothing subliminal about it - a suspicious cabbage like bundle (especially if dripping or seeping) IS a head, and perhaps a few other small body parts as well. Cathy =============== Reply 10 of Note 1 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 04/28 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 8:01 PM Sherry, I really have enjoyed your dissection of this story. I am tempted to reread it, but am feeling very behind as I see someone has mentioned that Allen has begun posting on 'Sophie's World,' and I have not yet finished it. I'm also about two stories behind the rest of you in 'Open Secrets,' which has me feeling as if I'd better hurry up if I want to add anything meaningful to the discussion!. I especially like your thoughts about Munro leaving things out; I think that is an apt phrase for this storyteller. In parallel to what Charlotte and the Fransciscan gave up, although not on the same level, Claire and Nelson also gave something up...and she did it first, while he followed her, just like Charlotte and G. Sarah 4/28/95 10:12AM MT =============== Reply 11 of Note 1 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 04/28 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 8:01 PM Dale, I jumped ahead and read 'A Wilderness Station,' as I didn't see much discussion about 'A Real Life' and 'Open Secrets.' I reveled in Munro's ability to form a story and characters using so many different characters' voices: the brother writing to the Home, the director's answer, the voice of the brother, the minister, and the Gaol director, all before we hear anything from Annie herself. As far as the boil pregnancy, the exact wording there is "I recall her telling me another time that..." so it's not that Annie told the story then, but that the old woman's reminiscences took that turn there. I still agree there's some significance, but can't put my finger on it...except that she prefaced it by saying that old people 'back then' were going around with some strange ideas. Mostly, I think the use of the ending storyteller is much the same as the beginning ones served; to tell Annie's story with as little input from Annie as possible. This certainly makes sense with what we know of her life, as most decisions or events occurred in her life without her helping make them...her marriage, her complicity in her husband's death, her fleeing from her brother-in-law... Princess Sarah 4/28/95 10:20AM MT =============== Reply 1 of Note 1 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 04/29 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 12:17 PM Sarah, would you mind taking another look at the Annie's discussion of her dreams at pp. 214-15? The grotesque dream at the end simply harkens back to her other dreams, I think. There certainly is significance in her statement, "If they think I am crazy and I know the difference I am safe." But she obviously did have trouble distinguishing her dreams from reality. And then there is the yelling: "And I would like for that yelling to stop." On page 217 we find: "She said that a girl in the next bed screamed and screamed, and that was why she--Annie--ran away and lived the the woods. She said the girl had been beaten for letting the fire go out." I am not completely sure about all this, but there certainly seems to be great many allusions in this story to physical abuse of women. Annie herself was sensitive about people seeing the black and blue marks on her. Perhaps this story is principally a portrayal of the brutality inflicted upon frontier women by the environment and by the men and the impact of all this upon their sanity. It is interesting to see that Annie survived it all in the end better than George. So the story is also a testament to the endurance of women. That's the best I can do with it. I was also quite impressed, as were you, with Munro's ability to invent various and very distinctive voices in her composition of the different letters set out at the beginning of the story. Steve 4/29/95 11:15AM CT =============== Reply 2 of Note 1 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 04/29 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 12:22 PM Oh, ye of little faith, Ann! =============== Reply 3 of Note 1 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 04/30 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 4:19 PM Theresa, this note of yours has been hanging around on my BB Note Manager for nearly a month, now with 16 replies, mostly unrelated. When Ann recently mentioned THE ENGLISH PATIENT in an offhand manner, I started to feel like the only one who had not read it. On an impulse I raced to the library at 4:40 p.m. yesterday, twenty minutes before closing, and scored the book as last call was being announced. About thirty minutes ago I closed the book after reading the last line about Kirpal catching his daughter's dropped fork an inch off the floor. I am speechless--well, nearly so. Spectacular! An absolutely spectacular book! Steve 4/30/95 3:18PM CT =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/30 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 5:35 PM Steve, I read THE BATTLER, which, as it turns out, I dimly remember reading long ago (all those years, piling on). I agree with the "poignant", although I must defend Miss Frances-surely she didn't weigh nearly as much as I do-even with her bun. In the story, I especially like the ironic manner of the black man who so capably looks after Ad, the broken-down boxer. His elaborate courtesy in addressing the two whites as "Mister" even as he demonstrates his ability to handle both of them with such gentle skill. The relationship between Ad and Bugs reminds me strongly of Lenny and George in OF MICE AND MEN. A sense of responsibility for someone else, affectionate without sentimentality, in circumstances which would justify rather more self-interest. Yeah, this is a good one. And in digging it out, I found my self going on to read several more Hemingway stories. A bonus, always. Regards from Tennessee, Felix Miller =============== Reply 5 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/30 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 7:14 PM Dale, Steve, Sarah, etc.--Finally had time to reread "A Wilderness Station" today and was glad I did. Am not sure I figured anything out, but noted things that I just read through the first time. I think my main conclusion from reading OPEN SECRETS is that you should never read a Munro story only once. Am wondering if those earlier stories were really as straightforward as I thought. My overriding impression reading this story both times though is how well it conveys the bleakness and sparseness of those frontier times. We've romanticized this so thoroughly in our culture that the spirit conveyed here has been lost. My dad was born in 1907 to a very poor farm family in Nebraska who came there from Kentucky to settle. He always felt that his mother died from overwork and the stories that he told me about his early life have the same feel that this story does. So, that is what I took, and probably still take, to be the main purpose of the story. And, Steve, I think Munro is probably putting extra focus on how vulnerable women were in particular in this environment. However, the older brother sounded incredibly mean to both Annie and the younger brother. But, again, I remember my dad telling me about men like that where he grew up. Also, I sort of felt a connection between the minister from Carstairs who wrote to warn them that Annie might be coming to the gaol and Annie. Both of them were brought there with expectations of better things. Annie was shocked at the desolation and the minister had been promised a house or church. The minister didn't survive in the end; Annie did, but at what a price! Re: the yelling, Steve--the original yelling was from the woman in the next cell at the gaol who had been attacked by two men. Then on pg. 217, the narrator says that she often mixed up the Home and the gaol and Annie tells about a girl who was beaten for letting the fire go out, which would seem to be at the Home. And said that is why she ran away and lived in the woods--I took that to mean that is why she decided to marry the older brother and go live in the wilderness. What irony! Leaving the home because of another girl's beating and falling into an even worse situation. And, the pregnancy story, I again just took as evidence of her incredible ignorance and misinformation. But, I suppose that it could've been connected with some horrible guilt about things going farther with the brother than she said. I just thought the the final detailed letter that she sent to her friend was the truth. And, by telling it, she purged herself enough of the whole situation to leave the gaol, work for Mullen and move on. By the way, I didn't catch on my first read that she had gone to work for the man who wrote the letters about her from the gaol. Also, chuckled again about the descriptions of female insanities and what caused them ("submission to her husband not complete" and "the sort of reading that is available to females") on pages 203 and 205. Certainly glad I wasn't a woman in those times.... Haven't been able to read "The Jack Randa Hotel" again; it's been very busy around here. Barbara =============== Reply 6 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 04/30 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 8:00 PM Likewise, Felix, you sent me back to revisit the Big Two-Hearted River, Parts I and II. The comparison to George and Lenny was quite apt, I thought. Steve 4/30/95 5:34PM CT =============== Reply 7 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/30 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 8:34 PM Hi Barbara, et al. I put off reading your posts about Munro until I could read the stories myself. I'm glad I did, and have enjoyed reading all of your thoughts. My impression is that the girl who was beaten for letting the fire go out was the bride herself - beaten by the dead husband - and that she ran off to the wilderness in a sense after he died - by remaining alone in the empty house, and later ending up in a version of an insane asylum (surely a type of wilderness). She had wished him dead so many times, when it finally happened she assumed she must share in the guilt. I agree that all of these stories deserve a re-reading - except the Jack Randa Hotel, which I thought was rather silly and didn't really belong in the book at all. Has anyone noticed how many decapitations and other head injuries there are here? From the poor fellow at the piano factory, to Albert nearly brained by the mad-woman on his delivery route, to the Albanian guide and the cabbage in a bag, to the cruel husband struck by his brother on the head with an ax. Theresa =============== Reply 8 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/30 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 8:38 PM Hi Steve. I know - I hate seeing that note pop up so much - I never like the way what I've written appears on the screen here (kind of like having to watch videotapes of oneself at mock trials at school - excruciating). I am still thinking about the English Patient - in addition to interrupting my life it has lingered on my mind. I just purchased a used Penguin Herodotus Histories. I was intrigued by the quotes Ondaatje has excerpted in the book. I've just skimmed it - it's very "readable." If anyone here has read this, I'd be interested to discuss. I'm supposed to be preparing for finals though, so may not get to read more for a while. Theresa =============== Reply 1 of Note 1 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/02 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 2:15 AM Hi Cathy. From what little I've been able to read so far, I don't think he took everything as the literal truth so much as saw "history" as a great story - he starts right off giving both sides' versions of events equal airing as far as the stealing of Io, etc. - an early historical relativist, so to speak (he also thought they shouldn't have made such a big deal about women being kidnapped by the enemies, as everyone knows they only get taken when they want to - cf. one of our esteemed elected leaders recent interesting theories on the conditions necessary for baby production...) Theresa =============== Reply 2 of Note 1 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/02 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 2:32 AM I've really enjoyed all the different takes on the Albanian Virgen. Mine's a little different, as usual. (And I want to chastise the guys out there for not immediately realizing that Lottar is a putative Charlotte. You were pulling our legs, right?) Anyway, I think there were some few grains of truth in the tale but, based on Charlotte's self-admitted perverseness, she made the story up to send up the hearer. It has all the elements of a romance story, but grunge-style, with bugs and dirt. A young woman finds herself in an exotic locale, at the mercy of the locals. She meets up with a "boss man" type, who is of the people, yet superior to them in many ways. Whether he is friend or foe is unclear. For unknown reasons boss-man saves the young woman from sexual peril. She is separated from him, and realizes too late that it is TRUE LOVE. But it's not too late - he comes to her at the last minute. How beautiful, hmmm.... So, here Charlotte and Ghjurdi (I wonder how Xoti, (leader) as Lottar calls the Franciscan is pronounced? I'll bet it's close to Ghjurdi (sp?) have a real life - rather mundane and limited, but they seem happy enough, even if they did not in truth spring out of a romantic fantasy. I agree with the comparisons to the narrator's life (can't recall her name). She has stepped out of a romance story situation (marriage to an older man, a DOCTOR for heaven's sake) into what turns out to be her real life. And as we see at the end, it was apparently the right choice, despite the very unromantic day to day details. Interesting that her lover's discarded wife is a nurse - as is often the heroine in a romance. The narrator is closer to the bold and wild woman who threatens to steal away the boss-man, but always loses out in the end. But here she got him, or some lesser version of him at least. And the poor nurse seems to have conveniently disappeared from the scene. (In case you're wondering - about a three month period in seventh grade - I read many romance stories, got over them quickly. Although, in those days, the most excitement was a passionate kiss. From what I hear, they're a lot racier now - who knows, I might have kept reading.....). Theresa Berkeley, CA is full of elderly, rather odd couples just like Charlotte and Ghurdi. Really - they're all over the place. =============== Reply 3 of Note 1 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 05/03 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:02 AM Here, have pity on the remnants of the sixties! They made history being odd. You can always tell a person who came of age in that era - even in Nashville, with a strict college (I will NOT call it a university) in the background, some of the aura sticks. Cathy =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 05/03 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 1:09 PM Steve, I haven't been ignoring your request...life is interrupting my reading and posting right now, but I should be back soon...don't give up on me. Sarah 5/2/95 11:12AM MT =============== Reply 1 of Note 1 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 04/30 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 4:19 PM Theresa, this note of yours has been hanging around on my BB Note Manager for nearly a month, now with 16 replies, mostly unrelated. When Ann recently mentioned THE ENGLISH PATIENT in an offhand manner, I started to feel like the only one who had not read it. On an impulse I raced to the library at 4:40 p.m. yesterday, twenty minutes before closing, and scored the book as last call was being announced. About thirty minutes ago I closed the book after reading the last line about Kirpal catching his daughter's dropped fork an inch off the floor. I am speechless--well, nearly so. Spectacular! An absolutely spectacular book! Steve 4/30/95 3:18PM CT =============== Reply 2 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/30 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 5:35 PM Steve, I read THE BATTLER, which, as it turns out, I dimly remember reading long ago (all those years, piling on). I agree with the "poignant", although I must defend Miss Frances-surely she didn't weigh nearly as much as I do-even with her bun. In the story, I especially like the ironic manner of the black man who so capably looks after Ad, the broken-down boxer. His elaborate courtesy in addressing the two whites as "Mister" even as he demonstrates his ability to handle both of them with such gentle skill. The relationship between Ad and Bugs reminds me strongly of Lenny and George in OF MICE AND MEN. A sense of responsibility for someone else, affectionate without sentimentality, in circumstances which would justify rather more self-interest. Yeah, this is a good one. And in digging it out, I found my self going on to read several more Hemingway stories. A bonus, always. Regards from Tennessee, Felix Miller =============== Reply 3 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/30 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 7:14 PM Dale, Steve, Sarah, etc.--Finally had time to reread "A Wilderness Station" today and was glad I did. Am not sure I figured anything out, but noted things that I just read through the first time. I think my main conclusion from reading OPEN SECRETS is that you should never read a Munro story only once. Am wondering if those earlier stories were really as straightforward as I thought. My overriding impression reading this story both times though is how well it conveys the bleakness and sparseness of those frontier times. We've romanticized this so thoroughly in our culture that the spirit conveyed here has been lost. My dad was born in 1907 to a very poor farm family in Nebraska who came there from Kentucky to settle. He always felt that his mother died from overwork and the stories that he told me about his early life have the same feel that this story does. So, that is what I took, and probably still take, to be the main purpose of the story. And, Steve, I think Munro is probably putting extra focus on how vulnerable women were in particular in this environment. However, the older brother sounded incredibly mean to both Annie and the younger brother. But, again, I remember my dad telling me about men like that where he grew up. Also, I sort of felt a connection between the minister from Carstairs who wrote to warn them that Annie might be coming to the gaol and Annie. Both of them were brought there with expectations of better things. Annie was shocked at the desolation and the minister had been promised a house or church. The minister didn't survive in the end; Annie did, but at what a price! Re: the yelling, Steve--the original yelling was from the woman in the next cell at the gaol who had been attacked by two men. Then on pg. 217, the narrator says that she often mixed up the Home and the gaol and Annie tells about a girl who was beaten for letting the fire go out, which would seem to be at the Home. And said that is why she ran away and lived in the woods--I took that to mean that is why she decided to marry the older brother and go live in the wilderness. What irony! Leaving the home because of another girl's beating and falling into an even worse situation. And, the pregnancy story, I again just took as evidence of her incredible ignorance and misinformation. But, I suppose that it could've been connected with some horrible guilt about things going farther with the brother than she said. I just thought the the final detailed letter that she sent to her friend was the truth. And, by telling it, she purged herself enough of the whole situation to leave the gaol, work for Mullen and move on. By the way, I didn't catch on my first read that she had gone to work for the man who wrote the letters about her from the gaol. Also, chuckled again about the descriptions of female insanities and what caused them ("submission to her husband not complete" and "the sort of reading that is available to females") on pages 203 and 205. Certainly glad I wasn't a woman in those times.... Haven't been able to read "The Jack Randa Hotel" again; it's been very busy around here. Barbara =============== Reply 4 of Note 1 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 04/30 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 8:00 PM Likewise, Felix, you sent me back to revisit the Big Two-Hearted River, Parts I and II. The comparison to George and Lenny was quite apt, I thought. Steve 4/30/95 5:34PM CT =============== Reply 5 of Note 1 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 04/30 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 8:34 PM Hi Barbara, et al. I put off reading your posts about Munro until I could read the stories myself. I'm glad I did, and have enjoyed reading all of your thoughts. My impression is that the girl who was beaten for letting the fire go out was the bride herself - beaten by the dead husband - and that she ran off to the wilderness in a sense after he died - by remaining alone in the empty house, and later ending up in a version of an insane asylum (surely a type of wilderness). She had wished him dead so many times, when it finally happened she assumed she must share in the guilt. I agree that all of these stories deserve a re-reading - except the Jack Randa Hotel, which I thought was rather silly and didn't really belong in the book at all. Has anyone noticed how many decapitations and other head injuries there are here? From the poor fellow at the piano factory, to Albert nearly brained by the mad-woman on his delivery route, to the Albanian guide and the cabbage in a bag, to the cruel husband struck by his brother on the head with an ax. Theresa =============== Reply 6 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 04/30 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 8:38 PM Hi Steve. I know - I hate seeing that note pop up so much - I never like the way what I've written appears on the screen here (kind of like having to watch videotapes of oneself at mock trials at school - excruciating). I am still thinking about the English Patient - in addition to interrupting my life it has lingered on my mind. I just purchased a used Penguin Herodotus Histories. I was intrigued by the quotes Ondaatje has excerpted in the book. I've just skimmed it - it's very "readable." If anyone here has read this, I'd be interested to discuss. I'm supposed to be preparing for finals though, so may not get to read more for a while. Theresa =============== Reply 7 of Note 1 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 05/01 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:39 AM I am somewhat familiar with Herodotus, though I haven't read him myself. He was a chatty type historian, apparently, gathering tales from everywhere and accepting absolutely anything as the literal truth. Aside from that, the general verdict is that he is a lot of fun to read and seemed to enjoy what he was doing. Also, he covered a wider scope of the ancient world than fellow historian Thucydides, who concentrated on the Peloponnesian Wars. Thucydides was more accurate but apparently somewhat less readable. Cathy =============== Reply 8 of Note 1 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/02 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 2:15 AM Hi Cathy. From what little I've been able to read so far, I don't think he took everything as the literal truth so much as saw "history" as a great story - he starts right off giving both sides' versions of events equal airing as far as the stealing of Io, etc. - an early historical relativist, so to speak (he also thought they shouldn't have made such a big deal about women being kidnapped by the enemies, as everyone knows they only get taken when they want to - cf. one of our esteemed elected leaders recent interesting theories on the conditions necessary for baby production...) Theresa =============== Reply 9 of Note 1 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/02 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 2:32 AM I've really enjoyed all the different takes on the Albanian Virgen. Mine's a little different, as usual. (And I want to chastise the guys out there for not immediately realizing that Lottar is a putative Charlotte. You were pulling our legs, right?) Anyway, I think there were some few grains of truth in the tale but, based on Charlotte's self-admitted perverseness, she made the story up to send up the hearer. It has all the elements of a romance story, but grunge-style, with bugs and dirt. A young woman finds herself in an exotic locale, at the mercy of the locals. She meets up with a "boss man" type, who is of the people, yet superior to them in many ways. Whether he is friend or foe is unclear. For unknown reasons boss-man saves the young woman from sexual peril. She is separated from him, and realizes too late that it is TRUE LOVE. But it's not too late - he comes to her at the last minute. How beautiful, hmmm.... So, here Charlotte and Ghjurdi (I wonder how Xoti, (leader) as Lottar calls the Franciscan is pronounced? I'll bet it's close to Ghjurdi (sp?) have a real life - rather mundane and limited, but they seem happy enough, even if they did not in truth spring out of a romantic fantasy. I agree with the comparisons to the narrator's life (can't recall her name). She has stepped out of a romance story situation (marriage to an older man, a DOCTOR for heaven's sake) into what turns out to be her real life. And as we see at the end, it was apparently the right choice, despite the very unromantic day to day details. Interesting that her lover's discarded wife is a nurse - as is often the heroine in a romance. The narrator is closer to the bold and wild woman who threatens to steal away the boss-man, but always loses out in the end. But here she got him, or some lesser version of him at least. And the poor nurse seems to have conveniently disappeared from the scene. (In case you're wondering - about a three month period in seventh grade - I read many romance stories, got over them quickly. Although, in those days, the most excitement was a passionate kiss. From what I hear, they're a lot racier now - who knows, I might have kept reading.....). Theresa Berkeley, CA is full of elderly, rather odd couples just like Charlotte and Ghurdi. Really - they're all over the place. =============== Reply 10 of Note 1 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 05/03 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:02 AM Here, have pity on the remnants of the sixties! They made history being odd. You can always tell a person who came of age in that era - even in Nashville, with a strict college (I will NOT call it a university) in the background, some of the aura sticks. Cathy =============== Reply 11 of Note 1 =================  
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 05/03 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 1:09 PM Steve, I haven't been ignoring your request...life is interrupting my reading and posting right now, but I should be back soon...don't give up on me. Sarah 5/2/95 11:12AM MT

 
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Alice Munro

 
That being said, I truly enjoyed Munro's spectacular flow through this great story. There is nothing like being thrown right into the action, and being carried through the Maltsia e madhe wrapped in a wool blanket and bathed in raki, then spending a few years with the Ghegs, certainly qualifies for an abrupt opening.
Sarah Hart
 
I'll tell you! What a black, nightmarish, troubling story this is! What a collection of male characters! Gives me the shivers!
Steve Warbasse
 
I enjoyed the powerful atmospheres of both stories. In "The Jack Randa Hotel" Munro captures wonderfully, I think, the terrible love/hate ambivalence of a romantic estrangement: "She shivers in the heat--most fearful, most desirous, of seeing Will's utterly familiar figure, that one rather small and jaunty, free-striding package, of all that could pain or appease her, in the world." Yep, that's it, all right.
Dale in Ala.

 
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