Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
Munro won the nobel prize for literature in 2013 based on a body of work, but Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is a good place to start an exploration of her efforts.
She’s been called a “master of the [short story] form” by folks like Salman Rushdie. She’s written more than a dozen books of short stories which seem to mostly deal with small-town relationships, the uncertainty in the space between lovers, and the unpredictable cul-de-sacs of life.
This collection is beautiful and beautifully written, with a density of insight on personalities and character which is reminiscent of a more generous, less sexually-aggressive Kundera. (Even typing this, I worry that so imprecise a comparison does Munro a disservice.)
The stories all circle themes of the unknowability of the future and the lifelong impact of chance intimacies. Munro sees deeply into the secret heart of each of her characters, then presents them spread out for the reader in a way that makes you think about how little you probably really understand about the people you’re closest to…. And by extension how difficult it is to really see inside the motivations of more casual acquaintances.
Munro is eighty-two years old, and has declared that she is done writing. It’s a shame, because her ability to turn an emotional microscope on her characters is powerful. The good news for the rest of us is that she’s written quite a lot in her life – so there’s lots for us to learn.
I plan on picking up everything else by her I can find the next time I’m at Powell’s.