Alice and me? Hey, we go way back

How many people can claim to have been hung up on by a Nobel Prize winner?

But, more about that later other than to say you know I am not talking about Marie Curie. I don’t think she even had a phone.

I must, however, preface this screed by repeating what you already know, and that is that I am not an avid fiction reader. I was at one time, but in more recent years I’ve devoted my recreational reading largely to non-fiction. Something to do with having been an English major, I suspect. Or maybe something to do with being male. Men don’t read anywhere near the amount of fiction that females do.

I have this odd mental block that tells me: “This is a good story but it didn’t really happen so how am I supposed to get emotionally involved with individuals who are products of the writer’s imagination?

Having said that, I must also confess that my scantiness of fiction reading especially applies to the short story. Right, so you know where this is leading. And that is not to say I dislike short stories. Some of my literary favorites from freshman English include such gems as “Mr. Arcularis,” “The Rocking Horse Winner”, “The Catbird Seat” and many others. It’s a neat little literary premise that tells a complete tale in just a relatively few pages.

But, I have read very few short stories in recent years because I find them frustrating. A short story is like a first date that seems to be rolling smoothly and leaves you with hopes of a continuation of the romance, or maybe some hot-and-heavy action in the future only to have the young lady say on her doorstep at the end of the evening: “That was fun but I’m not looking for any sort of relationship right now.”

The short story had its finest hours in the days when magazines were good and avidly followed. Esquire still offers short fiction, but the glory days belonged to Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Liberty and others.

That’s why it’s so phenomenal that a writer of short stories has taken the Nobel. Even more phenomenal that the writer happens to be a Canadian. And, by all accounts the award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving individual than Alice Munro. I find her win quite exciting.

And it leaves me slightly shamefaced because I have never read her. It doesn’t do to say that I have read Margaret Atwood or Margaret Laurence (so there is no male bias there), but I have never read Munro.

And that is not because she hung up on me.

So, back to my original point.

She didn’t exactly hang up on me but came pretty close.

It was back in the glory days of the old Green Sheet. The wonderful local paper at which I labored for many years.

One day the word was given to me by a ‘contact’ who asked if I realized that Alice Munro lived in Comox. Indeed I did not. She then asked if I would like her telephone number. Indeed I would, as this enabled me to vaingloriously court the idea that I could secure a local interview with a woman who was already a world-class literary figure. Who could resist. What a coup.

Well, it wasn’t to be a coup if Ms. Munro had anything to do with it. Seems she wasn’t about to grant a story to a small-town rag. Like I said, “world class”. Added to which, and I didn’t really appreciate the fact as I should have, that she just might have cherished her privacy.

Anyway, she blew me off royally. She was very displeased I’d called and wanted to know where I had gotten her number. I did not blow the whistle on her “friend”. Anyway, she was very curt and not at all chatty. I don’t recall if she hung up on me.

In retrospect I don’t blame her, but I was a bit insulted at the time.

But, in stories I have read in the past week it has been noted that she doesn’t exactly hang on the telephone. Evidently it took a while to reach her to inform her of her Nobel win.

Anyway, no hard feelings, Ms. Munro. You’ve done us all proud.


2 responses to “Alice and me? Hey, we go way back

  1. “This is a good story but it didn’t really happen so how am I supposed to get emotionally involved with individuals who are products of the writer’s imagination?

    Pfft, men!

    This said, I’ve always found short stories frustrating too. They must be hell to write though, when you think of everything writers pack into those few pages. And I’ve read some Munro, but not nearly enough. Maybe this’ll goad me into it (like all those others who will read her now because of the Nobel).

  2. Interesting to find out that so many people I know — readerly people I know — who have never read Munro. And those that have didn’t really like her stories. Obviously somebody does, however.

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