Alice Munro Munro, Alice (Vol. 6)

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Munro, Alice (Vol. 6)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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Munro, Alice 1931–

A Canadian short story writer and novelist, Ms Munro first received widespread recognition for her collection Dance of the Happy Shades. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36.)

The short story is alive and well in Canada, where most of [the] 15 tales [in "Dance of the Happy Shades"] originate like fresh winds from the North. Alice Munro … creates a solid habitat for her fiction—southwestern Ontario, a generation or more in the past—and is in sympathetic vibration with the farmers and townspeople who live there.

Realist though she is, the author elects to arrive at revelations rather than ironies…. Miss Munro poses more questions than answers—a refreshing strategy. (p. 48)

Martin Levin, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1973 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 23, 1973.

["Dance of the Happy Shades" is a collection of fifteen] short stories, warm and detailed but fundamentally sketchy, set in country places and small towns in southwestern Ontario. The background in these stories is beyond all doubt authentic. The interiors of the houses, the views from their windows, the walks the people take on the roads and streets of the places where they live—all these, and the weather, are made so real that a reader who had never heard of Canada would understand, and perhaps even half recognize, the world Alice Munro is describing. The conversations also are extremely well rendered. It is only when she comes to deal with personality and character that this writer's hand becomes weak and her work faint, so that in the end the stories can be compared to a series of excellent, irreplaceable photographs in which every leaf, every thread, every stick of furniture is as clear and clean-cut as the day the camera clicked, while the human hands and faces have faded away into a blank place that is beyond recall. (p. 186)

The New Yorker (© 1973 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), November 5, 1973.

Among their many fine qualities, [the] tales [in Dance of the Happy Shades] of small-town Ontario life, mostly set in the Forties, are beautifully controlled and precise. And always this precision appears unstrained. The proportions so exactly fit the writer's thematic aims that in almost every case it seems that really no other words could have been used, certainly no more or less. (p. 633)

Peter Prince, in New Statesman (© 1974 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), May 3, 1974.

Alice Munro's collection of stories [Dance of the Happy Shades] is both a progress and a regression. They show her moving forward as a beautifully exact recorder of a limited yet profound experience, and they invite the reader to turn back to the detail of her remarkable novel, Lives of Girls and Women…. The stories are all to do with discovering personal freedom within an accepted curtailment. There is no intentional nostalgia although, strangely enough, one frequently finds oneself rather wistfully caught up in some of the scenes so perfectly evoked; and there is no distortion in the characterisation. Parents, schoolfriends and neighbours never suffer the quaint inflation of people found in so much 'sticks' literature. They are shown as neither contented nor bland, and without so much as an eccentric safety valve, yet never about to explode. Fatalism? Inertia? Whatever it is, it provides the interesting strength for the situations so finely explored here. (p. 777)

Ronald Blythe, in The Listener (© British Broadcasting Corp. 1974; reprinted by permission of Ronald Blythe), June 13, 1974.

Memory is important in Alice Munro's writing, since she is obsessed by time, but imagination is more important.

In her … collection of stories, Something I've Been Meaning To Tell You , there is one ["Material"] that insists on the difference between mere recall of the past and its retrieval as materials for art…. [The] narrator believes herself to have been a more noticing person than her husband. His stories when she reads them,...

(The entire section is 1,428 words.)