OPEN SECRETS (1994) was the seventh collection of short stories published by Alice Munro, her eighth, if one does not classify LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN (1971) as a novel. While all the works in SELECTED STORIES were published previously, this volume, with its chronological organization, enables one to trace the development of a writer who for three decades has been recognized as one of the finest on the contemporary scene.
Over this period, Munro’s stories have altered primarily in setting and focus. In the 1960’s, she described life in rural Canada, often in southwestern Ontario, where she spent her childhood. In later years, however, the action takes place in urban centers, such as Vancouver, British Columbia, the setting of “Material,” or even abroad, as in “The Albanian Virgin.”
Munro’s focus has also altered. At first she told stories of initiation from the vantage point of a child or a young girl, but she soon turned to adult life, with its problems in male-female relationships, its concern about life’s limitations and its precariousness, and the wrenching realization of human isolation. However, some elements remain constant in Munro’s work. One is the author’s habit of telling her stories from a feminine vantage point. Another is her inclusiveness. Like a small town gossip, Munro indulges in what seem to be extraneous details, withholding their significance until the very end of a story. Moreover, every story in this extensive collection holds its own surprise. They are alike only in their subtlety, their power, and the technical dexterity they exhibit. This consistent high quality makes Munro’s SELECTED STORIES an especially valuable publication.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XCII, August, 1996, p. 1856.
Boston Globe. November 3, 1996, p. D15.
Library Journal. CXXI, October 1, 1996, p. 130.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 13, 1996, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. CI, October 27, 1996, p. 11.
Newsweek. CXXVIII, October 21, 1996, p. 88.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, August 12, 1996, p. 61.
The Times Literary Supplement. November 8, 1996, p. 26.
The Wall Street Journal. October 25, 1996, p. A12.
The Washington Post Book World. XXVI, November 10, 1996, p. 1.