Monthly Archives: June 2015

“Something I’ve been meaning to tell you” by Alice Munro

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untitledMy choice of the next writer having won a Nobel Prize for Literature was guided by a desire for a feminine touch with a modern writing allure. I gladly learned that in 2013 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Alice Munro, a Canadian writer. She was awarded the prize cited as a “master of the contemporary short story”. She is the first Canadian and the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The title of the book caught my attention by the mistery the word “something” implied. This book is a collection of 13 short stories first published in 1974. I am not a fan of short stories as they almost always leave a “so what’s next” question unanswered. Alice Munro stories, by contrast, give a clear sense of the story’s end, some even too abrupt to my taste.
Some stories are personalized and presented as the author’s own experience, some have feminine characters, ten year old girls, teenagers, married women, seniors.
Of the 13 stories, I liked most the “Forgiveness in families”. It passes on the message of practicing tolerance and compassion with members of the family, who willingly or unwillingly push our buttons. It is the story of a relationship between a brother and a sister, whose life’s views and lifestyles clash. Their mother’s sudden illness brings them together in the most unorthodox way. The story left a sunny print on my beliefs about siblings’ relationships.
On many occasions, I caught myself thinking that the writing did not do justice to some of the feminine characters by letting them live in a state of confusion, endless search of self, or an exacerbating dependence on a male love. For instance the character in “The Spanish Lady” whose husband of twenty years got a mistress, her best friend. The character’s daughters are gown up and experience their lives while she feels empty and betrayed to a level of finding an imaginary admirer meant probably to reassure her feminine self worth. While far from contesting the presentation of the author’s reality, I would have liked the fiction to be a bit more up-lifting and serene. In the last story “The Otawa Story” the author herself seems to acknowledge this and do justice to her characters.

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The unfamiliar familiar

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When first time in a new airport, my eyes look for familiarity. Starbucks helps of course, but it is not this kind of image that my eyes seek confort in. After a very intensive people job in a town where I met someone I know literally at every corner and in each cafe, I was telling my friend that I would like to go someplace where no one knows me. Such an opportunity materilialised itself through a new job, in a new city in a new country, 3 thousand miles away. Three months after the plounge into this new environment I catch myself looking for familar things, faces, flavours. In every bold passenger passing by I see a former bold colleague of mine :).
Cannot help asking myself whether there is natural urge built in our human nature for a dose of unfamiliar we need from time to time to open up to new experiences? “Ya, right, from the crystal clear routine to the foggy promise of whoknowswhat” says the skeptic inside me. So this skeptic pal switches on the brain’s surviver mode to keep things as they are. And the urge to change will clash with the status quo. Ouch! It might hurt. Yet, their clash is the beautiful creator of the joy of life, the joy of freedom, the joy of being alive.
Sometimes, for the spark to happen it needs a change of scenery. Sometimes, it happens on my own mental landscape while sipping my favourite drink under my favourite blanket or while doing that over-grown bulk of laundery.
The change from the familiar to the unfamiliar may be a journey or a leap. It’s not that much its nature that matters, i learned.  It’s more about my attitude towards it. If my inner skeptic is still not convinced, i’d show him a new born baby opening her eyes to the new world she enteres. The womb was the familiar she gave up to embrace the new unfamiliar and wonderfully scary world. And she does it with confidence. Her Mother’s voice is the bridge from the familiar to the unfamiliar. It is the invisible safety thread the baby has. Now the magic is in finding your own thread or …. rope, if you wish to leap into the unfamiliar. It can be someone you deeply care about or a cause you support or your dream.
Remember “I’ve got a dream” from “Tangled”? Now imagine your unfamiliar the same way Rapunzel saw the floating lanterns up into the blue of the endless sky and go for it. Gently and with confidence.