Well, my friends. Thank you so much for the invigorating discussion about Alice Munro’s “Corrie.” However, I have nothing new to add to what I have said in defense of Ms. Munro's tactic in the story. I think she supports the secrecy theme with the free indirect point of view very nicely indeed. I hope some others will weigh in on this little debate. However, I leave it, at least for the time being, with this little quote I have penciled in on a 3x5 card (Raymond Carver used to do this; remember him?) from a piece by Joyce Cary (remember him?) in the New York Times Book Review way back in 1950: (I was only nine at the time, but I was precocious.)
"Every professional artist has met the questioner who asks of some detail: ‘Why did you do it so clumsily like that, when you could have done it so neatly like this?’”
I used the quote as the heading for a piece I did several years ago on Hemingway’s story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” rebutting one critic’s claim that Hemingway had screwed up the dialogue designation in the story, thus creating reader confusion. As a result, Scribner’s actually changed the text in the next edition of Hemingway’s Collected Stories. I was outraged; I knew Hemingway was too damned careful to muck the story up and tried hard to show that he had a sound thematic reason for creating what that critic thought was a mistake. The last time I checked, Scribner’s had changed it back to the original. So it goes!
I always tried to convince my students that if they read a story and thought it was screwed up or just plan screwy, they should assume first of all that it was their fault and not the fault of the writer. I always assume, and tried to convince them to assume, that the writer knew what he or she was doing. However, if they read it several times and really gave themselves over to the work and still couldn’t come to terms with it, then, I was happy to listen to arguments. I have been happy to listen to arguments by Ed and Kseniya about “Corrie,” but I have read it again and again, and I still believe Ms. Munro has got it right here. I am not saying I can’t be convinced that Munro cheated (Heavens!) or that she did not know how to pull it off (Lord a’mercy!), just that at this point, my faith in her unerring ability at writing short stories has not been shaken. Keep those cards and letters coming!
In the meantime, serendipitously, I have been reading David Means’ new collection The Spot, which contains a story entitled “Reading Chekhov,” which is a version of Chekhov’s “Lady with the Pet Dog,” the greatest adultery story in Christendom, in my opinion. So I went back and read Chekhov's “Lady with the Pet Dog” again and was, as the young’uns like to say, “blown away.” I then looked up Joyce Carol Oates’ story, “Lady with the Pet Dog,” and was so underwhelmed that I dozed off twice.
So, since with Munro, we have been talking about adultery (we have been talking about adultery, haven’t we?), I thought I would post a blog comparing the Means with the Munro with the Chekhov with the Oates. I love to bad mouth Oates about as much as I love to praise David Means.
Oh, by the way, I just got the new edition of Best American Short Stories, 2010 and am reading it dutifully. I will have a post on my progress in a couple of weeks.
And there is a new David Means story in the recent issue of the New Yorker. I will comment on it in the next week also.
I appreciate my readers and look forward to more lively responses to my humble remarks.