Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Axis" by Alice Munro

"Axis" by Alice Munro (2011)

The Best American Short Stories 2012
A Reading Life Project

Alice Munro
Ontario, Canada

I have three "Best of 2012" short story anthologies, one devoted to British Short Stories, one to European Fiction and The Best of American Short Stories 2012, edited by Tom Perrotta.   It is my hope to finish these three collections by the end of the year    I will  keep a running best of the best contest in which I list the top five from each collection and the top ten overall.   There are about seventy stories in these collections so I hope to get a bit of a sense of the contemporary short story from this project and read some great stories in the process.   I will only be posting on a small percent of the stories as it will often take me as long or longer to write a post on a story as to read another one.    In order to be eligible for inclusion in the collection a writer must be either an American or a Canadian (or have taken up long term residence) and their story must have been published in an American or Canadian journal.

Top Five Stories So Far (with only four read-in random order)
1.  "Diem Perdidi" by Julie Otsuka
2.  "Axis" by Alice Munro
3.  "The Last Speaker of the Language" by Carol Anshaw (no post)
4.  "Miracle Polish" by Steven Millhauser (no post)

I think a lot of people were hoping either Alice Munro or William Trevor was going to get the 2012 Nobel Prize for literature. I certainly was.    Many of the short story writers I have been in contact with in the last two years have said they greatly admire the work of Alice Munro.   Buried in Print, one of the best of book blogs, is doing a read through of all of Munro's stories.   I have only read and posted on only one of her short stories, "Runaway" so I was very glad to find one of her stories included in The Best of American Short Stories 2012.

This story is set in rural Ontario, just like most of her other stories.   Munro is known for covering many years of characters lives in her stories.   That is just what she does in "Axis".   Reading this story I cannot help but wonder how influenced her work is by the extreme cold of the Canadian winter during which just going outside without heavy clothing can kill you.  It also essentially traps most people inside in small quarters often heated to an uncomfortable degree. People say escaping from a trap is one of the common threads found in many of her short stories.

"Axis" introduces us to two Canadian college women, good friends.   They are on the bus taking them back to their rural homes.   They carry serious books with them like The Medieval World, Montcalm and Wolfe, and The Jesuit Relations, so their families can see they are serious students.   They will most likely end up as high school students.   To their families, they are farm girls.  Of course the big event in the life of college women is "the first big romance".   In one great scene, the mother of one of the women walks in on her daughter and her boyfriend naked in bed.  Any parent can relate to the horror of this.  (We have three three teenage daughters)   It was a very ugly scene and the man fled the house never to be seen again.  The other woman ends up marrying and having six children with her first boyfriend.  

As the story closes, Munro flashes us decades forward to an accidental encounter between the man who ran away and the other woman.   This is where the brilliance of Munro shows through.

"My Life Would Make a Great Movie,
Mr Le Fanu left out the best parts"
"Axis" is a great short story and I really hope to read a lot more of her stories.  

Mel u
The Reading Life


WordsBeyondBorders said...

Hi Mel,
The collection 'hateship loveship courtship marriage' is probably Munro's best work along with 'Runaway'. You can read the excellent 'The Bear Came over the mountain' here

Mel u said...

WordsBeyondBorders-thanks so much for your input and for the link. I hope to read the story this month-

Buried In Print said...

Thanks for the link to my Munro reading, Mel. I'm on her sixth collection now (the third story in The Progress of Love, with posts on Thursdays) and others are welcome to join in, either for an entire collection or for a single story. It's amazing how much she squeezes into a single story.

One of the reasons that I'm keen to read Welty's stories with you (I have my collection at hand and will soon read the first, which is, indeed, the same as the first that you have in your e-edition) is that comparisons are so often made between their work, and I'm curious to see how that plays out. I've only read one Welty story, I think.

shaunag said...

Sounds like a brilliant Munro story, Mel. Thanks for posting and for also pointing readers in the direction of other bloggers looking at Munro's work. I shall check them out! Shauna