Things happen all the time
- Selected Stories by Alice Munro
Chatto, 412 pp, £16.99, November 1996, ISBN 0 7011 6521 9
There are writers for whom reality seems a secret novelty; and there are writers for whom it seems a shared habit. In the first category-which would include Dostoevsky, Conrad, Svevo – nothing is entirely recognisable, everything seems to have been burned out of recognition by the difficulty of its entry into the world. This is the strangeness they offer, and which we enjoy. In the second category, reality is born in an open ward. It makes its appeal to a known world. It is not that the writer’s reality is necessarily familiar to the reader, but it is familiar to its characters. We learn to judge oddity by seeing it through them. In this category are Tolstoy, Chekhov; and in our age the late V.S. Pritchett and Alice Munro.