Alice Munro - Nobel Prize Winner is No Tolstoy
October 12, 2013
(left, Alice Munro.)
If Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama can win the Nobel Peace Prize,
we shouldn't be surprised that a depressive who depicts middle class Canadian life
as tawdry and banal should last week receive the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Thus, the Nobel Prize Committee promotes a demeaning materialistic image of life,
as opposed to one that sees man as having a Divine Creator and a spirit that seeks
Christian Lorentzen has surveyed Munro's oeuvre and describes what
now passes for great literature.
"Reading ten of her collections in a row has induced in me not a glow of admiration but a state of mental torpor that spread into the rest of my life. I became sad, like her characters, and like them I got sadder. I grew attuned to the ways life is shabby or grubby..."
by Christian Lorentzen
(Edited/abridged by henrymakow.com)
There's something confusing about the consensus around Alice Munro. Her critics begin by asserting her goodness, her greatness, her majorness or her bestness, and then quickly adopt a defensive tone, instructing us in ways of seeing as virtues the many things that might be considered shortcomings...She writes about and redeems ordinary life, ordinary people - 'people people people', as Jonathan Franzen puts it.
Ordinary people turn out to live in a rural corner of Ontario between Toronto and Lake Huron, and to be white, Christian, prudish and dangling on a class rung somewhere between genteel poverty and middle-class comfort...
Reading ten of her collections in a row has induced in me not a glow of admiration but a state of mental torpor that spread into the rest of my life. I became sad, like her characters, and like them I got sadder.
I grew attuned to the ways life is shabby or grubby, words
that come up all the time in her stories, as well as to people's
residential and familial histories, details she never leaves out. How
many rooms are in the house, and what sort of furniture and who used
to own it and what is everybody wearing? To ask these questions is to
live your life like a work of realism.
I saw everyone heading towards cancer, or a case of dementia that would rob them of the memories of the little adulteries they'd probably committed and must have spent their whole lives thinking about.
Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo & Rose (1978) follows a woman, Rose,
whose life trajectory bears similarities to Munro's: a hardscrabble
childhood in Ontario; devotion to schoolwork and high social anxiety
at school; a scholarship to a provincial university; a romance there
that leads to an early marriage, decampment to the suburbs of
Vancouver, and immediate motherhood; a middle-class existence that
renders the husband stiff, even a bit right-wing; a yearning for a
more bohemian milieu; adultery of an unsatisfying sort with an artsy
fellow; rupture, divorce, squabbles over child custody; temporary
self-imposed exile to some snowbound outpost in the middle of Canada
where the singles scene isn't exactly hopping and desperate
loneliness ensues; a return to Ontario, more bad love affairs, and
the caretaking of an aging parent; a lucky break that leads to an
exceptional career and something like fame.
...Rose becomes, in the end, an actress on stage and television, not a distinguished author.
is the adultery story in The Beggar Maid: in the maternity ward Rose,
whose husband, a former graduate student in history, is now running
his family's department store, befriends a woman called Jocelyn who
is connected to the university scene in Vancouver. One of their jokes
involves starting sentences with the phrase 'I'm no prude but ...'
Clifford, Jocelyn's husband and a musician, kisses Rose at a party,
and they start an affair that involves snogging in cafés and a
logistically awkward rendezvous in a town where Clifford is playing
in a concert. He gets cold feet and the affair is never consummated.
(In wake of Nobel Prize, unwary people stock up on Munro)
Years later, Rose is divorced and living in rural Ontario, and Jocelyn and Clifford have moved to Toronto. They're all in their forties and their children have grown up. Jocelyn and Clifford invite Rose over for occasional long nights of drinking; they also have it out in front of her about their marital dissatisfactions. One night after a party:
'What can we do?' said Rose. 'We shouldn't drink anymore.'
'We could make love,' Clifford said.
Jocelyn and Rose said, 'Really?' at exactly the same time. Then they linked their little fingers and said, 'Smoke goes up the chimney.'
Following which, Clifford removed their clothes. They didn't shiver, it was warm in front of the fire. Clifford kept switching his attention nicely from one to the other. He got out of his own clothes as well. Rose felt curious, disbelieving, hardly willing, slightly aroused and, at some level she was too sluggish to reach for, appalled and sad. Though Clifford paid preliminary homage to them both, she was the one he finally made love to, rather quickly on the nubbly hooked rug.
Rose! For the rest of the book her assignations and affairs are
either botched by snowstorms or cut short because the man dies of
cancer without calling her back. She sees her ex-husband in an
airport and he looks shriveled and full of hatred for her. 'At
some level', sex will always appall her: she can't help it -
it's her prudish upbringing.
(The whole review appears here)
First Comment by Dan:
I was in a high school play from the 1930's called 'Our Town' by Thornton Wilder. It was just a simple play about a young mother and her relatives and friends she grew up with living in a small American town, the kind most people in America grew up in at that time.
However, that play had a mysterious effect on those who were in it or saw it. I was living in such a small town my senior year. The scenes were this young woman's happiest memories - yet there was a sense of foreboding somehow that seemed to weight them down. For one thing, we learn that a character in each memory are people who have already died. Sure enough, at the end, she remembers that she's just died - and she has to take her place in a grave with only the people she knew in the little town to keep her company......FOREVER.
Here's the Synopsis of 'Our Town' - Act I: Daily Life. Act II: Love and Marriage. Act III: Death and Eternity.
I recognized the same foreshortening of the natural cycle of life in the title of a rap song aimed at teens in the 1990s -- BIRTH, SCHOOL, WORK, DEATH.
I tell you this play's portrayal of life in old fashioned American town where everyone knew their neighbor, and nobody had to lock their doors at night seemed like a fate worse than Hell.
It had real repercussions. Many of my graduating friends decided to move away as soon as they graduated. Many couples started arguing and broke up. One quiet young man drove his Rambler to the dam one night and blew his brains out. How much of these episodes were related to the play can never be known. All I know is that rehearsing that play for weeks depressed me at what should have been a happy semester.
I forgot the play forty years ago, and only lately did I learn that Thornton Wilder was a homosexual, who stayed in the closet his whole life. His plays were made into major films in the 1940's, and presented in small town high schools and colleges all over America for decades, yet audiences never knew they were letting a man that despised normal daily life, marriage, children and normal society - because he was queer.
From an article in the 1946 Christian Science Monitor, "Play 'Our Town' is Banned in Soviet Berlin Sector. The Soviet Union prevented a production of Our Town in the Russian sector of occupied Berlin "on the grounds that the drama is too depressing and could inspire a German suicide wave."
So no - it doesn't surprise me to see this witch Alice get a Nobel Prize for Nihilism.
"We shall unleash the Nihilists and the atheists, and we shall provoke a formidable social cataclysm which in all its horror will show clearly to the nations the effect of absolute atheism, origin of savagery and of the most bloody turmoil. Then everywhere, the citizens, obliged to defend themselves against the world minority of revolutionaries, will exterminate those destroyers of civilization, and the multitude, disillusioned with Christianity, whose deistic spirits will from that moment be without compass or direction, anxious for an ideal, but without knowing where to render its adoration, will receive the true light through the universal manifestation of the pure doctrine of Lucifer, brought finally out in the public view. This manifestation will result from the general reactionary movement which will follow the destruction of Christianity and atheism, both conquered and exterminated at the same time."
attrib. to Albert Pike
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