31 October 2012

Oh how true are numbers one and two

Alice Munro's subject matter is ordinariness--disappointment, the passage of time--but she doesn't bring to her stories what, say, John Updike or Tillie Olsen do: extraordinary language, a mind in love with the everyday but able to exalt it so that we feel the magic in what is usual.
Which is exactly what I appreciate about her prose. The straightforwardness, the non-exaltation of the ordinary.
Dear Hugh and Margaret,

I have been by myself a good deal these past weeks and have been able to think about us all and have reached several interesting though not perhaps original conclusions:

1) Monogamy is not a natural condition for men and women.

2) The reason that we feel jealous is that we feel abandoned. This is absurd, because I am a grown-up person capable of looking after myself. I cannot, literally, be abandoned. Also we feel jealous—I feel jealous—because I reason that if Hugh loves Margaret he is taking something away from me and giving it to her. Not so. Either he is giving her extra love—in addition to the love he feels for me—or he does not feel love for me but does for her. Even if the latter is true it does not mean that I am unlovable. If I can feel strong and happy in myself then Hugh's love is not necessary for myself-esteem. And if Hugh loves Margaret I should be glad, shouldn't I, that he has this happiness in his life? Nor can I make any demands on him—

—Alice Munro, The Spanish Lady (from 'Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You')

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