Monday, 13 October 2008

Margaret Atwood on Alice Munro

Margaret Atwood writes about Alice Munro in the Guardian Review. On art, authenticity, sex and religion, read the whole article here.

"How much of art is genuine, how much just a bag of cheap tricks - imitating people, manipulating their emotions, making faces? How can one affirm anything about another person - even a made-up person - without presumption?"

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"Dreariness of spirit" is one of the great Munro enemies. Her characters do battle with it in every way they can, fighting against stifling mores and other people's deadening expectations and imposed rules of behaviour, and every possible kind of muffling and spiritual smothering. Given a choice between being a person who does good works but has inauthentic feelings and is numb at heart and being one who behaves badly but is true to what she really feels and is thus alive to herself, a Munro woman is likely to choose the latter; or, if she chooses the former, she will then comment on her own slipperiness, guile, wiliness, slyness and perversity. Honesty, in Munro's work, is not the best policy: it is not a policy at all, but an essential element, like air. The characters must get hold of at least some of it, by fair means or foul, or - they feel - they will go under."

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