Writer Lorrie Moore says Alice Munro’s book of short stories, "Carried Away," shows mastery of the architecture of the short story that is both brilliant and can’t be imitated. The way the stories are written — not in straight chronological form, but saving something important to deliver to the reader last — is unusual and has influenced Moore’s own short story writing.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
The book that I would recommend is the book I'm reading right now with my students. It's "Carried Away" by Alice Munro. This is the Everyman edition of Alice Munro's selected stories.
It's a beautiful volume with beautiful creamy paper and a lovely little rust colored ribbon for bookmark.
And so as an objet, it is just so lovely to hold in one's hands.
And to re-read Munro's stories is to understand yet again how great she is as an artist, because one encounters new things in these stories that one has forgotten or never even noticed because one was reading along so eagerly the first time. There are stories in Alice Munro where people are decapitated and there's more than one.
She is writing about very exciting, thrilling things, and she's also got her finger on the pulse of human emotions in a very, very, lovely, tolerant, you know, a little gimlet-eyed way.
But she doesn't judge. She presents. And yet her opinions can somehow maybe be discerned. But her opinions aren't really what matters. What matters is the artistry and the architecture of these stars and the characters, both the main characters and the minor characters that she draws so vividly. What she's good at is arranging the time of a story so that the most important moment comes last. And so the most important moment may be out of sequence, but she'll tell a story and then she'll end it with something way back in the past of the story, that was a moment of purity, a moment of pivot for a character. And at the point that you read it at the very end, you realize you're reading the very center of the story and you have more knowledge at that point than you would have had if she had put it chronologically. So you come to it and it's fantastically moving thing to do when she does that.
She has a very sophisticated sense of architecture when she puts together the sections of time and her stories can't be imitated. It's really, really very cool.