Friend of My Youth


The Ten Miraculously Accomplished Stories In Alice Munro's Friend Of My Youth Not Only Astonish And Delight But Also Convey The Unspoken Mysteries At The Heart Of All Human Experience.

"[Friend Of My Youth Is] A Wonderful Collection Of Stories, Beautifully Written And Deeply Felt."--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

أليس مونرو)
(Persian: ❴Ebook❵ ➠ Friend of My Youth Author Alice Munro –

10 thoughts on “Friend of My Youth

  1. says:

    Wow, what a ride.
    Disquieting. Merciless. Thought-provoking.
    Two sisters, one man. Much misery.
    Men and women and their ascribed roles moving from generation to generation and leaving track on their children. Changing the pattern requires an effort that not all women are ready to make. Do we get any choice at making effective decisions about what our life is going to be like?
    Religion, society and fear become the worst enemies towards emancipation. There is no time to hesitate, because life releases a blow when one is not expecting it, and it cuts our plans short. Cautionary tale with subversive undertone, quintessentially Munro.

  2. says:

    Coming back to Alice Munro - she speaks to me in an entirely new way, now. Stories of adult daughters and mothers and sickness and grief; infidelities and eccentricities; stories of aging - the "sardonic droop of defeat" (Differently, p. 218). Stories of women's friendships. Stories of how life happens to people, and what they become when it does. All perfectly realized, quiet and wise, perfectly told and told completely. Captured into a form over which Munro exerts complete control, making it all look so easy. Stunning.

  3. says:

    I must have read this more than 10 years ago, but as I re-read these short stories, I wasn't surprised to find that I easily remembered each and everyone. They all came back with overtones of my earlier reading in comparison to how I was responding to them now. The book of course hasn't changed - what has changed is me, and I suppose my reading requirements. I remember reading these stories with a kind of squeamish satisfaction - similar to when you pass an accident, driving slowly to absorb the awful details but secretly satisfied that you are not involved - that nothing that bad has happened to you.

    I think Munro has tapped into that side of our behaviour - our tendency to gawk at the misfortune of others - and let's admit it the pleasure or enjoyment of feeling that we've managed to avoid such disasters - so far.

    In addition to the 'drama' - there is the gossipy, bitchiness of many of the female characters. I think Munro is accurate in that this is an aspect of the small-town mindset and unfortunately it does seem more prevalent among the females, although the men also have their share of undesirable qualities - they resort to drink or violence when the narrowness of their lives is too much.

    In "Goodness and Mercy"; a mother and daughter are on a cross-Atlantic ship. The mother, Bugs, is dying, more quickly than expected. The daughter, Averill has paid for the trip, out of money left to her by a father - never seen. Jeanine, a fellow passenger, invites the others to a party towards the end of the journey. Bugs feels too ill to attend but Averill goes, dressed up in her mother's finery.

    "Your mother is not coming to the party?" said the professor to Averill.
    "Parties bore her," Averill said.
    "I get the impression that many things bore her," the professor said. "I have noticed that with performing artists, and it is understandable. They have to concentrate so much on themselves."
    "Who is this- the Statue of Liberty?" said the artist, brushing the silk of Averill's dress. "Is there a woman inside there at all?"
    Averill had heard that he had been discussing her with Jeanine lately, wondering if she was possibly a lesbian, and Bugs was not her mother but her rich and jealous lover.
    "Is there a woman or a hunk of concrete?" he said, moulding the silk to her hip.
    Averill didn't care. This was the last night that she would have to see him.

    The men appear to be the main bitches so far, but wait a bit - and you'll see how Jeanine 'shines' just a page later. Also that reference to the Statue of Liberty is a rather succinct pointer to Averill's lack of freedom.

    Jeanine said that somebody had told her once that when the milk was sour you could suspect a dead body on the ship.
    "I thought it was a kind of superstition," Jeanine said. "But he said no, there's a reason. The ice. They have used all the ice to keep the body, so the milk goes sour. He said he had known it to happen, on a ship in the tropics."
    The captain was asked, laughingly, if there was any such problem on board this ship.
    He said, "not that he knew of, no. And we have plenty of refrigerator space," he said.
    "Anyway you bury them at sea, don't you?" said Jeanine.
    "You can marry or bury at sea, can't you? Or do you really refrigerate them and send them home?"
    "We do as the case dictates," said the captain.

    And here the captain tells a story about his own experiences, which Averill realizes is a life-buoy thrown to her - and suggests the possibility of benefit to her despite the gruesome reality of her mother's impending death.

    But look at the callous cruelty of all those "thems" uttered by Jeanine - the offhand way in which she pretends she is not referring to Bugs.

    Most of the stories offer this pattern of cruelty and humiliations as part of the reality of ordinary lives, and alongside this jealousy and competitiveness between people there is also another side of human suffering. There is intense loneliness and isolation in many of the characters.

    In "Hold Me Fast, Don't Let Me Pass" a widow, named Hazel visits a town in Scotland that her husband used to visit during the war years. He was a Canadian pilot who had joined up with the British RAF. Hazel stays in a small hotel that is run by Annette, whom she quickly realizes is her husband's lover from that distant past. Hazel becomes involved, to a certain extent in the busy lives of Annette's contemporaries. Dudley Brown introduces himself to Hazel in the hotel, he's involved with Annette but at the same time there is a younger woman a red-head who pines after him. She lives with her child out of the village with the old lady, Miss Dobie - the same old lady that Jack, Hazel's husband lodged with back in 1940. This if you like is the story - apparent, but really there is a slightly different emphasis if you take note of a small paragraph at the beginning.

    [Hazel] was a person you would not be surprised to find sitting by herself in a corner of the world where she didn't belong, writing things in a notebook to prevent the rise of panic. She had found that she was usually optimistic in the morning but the panic was a problem at dusk.

    And there quite succinctly is the real story; it's a theme that is picked up in most of the other stories. I remember that my favourite from 10 years earlier was "Wigtime" and also "Differently" - both of these stories focus on a sexual intrigue - a woman in both cases leaving her husband, looking for broader horizons, more freedom. I remember reading these for the details of the affairs - how a woman could simply fall out of her marriage and into another man's bed - why? was the question I asked myself with delicious lasciviousness. But really - at this point in my reading neither of these stories drew me. I found love intrigues, the jealousies, the sorrows of partners deceived or forgotten rather bland, flat - and I wonder if this is in fact an element of Munro's style. On the surface her stories appear to be about all the dramas the highs and lows of daily life and yet, I found Hazel's "panic" present in these stories too.

    In "Wigtime" two friends, who have know each other since they were in school together meet up and discuss how their lives have evolved over the years.

    The other night when [Anita] had been sitting beside her mother's bed, waiting to give her mother an injection, she had thought about men, putting names one upon another as if to pass the time, just as you'd name great rivers of the world, or capital cities, or the children of Queen Victoria. She felt regret about some of them but no repentance. Warmth, in fact, spread from the tidy buildup. An accumulating satisfaction.
    "Well that's one way," said Margot staunchly. "But it seems weird to me. It does. I mean-I can't see the use of it, if you don't marry them."

    We've just heard the story of how Margot gets her big house, out of her husband; several years ago she caught him in an affair with a young girl. And now she says "all I'd have to say was 'Wigtime', if he baulked at buying her anything she might need.

    Margot concludes in her confession to her friend Anita:

    "I'll tell you what I do," she said. "I go out and see Teresa."
    "Is she still there?" said Anita with great surprise. "Is Teresa still out at the store?"
    "What store?" said Margot. "Oh, no! No, no. The store's gone. Torn down years ago. Teresa's in the County Home. They have this what you call the Pyschiatric Wing out there now."

    And so Margot relates how she goes out to see the woman whose husband she took, many years ago.

    There is always with Munro this undercurrent to what is said in the main story. Often the extremes of human behaviour are very painful to read about and yet there is also this softening as the characters in the stories either forgive themselves or make peace with what they have or haven't achieved in their lives - especially in relation to how all their "big" passions take on less and less importance as time passes.

    I don't know whether I like these stories or not anymore. I feel as if there is a sane and subtle ridiculing of the human experience - but also something quite cold and callous about her interpretation of life. I'm not quite sure what she is offering as an alternative to her observations.

  4. says:

    Small town southern Ontario settings, ordinary people going about nothing more spectacular than living, loving, working, dying; but Alice Munro turns the seemingly mundane into glowing, jewel-like tales that reveal the ‘shameless, marvellous, shattering absurdity’ of life. Each story leaves you faintly breathless, full of wonder at how she can so smoothly pull back the curtain, reveal the essence, the core of being. What I particularly loved in this, her seventh collection, first published in 1990, is how she allows you to see the kernel of the creative process, how she speculates as to the motivation of the figures she has created from newspaper reports or a letter of her mother’s, how she makes the reader party to her lack of real knowledge about them. But then how can we ever know another person? We don’t even know ourselves.

  5. says:

    Kinda boring. Well-written, but each tale of domesticity and humdrum-ity fell flat for me after the first two stories. Just too much husbands and wives and domestic ho-hum. I understand there's plenty under the surface there, but I GOT BORED, YO. I actually stopped reading with 100 pages left. Onward!

  6. says:

    I have a new best friend. Best of all, she has written a lot of books. Not only were these great short stories but there was that bit of carry over here and there that let me construct the locale, the town, the lake, the salt mine beneath. Lake Huron is mentioned. But the clue finally came up about a road, that let me know what bit of Ontario I was visiting. And I've been there. Not for long, but I have been there; the extra reward that comes from good short stories.

  7. says:

    Reading this was a long time in coming. The story "Meneseteung" that I read five years ago in the Best American Stories of the 20th Century was actually the first Alice Munro that I had come across and then over the years countless people--mainly writers--have mentioned her as a favorite. This stands to reason: Munro is a writer's writer. She spins tales; she writes real stories. Yet they have a modernism and sophistication that transcends time, place, trends, gender... everything. Her style reminds me Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver and (good) Margaret Atwood, and maybe the reason for this is that her stories are as real as the stuffy subway platform on a rainy Thursday afternoon.

    What's interesting about some of her stories in this collection, like "Oranges and Apples" and "Wigtime" is the way they unwind and meander, and as you read you think the story ends there but it ramps up again, like a tunnel narrowing and then opening into another large room. It's amazing what she can pack into a story, and granted these are all New Yorker-length manuscripts but, a story like "Differently" spans the entire life of Georgia, the main character, in doing so, gliding through marriage, divorce, and the death of her parents. Many of Munro's women are products of the '70s boom in divorce. They grew up in the late '50s, became disillusioned in the '60s and then freed themselves via the change in the cultural barometer during the '70s, so many of her characters are private case studies of the turbulence of those years. Yet despite this very narrow type of experience, the stories definitely transcend.

  8. says:

    This lady stuns me in so many ways. She offers lessons in subtlety. Yes, brilliance can be quiet. Munro takes the past and modernizes it, rereads it with a more savvy and uncertain lens, with paradox. Themes of female sexuality, of desire, of deception (self and other), of (dis)connection, of still-present pasts, permeate this collection. No one escapes his/her history or historical contexts; individuals’ lives do not play out in a vacuum; generations are different, but it’s still complicated and takes conjecture to pinpoint how and why (the title story is an excellent primer on these issues, but they relate to every story). And, her endings!, they seem to snap right off, break their branch in interesting ways: often with an honest getting so far.

  9. says:

    Alice Munro -- master of the short story, winner of the Nobel -- why did these stories leave me stone cold? Could it be that I'm not much into the politics of sex and how they play out between lovers, husbands and wives, and best friends? No. That's a theme with universal appeal. And the writing is seamless -- I have no issue there. The problem is, once you peel off the paper and ribbon, there's no soul underneath. These stories are written with a dispassionate eye that mostly skims the surface. They're too gossipy for me. Too petty. They don't have any heart.

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