Dear Alice Munro,
The space you write within, the WWII and post WWII era, the train stations, the sanitariums, the surge of GI students to universities–is the world I’m finding to have preceded me. At times, when I read a story of yours, for example, “Tell Me Yes or No,” or “How I Met My Husband,” I feel as though I’m researching, still, the history of Brockport.
You know, you are Alice Munro. The last four pieces in your latest collection, Dear Life, are what you call “the closest thing to autobiographical,” as anything you’ve written. I know this is both true and not. But who’s going to argue with you? You’re Alice Munro. Did you ever think you would tear a reader’s life to shreds because when the text fades, there is no way to see the world as it was before? When I finish reading your stories, I cannot get back inside, it’s like a life that’s already been lived. The bald scalp after a relentless haircut. The lower back after a pink kanji tattoo. What’s done is done. History, as Alice Munro has written it, has been. Reading it a second time does no justice. There are no do-overs. Your stories, like all other stories, are not cats. We all only have one life.
I’m writing you this blog post–which I’m sure you are waiting to read–because my mother-in-law told me to write a story about a little girl. This will be the closest thing to autobiographical fiction I will ever write. And I am no Alice Munro. I am leaving behind, at least for this one story, your world of barnstorming planes and Quaker Maid factories that I have been squatting in for months. The setting I write will be entirely my own era, but my life is not something made for fiction. I only live in a world suitable for it.
It will be some sort of ghost story, and I don’t know, have you written a ghost story? A real, true ghost story? I will Google this when I finish your post. It is something I should know.
The world I enter now has factory-induced rain bubbling down the cuticle of Spring Street. Soil that may or may not give a little girl MS. The story will have a cast of Cold Storage workers on their way to and from shifts that seem to begin and end every minute. The little girl will walk down a street with a car prowling next to her, its passenger will reach to pull at her skinny arm. She will not run away.
I am sending this out into the blogosphere (an ugly word), where you will not see it. If I were in your Canadian town with a copy in hand, I would place it under your Welcome Mat or tuck it behind the cover of a book you might check out of the library.