Specificity in Miles City, Montana

“A strong drink, hundred-year-old schnapps, to be sipped at, invading the secret places that lie in wait and lonely between bone and muscle, or counting (Morse code for insomniacs) the seconds round the heart when it stutters to itself.  Or to be taken in at the eyes in small doses, phrase by somatic phrase, a line of laundry after daw, air clean as vodka, snow all over, the laundry lightly shaking itself from frigid sleep…” (Munro 32).

Munro – Miles City, Montana

His father was a hired man, a drinker but not a drunk, an erratic man without being entertaining, not friendly but not exactly a troublemaker. His fatherhood seemed accidentla, and the fact that the child had been lift with him when the mother went away, and that they contrinued living togheter, seemed accidental.

Page 30.

The author is very terse and bried with his characterizations and leaves no room for ambiguity. The author interprets the characters totally for the readers.

Dear Life: The Self-Conscious Mind in Social Settings

This reflection made Greta sit down, and since there were no chairs she sat on the floor. She had a thought. She thought that when she went with Peter to an engineers’ party, the atmosphere was pleasant though the talk was boring. That was because everybody had their importance fixed and settled at least for the time being. Here nobody was safe. Judgment might be passed behind backs, even on the known and published. An air of cleverness or nerves obtained, no matter who you were.

Munro, Alice. “To Reach Japan.” Dear Life. New York: Vintage Books, 2012.

Notes: focalizer is Greta, narrator is external, passage demonstrates self-consciousness of Greta’s mind, gives insight on her character and general dislike of social interaction/gatherings, low self-confidence, also has free indirect discourse of Greta’s narrative


4/26/15, Munro: To Reach Japan, Dense Character Development Through Style

“His opinions were something like his complexion. When they went to see a movie, he never wanted to talk about it afterwards. He didn’t see the point in going further. He watched television, he read a book in somewhat the same way. He had patience with such things. The people who put them together were probably doing the best they could. Greta used to argue, rashly asking whether he would say the same thing about a bridge. The people who did it did their best but their best was not good enough so it fell down. ”

Munro, Alice. “To Reach Japan” from Dear Life First Vintage International, Random House: New YorkJuly 2013.

An Equal?

It was the name of a contributor to the magazine in which she herself had been published. On these grounds, might it not be possible to go up and introduce herself? An equal, in spite of the coolness at the door?

Munro, Alice. Dear Life: Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Print.

“In the decade that they had already entered but that she at least had not taken much notice of, there was going to be a lot of attention paid to this sort of thing. Being there was to mean something it didn’t use to mean. going with the flow. Giving. Some people were giving, other people were not very giving. Barriers between the inside and outside of your head were to be trampled down. Authenticity required it. Things like Greta’s poems, things that did not flow right out, were suspect, even scorned. Of course she went right on doing as she did, fussing and probing, secretly though as nails on the counterculture. But at the moment, her child surrendered to Greg, and to whatever he did; she was entirely grateful” (Munro 22).

Munro, Alice. “To Reach Japan” from Dear Life First Vintage International, Random House: New YorkJuly 2013.

Uncanny Parethesis

(Peter’s mother and the people he worked with– those who knew about it– still said poetess. She had trained him not to. Otherwise, no training necessary. The relatives she had left behind in her life, and the people she knew now in her role as a housewife and mother, did not have to be trained because they knew nothing about this peculiarity.)

Notes: It’s interesting to note how this passage is in parenthesis. The focalizer has to know these details about Peter’s mother and her interesting characteristics. A little uncanny if you ask me.

Alice Munro, “To Reach Japan,” Dear Life, (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), 5.

Disgust and Adults

“I had a dread of turning into a certain kind of mother – the kind whose body sagged and ripened, who moved in a woolly-smelling, milky-smelling fog, solemn with trivial burdens”

Notes: This novel seems to have a lot of imagery of disgust when it describes adults – a lot of “sagged” and “ripened”, and other adjectives that are associated with aging and unattractiveness.

Munro, Alice. Miles City, Montana. The New Yorker: 1985. Print. 4.

Munro: History and gender

“It would become hard to explain, later on in life, just what was okay intuit time and what was not. You might say, well, feminism was not. But then you would have to explain that feminism was not even a word people used. Then you would get all tied up saying that having any serious idea, let alone ambition, or maybe even reading a real book, could be seen as suspect, having something to do with your child’s getting pneumonia, and a political remark at an office party might have cost your husband his promotion. It would not have mattered which political party either. It was a woman’s shooting off her mouth that did it.”

Munro, Alice. “To Reach Japan.” Dear Life. New York: Vintage International, 2012. 6.

Notes: Blending of free indirect and indirect discourse here; sets a context for both gender and history for this story, and especially highlighting how the two are connected and how gender relations can be very much linked to a certain period in time

Sunny Smiles – Clouds in the Distance

“The smile for Katy was wide open, sunny, without a doubt in the world, as if he believed that she would continue to be a marvel to him, and he to her, forever.”

Munro, Alice. “To Reach Japan” from Dear Life First Vintage International, Random House: New YorkJuly 2013.

Notes: Right away, the sunny imagery  of the story is shot down by a dark, overcast, foreboding description. I like to write stories in my spare time, and I find that if you can find a way to establish an overall flavor for the story with as little hassle as possible, that’s the best way to go about it. With this one statement, I think Munro achieves this rather well.

Miles City, Montana: Word Choice

“On a Saturday morning we loaded suitcases, two thermos bottles-one filled with coffee and one with lemonade-some fruit and sandwiches, crayons, drawing pads, insect repellent, sweaters (in case it got cold in the mountains), and our two children into the car. Andrew locked the house and Cynthia said ceremoniously “Goodbye, house.”

Munro, Alice. Miles City, Montana. The New Yorker. New York: New York. 1965.

I really enjoyed her type of diction and her tone of writing. In this paragraph it is clear how specific and to the point she is. Her writing shows great imagery, but also is very straight forward and it is clear what point she is trying to make. Her style and tone is also interesting with all of the details.

To Reach Japan: Who is “she”?

“She was trying to hang on to Katy but at this moment the child pulled away and got her hand free.

She didn’t try to escape. She just stood there waiting for whatever had to come next”(Munro 30).

Munro, Alice. “To Reach Japan” from Dear Life First Vintage International, Random House: New YorkJuly 2013.

Notes: Harris’ arrival triggers Katy’s isolation; who is the “she” that did not attempt to escape?; play on words, could represent either Greta or Katy, allow for different interpretations on what will follow after


Miles City: Why do we have to be uncertain?

“I dont really think I saw all this. Perhaps I saw my father carrying him, and the other men following along, and the dogs, but I would not have been allowed to get close enough to see something like mud  in his nostril. I must have heard someone talking about that and imagined that I saw it.”(Alice Munro, Miles City)

Note: Like in Balaño, we are aqauntied with a “uncertain” narrator. We are alerted of this through words like “perhaps” and “must have”. But I am more concerned with how this type of narrator progresses or advances what the author is trying to say. We can analyze or pick a part a text all we want, but if we can never understand how this narrative style works in the author’s favor in SOME way, I think we are doing an injustice to the craft. In Balaño, I felt his work was too cryptic to come to any conclusions. Hopefully in class we will really be able to disscus this style and at least be able to understand the purpose behind it.

Alternate Reality/timeline?

“Someone would have found Katy, surely. Some decent person, not an evil person, would have spotted her there and carried her to where it was safe. Greta would have heard the dismaying announcement, news that a child had been found alone on the train. A child who gave her name as Katy. She would have rushed from where she was at the moment having got herself as decent as she could she would have rushed to claim her child and lied, saying that she had just gone to the ladies’ room. She would have been frightened, but she would have been spared the picture she had now, of Katy sitting in that noisy space, helpless between the cars.”
Alice Munro, “To Reach Japan,” Dear Life, (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), 26.
Notes: This is all indirect discourse of what Greta imagines could have happened instead of what actually occurs in the story. While, having done this, I understand this is an accurate representation of a piece of the human experience and thought process, I don’t understand how this would fit into the vocabulary we’ve been learning to use this semester in terms sjuzet v. fabula. If it doesn’t actually occur out of Greta’s head, does it count in either of those? Or is this sequence of events imagined by a fictitious character mean that they’d simply be relegated to ‘Greta imagining another outcome to losing track of Katy”?

Alice Munro: Miles City, Montana

“I don’t think I really saw all this. Perhaps I saw my father carrying him, and the other men coming with him, and the dogs, but I would not have been allowed to get close enough to see something like mud in his nostril. I must have heard someone talking about that and imagined that I saw it. I see his face unaltered except for the mud- Steve Gauley’s familiar, sharp- honed, sneaky- looking face- and it wouldn’t have been like that; it would have been bloated and changed and perhaps muddied all over after so many hours in the water.”

Munro, Alice. “Miles City, Montana.” New Yorker 14 Jan. 1985: 30-40. Print.

Note: It is interesting how he can’t exactly remember if he saw Steve’s face or if he only imagined he did.