‘Wenlock Edge’ by Alice Munro

Wenlcok Edge by Alice Munro, 2005

The magic trick:

Letting the reader get intimately acquainted with the narrator’s every thought and feeling; then suddenly pulling back and leaving the narrator’s final act shrouded in mystery, leaving the reader to interpret

I’d argue this is one of Munro’s most magical stories. But in a sense, this is a very simple magic trick. Munro gives us a very detailed point of view for our narrator throughout the story. We know what is happening in her life, how things are in her apartment, the basics of her schedule, and most importantly we know how she feels about all of it. So that when the story ends very suddenly with a head-spinning revelation about the narrator’s use of the mail to manipulate an outcome, we are left mostly in the dark. We don’t get the explanations or the feelings behind her motivation. We are left to analyze and interpret.

The idea behind the magic is simple. Give give give to the reader, then suddenly withhold.

Pulling it off so that the resulting story is this amazing? A bit more complicated.

And that’s quite a trick on Munro’s part.

The selection:

I usually read until late at night. I’d thought that it might be harder to read, with someone else in the room, but Nina was an easy presence. She peeled her oranges and chocolates; she laid out games of solitaire. When she had to stretch to move a card she’d sometimes make a little noise, a groan or grunt, as if complaining about this slight adjustment of her body but taking pleasure in it, all the same. Otherwise she was content, and curled up to sleep with the light on whenever she was ready. And because there was no special need for us to talk we soon began to talk, and tell about our lives.

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