My favourite short story writer of all time, the Canadian Alice Munro, has announced at the age of 81, that she has stopped writing. Her second husband, Gerald Fremlin, has died and she wants a more ordinary life. I’m not sure if ‘stopping’ is possible for any writer who loves tell stories, but I love the unassuming nature of Munro’s life, in contrast to those penetrating wise and subversive fictions:
Ms. Munro’s house, a late-19th-century bungalow on a dead-end street that backs down to some railroad tracks, is the house Mr. Fremlin was born and grew up in. Out back is a walnut grove he planted, and the yard is populated by some of his whimsical sculptures, among them a bathtub painted to look like a Holstein. The inside is comfortable but unfancy and almost defiantly unmodern. In the dining room there is even a portrait of Queen Victoria, along with a dictionary stand and various bric-a-brac collected by Ms. Munro’s mother. Mr. Fremlin, a retired geographer and editor of The National Atlas of Canada, had his own office, but Ms. Munro writes — or wrote — in a corner of the dining room, at a tiny desk facing a window that overlooks the driveway.
A porcupine tunneled under two of my newly planted roses and I have a lump in my throat. The porcupines and Golden Moles are part of the given and we share garden space amicably on the whole, but alas. so sad for those tossed up and destroyed roses –
Political lives and self-sacrifice: Nadine Gordimer political activist and Nobel prize winning author, speaking in South Africa about the lives of Joe Slovo and Ruth First, their commitment to ending apartheid:
Ruth First, survivor of so many dangerous situations, meets death in Mozambique. We know the unspeakable ending from the blare of media reports. Then it would seem unlikely that it could have new meaning, new impact. One of the uncountable meetings Ruth attended, called, in her mission for the freedom, the very lives of those with whom she lived in common humanity. She delays the meeting a few minutes, she wants to collect her mail. The African Center’s director of the meeting half-chafﬁng complains: from the volumes of her letters people might think that she was director, not him. Her quick friendly jibe with a prick in it—“Well, you know if you want to get mail from people you have to write to them.” She’s back with the privilege of her copious mail, she’s opening a letter, it explodes a bomb in her face.
One of those weeks when everything I read, each page I open, each phone call, has to do with women uncovering the hidden truths of out lives. When it comes to the unspeakable shocking intimacy of of domestic violence, it is always the same story. The terrified enraged victim and the abusive partner who simply doesn’t think he is doing anything wrong. Where does it end?
Not even spackling paste would hide the bruises, so after one attempt with concealer I gave up and wore my battered face out. I told everyone who needed to know, which astounded the Respondent.
He called me, offended, and said, “You told your family?” As if this was somehow an affront to him.
I looked up every unpronounceable word on my hospital chart. My injuries included blunt head trauma, burst blood vessels in my eyes, swelling of the brain, bruised jaw, bruised ribs, defensive bruises on both arms, bruises on my back and swelling on the rear of my skull from where his fists sent me flying into various hard surfaces.
In trying to persuade me to file charges, my father said, “What would you tell your little sisters to do?”
I did eventually petition the Domestic Violence Courthouse for an emergency order of protection, which it granted. This was easy to get after the Respondent put into writing details of how he would like to torture, mutilate and kill me, and then sent these details to me in the mail. He ended that written missive by reiterating his love.
I read it on a bus and got off several stops early to vomit on the sidewalk.