Interview with Alice Munro.
Excerpt from pages 206-207.
WACHTEL Keeping with the idea of Runaway, in your 1998 collection The Love of a Good Woman you have a line about a woman who flees her marriage for another man, and you write, “So her life was falling forwards…. She was becoming one of these people who ran away. A woman who shockingly and incomprehensibly gave everything up. For love, observers would say wryly. Meaning sex.” What is it these women run away from? Is it convention and expectation?
MUNRO I think they run away from a life… they look ahead and they can see what their whole life is going to be. You wouldn’t call that a prison exactly; they run away from some kind of predictability, not just about things that will happen in their lives but things that happen in themselves. Though, I don’t think most of my characters plan to do this; they don’t say, “There’s a certain stage of my life when I’ll get out of this.” And in fact I think the people who run away are often the people who’ve got into things the most enthusiastically. They think, This is it!—and then, they want more. They just demand more of life than what is happening at the moment. Sometimes this is a great mistake, of course, it’s always a little bit, a good deal, different than you’d expect. Women in my generation particularly tended to do this because we’d married young, we’d married with a settled idea of what life is supposed to be like, and we were in a hurry to get to that safe married spot. Then something happened to us when we were around forty, and all sorts of women decided that their lives had to have a new pattern. I don’t know if that will happen to women of the next generation, or the generation after that—I think of my granddaughters’ generation—because so much has happened to them by the time they’re forty, maybe it’s enough. And they pick a life and go on with it, without these rather girlish hopes of finding love, finding excitement.
WACHTEL Why girlish hopes? What do you mean?
MUNRO Well, women often harbour rather youthful ideas—ideas that somewhere there is a passion that will last, or there is a passion that surpasses everything else in life, that you can just tear everything apart, and pick up, and go on somehow. I think that’s rather a youthful idea. But I think that women of my age didn’t hit this youthful phase until we’d first had our middle age. We had our kids and our homes and our husbands and our quite programmed lives. But there remained this voice that said there’s got to be more in my life than that!
WACHTEL And they were attracted to a certain recklessness.
MUNRO In men or in themselves? In both, yes, I think in both. The very idea that one is doing a reckless thing! The character you’re talking about, the one from “The Children Stay,” finds that running away has considerable penalties she didn’t count on. The way she finds this out is one of the things you discover.
Eleanor Wachtel @ IFOA:
Rosemary Sullivan interviews Eleanor Wachtel about Best of Writers & Company on Thursday, October 27 at 6pm. For information and tickets, click here!
Do not miss Writers & Company @ IFOA on Saturday, October 29 at 8pm. Eleanor interviews international authors Francesca Melandri and Christopher Kloeble! For information and tickets, click here!