taking sides: munro vs atwood

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i think atwood is wider, stranger, and more fecund--i think munroe plows the same narrow field for decades, for fairly diminishing returns...

anthony easton (anthony), Sunday, 8 October 2006 05:39 (sixteen years ago) link

I like Atwood--particularly her SF narratives "Handmaid's Tale" "Blind Assassin" and "Oryx & Crake" but I don't think she can reasonably stand up to Alice Munro's genius (which does tend to sameness, but who cares? It's still genius vs. competence.)

ramon fernandez (ramon fernandez), Sunday, 8 October 2006 05:51 (sixteen years ago) link

i've never read atwood. her work was once described to me as being about "fear of dick." accurate?

hey ramon, if you care to, can you talk about why j0nathan p3nner is a cunt? (reference: david foster wallace - is he a cunt? )

W i l l (common_person), Sunday, 8 October 2006 06:37 (sixteen years ago) link

re: Jonathan Penner-- kind of just a bitter left behind Updike-worshipping sort hateful of postmodern and genre literature. First day of class he handed out a essay he wrote about why genre fiction sucks. I can see why he and DFW would have butted heads.

ramon fernandez (ramon fernandez), Sunday, 8 October 2006 06:46 (sixteen years ago) link

munro munro munro! but i don't have anything against atwood. i never want to read her books, but i don't have anything against her. i have enjoyed some of her short story collections. it's just that munro makes magic look effortless and with atwood i can see all the tricks up her sleeve. their are cards falling out of her cufflinks and there is a rabbit trying to escape from her hat and the saw that she uses to cut women in half with can be a bit rusty.

scott seward (scott seward), Sunday, 8 October 2006 11:13 (sixteen years ago) link

seward otm.

nah i must admit i've never read atwood and have no real desire to. if anyone can recommend me one (1) great atwood book i'll give it a shot. as far as munro goes, i just love it. if you think she ploughs the same field over and over that's because she's just writing as truthfully as she can about peoples lives, and people tend to be plough those same fields, but she makes you look at each new character and situation completely fresh. the writing is breathtaking at times.

jed_ (jed), Sunday, 8 October 2006 12:08 (sixteen years ago) link

i would recommend Cat's Eye and Wilderness Tips. Wilderness Tips is short stories. I dug that one many moons ago. Hairball is still the best story I've ever read about a tumor.

scott seward (scott seward), Sunday, 8 October 2006 12:17 (sixteen years ago) link

i'm having such a hard time with "there" and "their" these days! i don't know what my problem is. I blame my new keyboard. or the onset of pre-senile dementia. i think atwood even suffers in comparison to someone like, say, joyce carol oates. mainly cuz JCO is just completely insane and will blurt out anything that comes to her. i admire that. and i really have no interest in reading feminist sci-fi parables that aren't really sci-fi. i mean, there is actual sci-fi for that. if atwood reminded me of anyone it would be marge piercy. both poets who dream of electric shepardesses.

scott seward (scott seward), Sunday, 8 October 2006 12:23 (sixteen years ago) link

whereas JCO is a poet who dreams of a hot blood-covered hunter's knife descending into pale flesh. and muhammad ali.

scott seward (scott seward), Sunday, 8 October 2006 12:25 (sixteen years ago) link

ive read almost every novel atwood has written, most of her poetry, and a large chunk of her ss and occasional writings.

aside from her ranging intellect and ability to write in every genre ever, atwood has an autonomy, a wit, and a viscousness that munro lacks,and her work gets more complicated, more exprimental, and harder (as in like granite) as she goes on...

i dont see the mechanics in atwoods work, i dont find it effortless, and i see her untying knots, slowly and methodically, in a way i dont find munroe even apraoching.

speaking of wit--ive never laughed at munro (or with her)

anthony easton (anthony), Sunday, 8 October 2006 20:27 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't suppose this is the sort of thing that can ever be settled, except for how it's settled in each reader, but boy, for me, Munro wins and it isn't even a contest. The one Atwood book I read was Surfacing, and I found it just awful - pretentious incoherent man-hating gibberish. I've heard that some of her others are better, but I just had no interest. But Munro!! Her stories do tend to be same-ish, but - as with Philip Roth - this doesn't especially bother me. She makes people - Lethem, etc. - who flit from genre to genre seem like adolescents. She's capturing life and that's more than enough. And what wit! If once can't argue about a writer's being any good, you certainly can't argue about what's funny, but I think she's just about the funniest writer going. Lives of Girls and Women and Beggar Maid both had passages that just slayed me - less because of overt jokes, though, than just because she had nailed something so truly and rightly that the pleasure of recognition just momentarily brims over.

David Elinsky (David Elinsky), Sunday, 8 October 2006 21:14 (sixteen years ago) link

for me, munro vs [just about anyone] = munro wins. i was going to make a similar point about how i find munro funny, but david said it better than i could have. i also find munro accomodates re-readings better than almost any other author i've read. it's usually only on the second or third reading that you start to notice all this stuff going on in the wings and the resonance of small, peripheral details. i find her stories somehow prismatic, in that they never quite settle, they're often constructed out of all these opposing perspectives, and so you can keep turning them around and see things from different angles, watch events fall into all these different possible alignments. bah....hard to describe...Besides which, all her stories seem to have at least a few passages that are just so beautiful and well written that you have to get up and walk around the room once or twice before you continue, if only out of respect.

A Giant Mechanical Ant (The Giant Mechanical Ant), Sunday, 8 October 2006 21:49 (sixteen years ago) link

she isnt capturing life, she is doing this pastoral, this false rural existence,

even man hating--i never got that from atwood, and it suggests mild misreading, a general, hard, misonthropy, where she is deeply susspicious of both natural and artifical human qaulities, and a tendency towards acknowledging hard political truths, is assumed to be misogyny

point out where she is funny

anthony easton (anthony), Sunday, 8 October 2006 21:50 (sixteen years ago) link

"i also find munro accomodates re-readings better than almost any other author i've read."

so true! it's cuz of the way she builds stories. such amazing structures. i'm often flabbergasted by how she gets from a to b or a to z. when i get to the end of a story i say, wait a minute, how did she...?

"just so beautiful and well written that you have to get up and walk around the room once or twice before you continue, if only out of respect."

again with the truthiness! i am humbled by her. seriously. she truly inspires me. i feel like i'm receiving an amazing gift when i read her.

she's beyond labels, anthony. beyond feminism. beyond provincialism. she's just...beyond all that.

scott seward (scott seward), Monday, 9 October 2006 02:20 (sixteen years ago) link

they are pals, i think. atwood wrote a nice tribute to munro once. i know they champion each other. they were pals with carol shields as well.

scott seward (scott seward), Monday, 9 October 2006 02:29 (sixteen years ago) link

they are pals, but im sort of suprised at being outside the majority here

anthony easton (anthony), Monday, 9 October 2006 07:28 (sixteen years ago) link

so hold on here a second munro has only written short stories, no novels?

Josh (Josh), Monday, 9 October 2006 07:47 (sixteen years ago) link

lives of girls and women is her only novel, its also her strongest peice of work

anthony easton (anthony), Monday, 9 October 2006 08:16 (sixteen years ago) link

they were pals with carol shields as well.

damn, i had no idea she passed. RIP.

jed_ (jed), Monday, 9 October 2006 11:53 (sixteen years ago) link

Lives of... is structurally a bunch of vignettes/short stories, though. We tried it in my reading group, which is devoted to novels, and ended up agreeing that her editor almost certainly told her she wouldn't be taken seriously unless she wrote a full-length, and so she did. I had not the patience for it.

Laurel (Laurel), Monday, 9 October 2006 12:50 (sixteen years ago) link

I think that's the one she literally stopped the presses for, and did a complete overhaul of the structure, changed the main characters etc., at the last minute, at her own expense.

A Giant Mechanical Ant (The Giant Mechanical Ant), Monday, 9 October 2006 15:24 (sixteen years ago) link

Speaking as a production manager, I hope it cost her a shitload of money.

Laurel (Laurel), Monday, 9 October 2006 15:28 (sixteen years ago) link

what's a good munro story to start with? if it's online all the better, but if not there is always the library.

Though shouldn't canadians not be allowed to write? Kofi Annan should get on this shit, post haste.

askance johnson (sdownes), Monday, 9 October 2006 21:41 (sixteen years ago) link

"Carried Away" is probably my favourite.

jed_ (jed), Monday, 9 October 2006 21:51 (sixteen years ago) link

carried away is great. the last page especially is munrovian(?) prose at its best.

A Giant Mechanical Ant (The Giant Mechanical Ant), Tuesday, 10 October 2006 00:52 (sixteen years ago) link

the new yorker has a few of her stories online. there's a movie coming out based on "the bear came over the mountain," which might be why that link is down:


A Giant Mechanical Ant (The Giant Mechanical Ant), Tuesday, 10 October 2006 01:55 (sixteen years ago) link

I am a total Atwood and Shields fan but can't recall reading any Munro, strange as I'm also a short story fan. I don't think she is marketed in Australia so much - whereas Atwood has been to Tassie twice in the last decade on promotional junkets. My favourite is Alias Grace. I agree with Anthony that the mechanics are effortless. What you have to remember about her early books which were written in the sixties and early seventies is that the gender stuff needed spelling out back then.

sandy mc (sandy mc), Tuesday, 10 October 2006 04:15 (sixteen years ago) link

yes- take a pass on" the edible woman", which is just hamhanded. a great big anvil to the head.

her short stories are marvellous, though, as are the novels i've read, esp. 'life before man' and 'surfacing.' 'lady oracle' is nice, but not essential. i am still waiting to read 'cat's eye.'

derrick (derrick), Tuesday, 10 October 2006 08:56 (sixteen years ago) link

I've not read either yet, but just wanted to mention that The bear that came over the mountain is online. For some reason the search result just gave a slightly incorrect URL.

Thanks for posting the link, Mecha-ant, I could swear I'd been looking for a way of searching the New Yorker archive before, but was unable to find it. Of course, now I see there's a search bar on the front page, so either it's a recent addition, or I should feel very embarrassed indeed.

Øystein (Øystein), Tuesday, 10 October 2006 10:50 (sixteen years ago) link

(minus "that" in the title)

Øystein (Øystein), Tuesday, 10 October 2006 10:52 (sixteen years ago) link

hey, thanks back. i wanted to read that one.

A Giant Mechanical Ant (The Giant Mechanical Ant), Tuesday, 10 October 2006 17:23 (sixteen years ago) link

Atwood all the way, and not just for the usual books.

Cat's Eye is lovely. Life Before Man and Surfacing have charms as well. She's also done some neat things with poems.

Munro has never grabbed me but it's possible I haven't read the right things.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 October 2006 17:15 (sixteen years ago) link

six years pass...

atwood frustrated?

nostormo, Thursday, 10 October 2013 12:05 (nine years ago) link

haha I would imagine not? it's funny that Munro and Atwood get lumped together because Canadian but I see few similarities otherwise... I've always thought Atwood and Iain Banks were more of the same cloth

you and me against the board (flamboyant goon tie included), Thursday, 10 October 2013 12:38 (nine years ago) link

she's hiding it well on Twitter if she is frustrated.

woof, Thursday, 10 October 2013 12:52 (nine years ago) link

Oh wow, amazing! I never even considered this for some reason.

Ismael Klata, Thursday, 10 October 2013 12:54 (nine years ago) link

eight years pass...

fuckin write a novel alice

mookieproof, Saturday, 9 April 2022 03:22 (seven months ago) link

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