Alice Munro, "Face"

A guy born with a large birthmark on his face reflects on his life.

(from The New Yorker, Sept. 8, 2008)

“It makes the white of that eye look so lovely and clear” was one of the idiotic but pardonable things my mother would say, in the hope of helping me to admire myself. And an odd thing happened. Sheltered as I was, I almost believed her.

I’ve read my fair share of Alice Munro, I’d say, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a story quite like this, though I’m having trouble deciding what’s so different about it. It’s got that insistent nostalgia, the reassuring narration, the sentences you grasp right away but want to read again simply to marvel at their impeccable design. But there’s something else here, a rambling organic arrangement of its primary plot points, maybe? I know this is one of the shortest Munro stories I’ve come across, or it seemed that way, as I waltzed through it in one sitting. Anyway, enough armchair bioliterary dissection. This story was beautiful, like breathtakingly so in that classic, comfortable Munro way, where characters are confronted with their own inner and outer uglinesses, and you understand their dilemma and you root for them. I want this narrator to come across his childhood friend and high-five and say bygones and catch up of drinks. I want something good to happen between these two good people.
Read it here. This marks the beginning of my
New Yorker subscription. Let’s see if I can keep up.

One thought on “Alice Munro, "Face"

  1. Aaron Riccio

    I don’t know if being a subscriber gives you access to their archives, but I’ve been a reader of the NYer for a while now, and last week’s “classic” story (from like, the 50s) was actually one of the better things I’d read in the magazine: “Gorse is Not People.” If you can, check it out, either in the original collection, an anthology, or on the web.


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