Alice Munro, “Meneseteung”

1988_01_11_p139After the death of her family, a poetess lives alone in the house her father built. 

(from The New Yorker, January 11, 1988)

One thing she has noticed about married women, and that is how many of them have to go about creating their husbands. They have to start ascribing preferences, opinions, dictatorial ways. Oh yes, they say, my husband is very particular. He won’t touch turnips. He won’t eat fried meat. (Or he will only eat fried meat.) He likes me to wear blue (brown) all the time.

Okay, so I clearly enjoy stories about sad single women… Like most Munro stories, this one began slowly for me. It felt like schoolwork (and it is, actually, assigned by one of my professors). After a few pages, however, I became completely engrossed in the world that was being constructed and couldn’t imagine not finishing it. The story is about a woman named Almeda Joynt Roth, a poet who lives alone in the house built by her father in the “wilds of Canada West.” She has outlived her brother and sister, as well as her mother and father. She never marries, considered too eccentric and damaged from seeing all that death. She spends her time writing poems about her family–visiting their graves, teaching her siblings to make snow angels–as well as poems about plants and trees. One day, a widower named Jarvis Poulter arrives in town, and there is hope that Almeda might live happily ever after, though I assume I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that this doesn’t happen. “Meneseteung” is a great story. I think it’s been anthologized a good bit, and rightly so. I only wish Munro didn’t feel so much like assigned reading at the beginning. It makes me hesitant to invest. She’s worth it, though.

If you subscribe to the New Yorker, you can read it online for free. I think I should do this. I think you probably should, too, if only for the archives.

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