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Tribute to Alice Munro

A Toronto moment yesterday – after a walk and play with Eli and his mother in the wonderful new Corktown Common, we had a snack in a restaurant and then they got on the Queen streetcar to go home. I stood on the sidewalk waving, waving, and Eli waved back. And then the woman in the seat behind him waved to me, smiling, and then everyone on that side of the streetcar, as it pulled away, waved to me as I stood waving back to them all. I was everyone’s grandma.

Checking the menu. He had scrambled eggs and sausages.

I went to bed at 10 last night, took a sleeping pill and knocked myself out. I think I have beaten this bug. Sitting here in the kitchen watching showers of leaves cascade from the trees, the frost on the deck. Everything’s turning brown in the garden. November.

A quick report on the Festival of Authors – two great events on Saturday, Eleanor Wachtel in conversation with her old friend Margaret Drabble, and that night, the tribute to Alice Munro. The Wachtel interview will be aired in a few weeks on Writers and Company, and I recommend a listen – Drabble is, no surprise, articulate about the process of a writer and in her opinions on life. She mentioned that she had decided not to write any more fiction until, on her last visit to Toronto a few years ago, “I had space and time,” she said, “and my laptop suddenly looked friendly.” She began to write the novel that’s recently been released, “The Pure Gold Baby.”

The Munro tribute was spectacular. Her longtime editor and publisher, Doug Gibson, told us it was all being taped for her, and asked us to rise and tell her what we thought of her accomplishments. Everyone in the sold out Fleck Dance Theatre rose, shouting, whistling, clapping, on and on. A great group of writers – Miriam Toews, Jane Urquart, Colum McCann, Alistair MacLeod, and Margaret Drabble, again, spoke about what her work meant to them and read from her stories. Someone quoted one of my favourite lines: “Jubilee is a place of deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.” Macleod spoke about the level of detail in her work – that her stories are full of very bright young women who notice everything, who know the names of trees, the names of cars – “She must remember every car she has ever ridden in or driven,” he said – and even the names of poultry. “She knows her hens,” he said. “Rhode Island Reds …” Drabble noted that Munro is the only writer who speaks so honestly about women’s clothing – that her heroines, often, are uncomfortable in their clothes. All spoke of her sharp wit – one of her heroines says that the uncultured people she is meeting “probably think Spinoza is a kind of vegetable.”

“She applauds the vitality and resilience of the human spirit,” said McCann. 

At the end, we rose and cheered her again. I hope she heard us.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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