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The Lonely Voice: 'Illinois' by Alice Munro

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Alice Munro

Alice Munro passed away on May 13. She was 92. The beloved Canadian author dedicated her long career to creating stories that were both psychologically complex and accessible. She never failed to both mystify and dazzle legions of readers all over the world.

The Swedish Academy that awarded her the Nobel in 2013 referred to her as “a master of contemporary short story.

We’ve been reluctant to join the chorus of tributes that have come forth this week, feeling both bemused and bereft.

But there is plenty to say. Perhaps in time we will share those thoughts. For now, for this week, we’ve instead immersed ourselves in reading Alice Munro’s stories. We’ve been celebrating her life for a very long time.

One reason we created The Lonely Voice podcast is to celebrate the work of writers like Alice Munro—the ones who celebrate stories, the ones who want to write stories first (and not as a warm-up for the novel—dear no—never that.) It’s the story.

In one interview cited in the biography by Robert Thacker, Alice Munro was quoted as saying, “Oh, writing makes my life possible, it always has.”

And that dear life made many other things possible for us—and the many ways we can enter the stories of Alice Munro, these women and girls, these fathers and brothers, the lovers and friends—in situations created to depict the richness of experience every human being understands in small and large ways—but can really come to know by reading the stories of Alice Munro.

In this episode, Peter Orner and Yvette Benavides discuss the story “Illinois.” It is a story from the book The View from Castle Rock, a collection of stories that are more personal than any that Alice Munro ever wrote before. In this one, while one family journeys from a homestead in Illinois to the Canadian border, a baby is lost—but then magically reappears.

Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.
Peter Orner is the author of the essay collections Still No Word from You and Am I Alone Here? His story collections are Maggie Brown and Others, Esther Stories, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge. His novels are Love and Shame and Love and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo. He is a professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College where he directs the creative writing program.