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July 13, 2011



Alice Munro and her many talents are always worth celebrating. But you're right--publishing her first lesbian story
at 80 is cause for all of us to take heart, tell our friends, and keep reading.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Of course it would be nice if that silly publication also published a lesbian story by a lesbian, can you imagine?

Love --


I just read The Jack Randa Hotel last week. I haven't been more moved by one of Munro's stories since I read Powers (from Runaway) earlier this year. But, I would not say that Munro wrote "about gay men" in either Turkey Season or The Jack Randa Hotel. To say that feels a bit misleading to me. Turkey Season was about a young woman working in a slaughterhouse whose boss may or may not be gay. The two men who live together in The Jack Randa Hotel may or may not be gay as well. Their possible homosexuality is fleetingly mentioned only once in each story and, also in each, is only speculation. While both the man in Turkey Season, and definitely the two men in The Jack Randa Hotel prominently affect the outcome of the protagonists story, it is not their story.
But, yes, Gravel is Munro's first story (to the best of my knowledge) that is "about" a lesbian, or has a protagonist that is an out lesbian.
Either way, Munro really has been at top of her game for forty years. No one else touches her.


"On a civilized planet the day would have been celebrated with bouquets of wildflowers, very expensive champagne, and a quiet half-hour to re-read your favorite story of hers."

What's the however?


"Gravel" may be Munro's first story about a lesbian character, but she has certainly written about same-sex attraction between women in previous stories. See, for instance, "Save the reaper" in Munro's collection _The love of a good woman_, in which Eve, the protagonist, is propositioned by a female hitchhiker and responds ambiguously but receptively (later in the story she thinks of arranging an assignation with the hitchhiker when it is more or less too late).


Same-sex attraction between women, I think, is palpable also in "The Eye" (2012) where in my reading of it the narrator loves Sadie and her independent ways, and the narrator's mother comments on it when trying to hedge her in on family/siblings issues. In both versions of "Fiction" (2007/2009) a late-bloomer turns up at her former husband's birthday party with her partner who has a baby. "Runaway" and "Gravel", yes, and, to my mind, the invisibility of lesbians is a topic in "The Bear Came Over the Mountain", only the second version of which (2001) includes the full name of Phoebe Hart who is remembered by the narrator as Fionas best friend. Full names are rare in this story, and there are only two, one on each side, if you like. The other one being Jacqui Adams, purportedly the only serious liaison of Grant's through whose eyes the narrator is for the most part telling the story. Also in the second version only do we find, in Grant's dream, the figure of a latent lesbian. So, I guess you might read the story in such a way that Fiona is a non-out lesbian, at least the husband of 50 years doesn't seem (or admit) to have realized this, being too much tied up, and talking about, with his own sexual needs and affairs; in my reading, Fiona doesn't just not mind "his other women", they are in fact an essential part of her scheme: be married and not having to sleep with your husband because he finds numerous attractions through his college job - or in the Meadowlake universe, as it were. If Munro is an author who is brilliant in making audible various things not said, and in shifting perspectives, too, in queering certainties, then, I guess, looking less on the story level and more into narrative technique may yield lots of lesbian issues. So, after reading the comments here, I will now read "Save the Reaper", and thank you all for bringing lesbians up :-)


a pun comes to mind: she's queering away any number of certainties... and this might merit a closer look at how she tells what she seems to tell

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