Monday, August 22, 2011

The View from Castle Rock

When I first taught school, my daddy gave me an anthology of short stories that he had come across in his vast collection of book seller samples. In those days, educational companies sent out tons of free materials to possible buyers, and my dad, a curriculum director at Douglas County Schools received them and could not throw any of them away. He brought me boxes of unwanted materials when I took a job as an English teacher, and I spent hours reading through them searching for stories that I thought might peak the interest of the reluctant readers in my ninth grade classroom.

I gave away many of those books years ago, but I kept an anthology that had a short story that had been a successful teaching tool for my students. The work generated great discussion and provided the perfect format for teaching almost any element of fiction. The story, "Boys and Girls" by Alice Munro, remains one of my favorite short stories to read and teach and Munro one of my favorite short story writers; but, of course, I have many favorites. :)

The View from Castle Rock, a 2006 collection of short stories by Alice Munro, takes its basics from Munro's delving into the history of one side of her family, the Laidlaws. The first story, titled "The View from Castle Rock," begins in the late eighteenth century when Munro's earliest known family member takes his young son to see the "new land" of which they would travel to and ends with a story called "What Do You Want to Know For," where the narrator returns to her paternal home to visit and her father falls gravely ill.

What Munro does in these stories, that run chronologically, as she writes in her Foreword, is "put [her family's history] together over the years, and almost without [her] noticing what was happening, it began to shape itself, here and there, into something like stories. Some of the characters gave themselves to [her] in their own words, others rose out of their situations. Their words and [her] words, a curious re-creation of lives, in a given setting that was as truthful as [the] notion of the past can ever be."

The result was a rich, powerful, interesting, and wonderful collection of short stories with strong narrative, realistic characters, and a true sense of place and time.

Loved all of them...:)

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