Edited By Mirosława Buchholtz and Eugenia Sojka
Place in Fiction: Alice Munro, Eudora Welty and the Tradition of American Small-town Stories
Despite unprecedented growth of its popularity in the twentieth century, the short story has been consistently viewed as a somewhat marginal kind of writing, serviceable first, perhaps, as a means of ensuring the author quick income via magazine publication.1 The most prestigious literary prize, the Nobel, awarded last year to the writer so stubbornly loyal to the form that her life work consists exclusively of collections of (sometimes interlinked) stories, bestows the much deserved recognition not only on the accomplished Canadian author but also on her favorite genre, for “Alice Munro has done more than any living writer to demonstrate that the short story is an art form and not the poor relation of the novel” (Holocombe).
Since early on in her career, almost every other comment on Munro’s work connected it with Chekhov: “She is our Chekhov, and is going to outlast most of her contemporaries,” reads the statement by Cynthia Ozick displayed on the cover of the Vintage edition of Munro’s 1990 collection, Friend of My Youth. In his essay “Chekhov and the Modern Short Story,” a historian and theoretician of the genre, Charles E. May, specifies the characteristics of the Chekhovian story that twentieth century practitioners of the form have taken over and adapted for their own use:
Chekhov’s ability to dispense with a striking incident, his impressionism, and his freedom from the literary conventions of the highly plotted and formalized story marked the beginnings of a new or “modern” kind...
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