Sunday, April 7, 2013

Modern Fiction: The Group by Mary McCarthy

In 1963, Mary McCarthy's novel based on the lives of eight women Vassar students in the class of 1933 caused a ripple of protest in some circles. The alumnae of Vassar even requested that her degree be rescinded. It seems the more extraordinary that a book depicting the social, political and sexual mores of the previous generation of women should cause a stir, when at the time of publication the Western world was on the brink of the 'sexual revolution' and the 'women's movement'.

Perhaps it was the sophisticated McCarthy's reputation for disguising only thinly the autobiographical details of her own life, and that of her friends, in her work that offended the sensibilities of these matrons.

Each of the novel's eight chapters describes the life and loves of a different member of the group and follows them up to ten years after graduation. It is an examination not only of the social and sexual politics of the time, but of the way in which individuals from different backgrounds deal with the challenges of massive social change.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A short history of the short story... And how to write it

 Up until the 14th century, short stories were mainly used to convey religious morals. With Boccaccio's The Decameron and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the shift moved from the sacred to the profane by focusing on human folly instead.

The English short story changed from verse into prose in the 15th century, but it didn't really begin to emerge as a form until the 19th century when it took off among American writers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. In the UK, such writers as Thomas Hardy mastered the genre: his Wessex Tales (1888) was the first succesful short story by a British author.

Short stories went from strength to strength in the 20th century, partly because the rise in literary magazines and journals created a market for the genre.

The genre has suffered a bit of a decline in recent years. At least enough for writer Margaret Wilkinson to launch the Save our Short Story campaign in 2002. Join the fight and subscribe to the Endangered Species online anthology of stories by both known and new writers.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Modern Fiction: The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

Alice Munro is recognized and acknowledged as one of the greatest living short story writers. She has had many collections of short stories published and The Progress of Love deals, like much of her work, in the examination of human relationships in all their complexity through the minutiae of daily living in small, provincial and rural Canadian towns.

A young man examines his sense of responsibility for a younger sibling when he recalls the terrifying trauma of his childhood. A woman divorces and seeks sanctuary in her childhood home where she must confront her parent's ambiguous relationship. The trust between parents and their children is tested after the accidental near-drowning of a child. These are some of the themes of the stories in this collection, and through the lives of the protagonists we shine the light into the dark corners of our own humanity.

In this collection Alice Munro examines, in elegant witty prose, the constant paradoxes of our lives where responsibility vies with freedom, security with independence, and creativity with obligation.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...