Next week’s story is The Hasselblad by Jocelyn Johnson.

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher and podcatchers. If you can take a few moments to leave an iTunes and/or Stitcher review, it would help us immensely.

On today’s episode, we had a great argu… I mean discussion of “Amundsen” by Alice Munro. To quote Anais, “when Maya said 53 minutes had passed I was absolutely shocked. How? What is time?” This story had us split down the middle. I would say us old folks are right but… I’m not old! (Anais Ed. Note: Pffffft.) The messy podcast is on the Youtube page, and the glistening audio version will be available by morning. Don’t forget to check out Alice Munro’s Author Spotlight to learn more about her.

We do have a rating scale. For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’s post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” You gave last week’s story, “Eminence” by Caroline Casper, 3.3 Bradberries, after including a last minute e-mail entry.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “Amundsen”? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week’s story is The Hasselblad by Jocelyn Johnson.

We hope you’ll enjoy the story, and join us next week for the discussion. The podcast will be available at the top of this post, iTunes and other podcatchers by early Wednesday morning.

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9 comments on Amundsen – Alice Munro – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 5

  1. Carol Valdez says:

    This is a really good piece. I loved your conversation about the story, and this piece is an excellent addition to the discussion. I’ve been really diving into Munro for the past month and loving it. I agree with Gerald that it’s a sad and dreary story, but I absolutely loved it. As Maya said, Munro leaves a lot of open space and there can be several interpretations. I love the discussion overall! Thank you for doing this.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the discussion! Hopefully we’ll do more Munro in the future.

  2. mconcepcion says:

    I was also suspicious of that relationship, I even mentioned this to Anais, but she pointed out that there are not enough clues from the author to support the idea of Dr. Fox being a pedophile, and I agree Munro would have given us more clues.

    I don’t completely trust Vivien’s innocence either, but I still believe Dr. Fox never intended to marry her, because I also believe there were others before her.

  3. mconcepcion says:

    I liked the way the story is written, and after hearing the discussion, I found myself thinking back to the story and finding hidden messages in the narrative. The story is a lot more complex than seen at first glance.

    The matron is introduced and referred to throughout the story as Matron, not as the matron, just Matron, as if this is her name, and her sole identity. The woman in the train is "the meat woman", and the rest of the women also have no name. The fact that there’s no ladies room at the cafe….all of this speak to the fact that this is a male dominated town and the position of women in the sanitarium of being lesser people. The fact that Mary and Anabel are mentioned by name to me are clues that I should pay closer attention to these characters and their story.

    The doctor is viewed almost as a God, not to be questioned, and to be feared. The fact that Mary even has a nickname for him, shows that she may be the only that does not only not fear him, but she even challenges him. This is why when he doesn’t show up to her play, she brings the play to him. Her performance is for him, not Vivien, she would not be ignored! This is why the doctor gets so mad at her, and it’s so mean to her, because she has challenged him. Mary probably knows him better than anyone else, this is why when she sees Vivien on the train to Toronto, she asks no questions, and Mary always asks questions! Why not now, she already knows what’s going on, she has seen him do this before. He never had any intentions to marry Vivien, the first clue is when he said "I intent to marry you." Just like when someone tells you "I’m not going to lie to you…" You know they are about to tell you a lie.

    I guess I liked it better than I thought, 4 bradberries from me.

    1. Gerald Hornsby says:

      That’s a pretty good score. I totally agree about the hidden messages. Alice Munro has been doing this for so long, she’s pretty much an expert at it.
      We’re definitely not intended to have any sympathy for Fox. He was painted as a heartless, uncaring, stuck-in-his-ways man. Yes, definitely shown to be someone who has control over much of went on at the facility.
      Unlike the others, I didn’t think that his playing with Anabel and Mary was a good, caring thing; I immediately thought it was decidedly suspicious, the man in charge taking these two little girls out on his own. But then, we’re mired in child sex cases here in the UK at the moment. So, although it was a different time to now, it rang alarm bells for me.
      And what sort of person was Vivien? Was she an innocent young girl (the boyfriend in the navy was made up, we all decided I think)? Or was she the perennial victim?
      I think at the time he said it, he intended to marry her, because he felt it was the right thing to do. Why say that, when she didn’t ask? But when it came to it, he couldn’t make himself go through with it. I don’t believe he was cynical in his approach to her.

      1. Maya Goode says:

        I think most modern readers in the UK or US had some raised eyebrows but like you Gerald, I thought about it and then chalked it up to resent culture as Munro would have left more hints or at least some Georgia O’Keeffe level symbolism.

        When I was little there was a young asperger-ish type adult man who lived upstairs who used to love to chat with me, watch movies and help me fix my bicycle. There was never anything suspicious about it, but now days that friendship would have put everyone on super high alert. Kind of says a lot how all the chronic abuse in our cultures have taken Men from being assumed to be generally good with the occasional bad seed, to assumed predator when the mentor or play with kids.

        As for fox. While he is drawn as a cold and austere and an unsympathetic character, I enjoyed the ways she showed him a product of the cold and pain of his surroundings. Recognizing these motivations didn’t make me… sympathetic but rather empathic. I absolutely love when good writing can make me understanding of a rough or "bad" character. Dude had issues and really needed a therapist lmao

      2. I hear you re: the pedophile alarm bells. They went off inside me too, but I discounted them as a symptom of our 24-hour news cycle times. There was no evidence over than "Man, who is also a pediatrician, who spends time with children," which isn’t fair.

    2. Maya Goode says:

      I am completely where you are in regards to Mary. She was a great character and probably the only emotionally honest character in the story which made her much more carefree and lively. She was like this little colorful flower surrounded by grey lol. The way that she is the only one who sees him as human instead of godlike said a lot to me. She teases, loved and confronts him in a way that no one else in the story does. 4 bradberries is high praise indeed!

      The lack of female names and identities was another great detail that said a lot more that I thought it did on face value. I can’t wait to read it again in a few weeks. I’m sure it’s one of those that will draw me in deeper with each read.

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