Alice in Blunderland

I can understand why Randa Jarrar (blogging over at MoorishGirl) and Noggs are upset at Daphne Merkins’ profile of Alice Munro. Every piece about a woman writer feels it necessary to comment on the way she looks, talks and dresses, whereas men get away with the single-adjective description: “rumpled”, “intense”, “dapper”. And yes, it’s demeaning and incredibly, reflexively, sexist.

For all its length, the profile is short on moments like this:

”I’ve tried to write novels,” Munro says, sounding slightly annoyed with her own intractable methods. ”They turn into strange, hybrid stories.” And then, an almost imperceptible note of defiance enters the conversation, as though she were having an argument with the powers that be, whoever they be, with all those who would tell her how to behave or how to write: ”I haven’t read a novel that I didn’t think couldn’t have been a better story. I still go into bookstores and look at how few pages you can get away with in a novel. I actually stand there, deducting the white pages in between and adding up the number on my fingers. Do you think you can get away with 110?”

It’s a bit of a waste, given that Merkin makes such a big deal over the fact that Munro rarely gives interviews.


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