First there was the grim news of the Government shutdown, then this headline in today’s “NY Times:” “Washington Fifth Grader, 11, Is Convicted in Murder Plot.” When his weapons (that’s plural – a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol and a knife) were discovered, the 11-year-old told a school counselor that he was planning to stab a girl to death because she was “really annoying!” It doesn’t get much darker than that…
But let us move on to a welcome bright spot in the news: Alice Munro, 82, winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. When she got the word, she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.” Indeed. Just this year, Munro announced she had decided to stop writing. Oh, Alice, say it ain’t so and it might not be. Winning the Nobel, she said “may change my mind.” Her legion of fans certainly hope so.
I’ve never been partial to the short story form – Ms.Munro’s work excepted – but recently I was introduced to “Married Love,” a short story collection by the British writer, Tessa Hadley. You may recognize Hadley’s name from the pages of “The New Yorker.”
At The Boulder Bookstore’s Bookclub Night event this summer, the store’s new titles buyer praised “Married Love,” so I gave it a try. Well, I’m hooked. I devoured “ML” and moved on to Hadley’s novel, “The London Train.” I am now on my third Hadley novel (her first) and am anticipating with glee the arrival of her latest novel, “Clever Girl,” which travels to our shores this spring.
So, what’s the attraction here? In an email, Hadley wrote: “It’s still amazing to me that my very English stories travel and still make sense somewhere so far away and so dramatically different.” Yes, there are the English expressions, vocabulary, but these are universal tales, situations and characters this American, anyway, found herself relating to. Hadley homes in on the family and the often complicated relationships between parents and children, siblings and husbands and wives. About “Married Love,” “The Guardian” wrote “Hadley joins the company of Alice Munro and Colm Toibin as one of the most clear-sighted chroniclers of contemporary emotional journeys.” Enough said.