Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014

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Overview

From the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature—and one of our most beloved writers—a new selection of her peerless short fiction, gathered from the collections of the last two decades, a companion volume to Selected Stories (1968-1994).

Family Furnishings brings us twenty-four of Alice Munro’s most accomplished, most powerfully affecting stories, many of them set in the territory she has so brilliantly made her own: the small towns and flatlands of southwestern Ontario. ...

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Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014

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Overview

From the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature—and one of our most beloved writers—a new selection of her peerless short fiction, gathered from the collections of the last two decades, a companion volume to Selected Stories (1968-1994).

Family Furnishings brings us twenty-four of Alice Munro’s most accomplished, most powerfully affecting stories, many of them set in the territory she has so brilliantly made her own: the small towns and flatlands of southwestern Ontario. Subtly honed with her hallmark precision, grace, and compassion, these stories illuminate the quotidian yet extraordinary particularity in the lives of men and women, parents and children, friends and lovers as they discover sex, fall in love, part, quarrel, suffer defeat, set off into the unknown, or find a way to be in the world.

Peopled with characters as real to us as we are to ourselves, Munro’s stories encompass the fullness of human  experience—from the  wild exhilaration of first love, in “Passion,” to the lengths a once-straying husband will go to make his wife happy as her memory fades, in “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” Other stories suggest the punishing consequences of  leaving home (“Runaway”) or leaving a marriage (“The Children Stay”). The part romantic love plays in one’s existence is explored in “Too Much Happiness,” based on the life of the noted nineteenth-century mathematician, Sophia Kovalevsky. And in stories that Munro has described as “closer to the truth than usual”—“Dear Life,” “Working for a Living,” and “Home” among them—we glimpse the author’s own life.

As the Nobel Prize presentation speech says in part: “Reading one of Alice Munro’s texts is like watching a cat walk across a laid dinner table. A brief short story can often cover decades, summarizing a life, as she moves deftly between different periods. No wonder Alice Munro is often able to say more in thirty pages than an ordinary novelist is capable of in three hundred. She is a virtuoso of the elliptical and the master of the contemporary short story.”

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Canadian writer Alice Munro is the 2013 Nobel Prize laureate, an author acclaimed as "our Chekhov" and a "master of the contemporary short story"; but let us not forget that this master of modern literature is also wonderfully readable. This grand 640-page collection of her work brings together twenty-four of her most recent works. Each displays the sensitivity and precision of her human portraits and the unforced grace of her prose. Editor's recommendation.

The New York Times Book Review - Terrence Rafferty
…the sort of state these stories put their readers in&#8230[is] a neither-here-nor-there reverie in which people and landscapes zip by quickly and yet with an unusual clarity, reminding you of things you thought you'd forgotten or making you wonder how other people, in other places, live their lives. A few of Munro's tales…are told in the first person and feel autobiographical, but more typically her stories seem to come from the pure curiosity of looking out the window of the bus. What's it like to be that person, sitting on that bench? How does it feel to go home to that house every night?…Even if you've read the stories in Family Furnishings before, they still spring surprises, large and small…Because Munro's people often act unpredictably—they wind up doing things they hadn't known they were going to do, and startle themselves—the stories, even on repeated readings, retain their original suspense, their sense that anything can happen. You may realize that you'd forgotten how various Munro's fiction is, how many different kinds of stories she has grabbed out of the air over the years.
From the Publisher
“What is special about Munro’s lifelong use and reuse of ‘family furnishings’ and ‘unremarkable local landscape’? Partly it is her exceptionally thorough and dedicated mining of the same ingredients, which endlessly come up rich and fresh, seem never to be used up, and however artfully shaped, feel ‘real.’ . . . And there’s the heart of the magic:  the voice of the speakers, and the voice of the narrator who has them speak. From the start, Munro has been brilliant at this, but in the late stories she  has developed an extraordinary elastic fluency, a way of moving without any apparent effort between vividly distinctive local voices, and the sense of someone talking to themselves, or repeating a tale, and something more resonant and contemplative. . . . In the simplest of words, and with the greatest of power, she makes us see and hear an ‘unremarkable’ scene we will never forget.”—Hermione Lee, The New York Review of Books
 
“A fitting, final reminder of what a stunning, subtle, and sympathetic explorer of the heart Munro is.”—The Denver Post
 
“A writer who slowly fashioned a house of fiction large enough for both a room of her own and all of her family furnishings—ensuring that she herself had space to maneuver while others still had plenty of space to stretch out and live. Those others include us, her very lucky readers.”—Mike Fischer, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“What a stunning, subtle and sympathetic explorer of the heart Munro is.”—Ron Hansen, The Washington Post
 
“Munro may have arrived at the end of her career, but her stories keep changing as works of art tend to do . . . Even if you’ve read the stories in Family Furnishings before, they still spring surprises large and small. . . . Because Munro’s people often act unpredictably—they wind up doing things they hadn’t known they were going to do and startle themselves—the stories, even on repeated readings retain their original suspense, their sense that anything can happen.”—Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review
 
“There is simply not a better writer of short fiction alive . . . Alice Munro may have written only short stories, but in each is the mystery of life, the questions of existence, where the answers are rarely answered cleanly.”—Tod Goldberg, Las Vegas Weekly
 
“Munro’s stories are remarkable for their evocation of places and the people who live there, for ambiguities, their ellipses, and their deftness. Her prose is lucid: ranging from delicacy to forthright attack, sometimes witty, ironic.”—Claire Hopley, The Washington Times
 
“Generations to come will relish and study Family Furnishings for clues to the fine craft and mysterious wizardry that make Munro’s stories work. It’s a fitting companion to her Selected Stories (1968-1994)—a superb introduction for those new to her work, and a reminder to longtime fans that Munro is a writer to be cherished.”—Jane Ciabattari, NPR
 
“It is no exaggeration to state that Munro’s short stories are among the finest that have ever been written. . . . She deserves her moment in the sun especially to honor how consistently excellent her work has been—she’s that rare writer who is able to match her early career achievements and even top them in this selection drawn from her most recent six story collections.”—Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News
 
“An absolute treasure . . . There is exhilarating language chronicling frighteningly acute forays into the very human need for links to each other. More than anything, there is always Munro’s uncanny ability to make the most horrific moments of the most irrational dreams seem desperately and decidedly human.”—Steven Whitton, The Anniston Star
 
“Nobel prize winner Munro’s literary genius for the short story form has been widely deemed incomparable. The Canadian writer captures those small moments that reverberate through ordinary lives in meticulous prose. Her economy in words fashions a language that pierces the heart.” –The Daily News
“A top-shelf collection by Canadian Nobelist Munro, perhaps the best writer of short stories in English today. These economical, expertly told stories [are] near peerless, modern literary fiction at its very best.”—Kirkus starred review
 
“This extraordinary collection encompasses 24 short stories . . . There is something deeply satisfying about finishing one story and knowing that there are many more to savor. It is particularly illuminating to read the stories in the context of an insightful introduction by Jane Smiley . . . A companion volume to Selected Stories (1968-1994), this most recent effort returns to familiar territory for the Ontario native, but through the nuance and generosity with which she draws each character, feels vivid and fresh at every turn.”—Molly Antopol, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“If there’s literary pleasure greater than reading Alice Munro, it must be rereading Alice Munro.” —Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
 
“[A] deep and constantly surprising collection. [We tend sometimes] to see stories, and especially stories written by women, as somehow peripheral, non-essential, when they are, in fact, the only thing we have. This is the primary faith of Munro’s writing, that these lives, these interactions—often domestic, and only occasionally dramatic in the broadest sense—matter with the weight of life and death.”––David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times
 
“A blue-ribbon collection now joining her previous Selected Stories in presenting arguably the best of the sterling fiction this personally and professionally unpretentious Canadian has contributed to the world . . . In reading these stories—or rereading them, as will be the case for most of us—what is refreshingly obvious is that Munro has retained all the distinctive characteristics and qualities that set her fiction apart from the outset, including her apparently effortless but actually word-perfect style, her use of family history to inform the contemporary domestic situations she so vividly employs in her stories , the quotidian nature of her characters and their plights (which ultimately gives her characters their wide appeal), and the purposeful elimination of nonessential detail to permit a novel’s worth of substance to comfortably fit into a short story’s confined space.”—Brad Hooper, Booklist starred review

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-09-30
Top-shelf collection by Canadian Nobelist Munro, perhaps the best writer of short stories in English today.Certainly few, if any, narrators are less trustworthy than Munro's; among many other things, she is the ascended master of quiet betrayals, withheld information and unforeseeable reversals of fortune. "We say of some things that they can't be forgiven," says the thoughtful narrator of "Dear Life," the closing story, "or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do—we do it all the time." Yes, we do, but not without torment. Fiona, the protagonist of "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," the stunning story that is the heart of Sarah Polley's great film Away From Her, cannot be blamed for causing the pain she does: Dementia has overtaken her, but even so, her husband can't help but wonder whether "she isn't putting on some kind of a charade." People put on acts, of course, all the time, and Munro seems to be telling us (as at the very opening of the sly story "The Eye") that we bamboozle each other from the moment we can understand language—and not necessarily for any malicious reasons. Munro packs plenty of compact but lethal punches, many of them hidden in seemingly gentle words: "I have not kept up with Charlene. I don't even remember how we said good-bye." Well, yes, she does, because "[y]ou expected things to end," and all that catches up to the chief player in "Child's Play" when she's called upon to say goodbye again. As is true of so many of Munro's tales, taken straight from the pages of quotidian life, its end is heartbreaking, tragic, not a little mysterious—and entirely unexpected. In fact, all that can be expected from these economical, expertly told stories is that they're near peerless, modern literary fiction at its very best.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101874103
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/11/2014
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 23,924
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Munro

Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario. She has published thirteen collections of stories and a novel. During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards, including two Giller Prizes, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Man Booker International Prize. In 2013 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review, Granta, and many other publications, and her collections have been translated into thirteen languages. She lives in Port Hope, Canada, on Lake Ontario.

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    1. Hometown:
      Clinton, Ontario, and Comox, British Columbia
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 10, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Wingham, Ontario, Canada
    1. Education:
      University of Western Ontario (no degree)

Read an Excerpt

Family Furnishings

Selected Stories, 1995-2014


By Alice Munro

Random House LLC

Copyright © 2014 Alice Munro
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-101-87410-3


CHAPTER 1

Too Much Happiness

Many persons who have not studied mathematics confuse it with arithmetic and consider it a dry and arid science. Actually, however, this science requires great fantasy.

—Sophia Kovalevsky

On the first day of January, in the year 1891, a small woman and a large man are walking in the Old Cemetery, in Genoa. Both of them are around forty years old. The woman has a childishly large head, with a thicket of dark curls, and her expression is eager, faintly pleading. Her face has begun to look worn. The man is immense. He weighs 285 pounds, distributed over a large frame, and being Russian, he is often referred to as a bear, also as a Cossack. At present he is crouching over tombstones and writing in his notebook, collecting inscriptions and puzzling over abbreviations not immediately clear to him, though he speaks Russian, French, English, Italian, and has an understanding of classical and medieval Latin. His knowledge is as expansive as his physique, and though his speciality is governmental law, he is capable of lecturing on the growth of contemporary political institutions in America, the peculiarities of society in Russia and the West, and the laws and practices of ancient empires. But he is not a pedant. He is witty and popular, at ease on various levels, and able to live a most comfortable life, due to his properties near Kharkov. He has, however, been forbidden to hold an academic post in Russia, because of being a Liberal.

His name suits him. Maksim. Maksim Maksimovich Kovalevsky.

The woman with him is also a Kovalevsky. She was married to a distant cousin of his, but is now a widow.

She speaks to him teasingly.

"You know that one of us will die," she says. "One of us will die this year."

Only half listening, he asks her, Why is that?

"Because we have gone walking in a graveyard on the first day of the New Year."

"Indeed."

"There are still a few things you don't know," she says in her pert but anxious way. "I knew that before I was eight years old."

"Girls spend more time with kitchen maids and boys in the stables—I suppose that is why."

"Boys in the stables do not hear about death?"

"Not so much. Concentration is on other things."

There is snow that day but it is soft. They leave melted, black footprints where they've walked.

She met him for the first time in 1888. He had come to Stockholm to advise on the foundation of a school of social sciences. Their shared nationality, going so far as a shared family name, would have thrown them together even if there was no particular attraction. She would have had a responsibility to entertain and generally take care of a fellow Liberal, unwelcome at home.

But that turned out to be no duty at all. They flew at each other as if they had indeed been long-lost relatives. A torrent of jokes and questions followed, an immediate understanding, a rich gabble of Russian, as if the languages of Western Europe had been flimsy formal cages in which they had been too long confined, or paltry substitutes for true human speech. Their behavior, as well, soon overflowed the proprieties of Stockholm. He stayed late at her apartment. She went alone to lunch with him at his hotel. When he hurt his leg in a mishap on the ice, she helped him with the soaking and dressing and, what was more, she told people about it. She was so sure of herself then, and especially sure of him. She wrote a description of him to a friend, borrowing from De Musset.

He is very joyful, and at the same time very gloomy—
Disagreeable neighbor, excellent comrade—
Extremely light-minded, and yet very affected—
Indignantly naïve, nevertheless very blasé—
Terribly sincere, and at the same time very sly.


And at the end she wrote, "A real Russian, he is, into the bargain."

Fat Maksim, she called him then.

"I have never been so tempted to write romances, as when with Fat Maksim."

And "He takes up too much room, on the divan and in one's mind. It is simply impossible for me, in his presence, to think of anything but him."

This was at the very time when she should have been working day and night, preparing her submission for the Bordin Prize. "I am neglecting not only my Functions but my Elliptic Integrals and my Rigid Body," she joked to her fellow mathematician, Mittag-Leffler, who persuaded Maksim that it was time to go and deliver lectures in Uppsala for a while. She tore herself from thoughts of him, from daydreams, back to the movement of rigid bodies and the solution of the so-called mermaid problem by the use of theta functions with two independent variables. She worked desperately but happily, because he was still in the back of her mind. When he returned she was worn out but triumphant. Two triumphs—her paper ready for its last polishing and anonymous submission; her lover growling but cheerful, eagerly returned from his banishment and giving every indication, as she thought, that he intended to make her the woman of his life.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Family Furnishings by Alice Munro. Copyright © 2014 Alice Munro. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword

The Love of a Good Woman
Jakarta
The Children Stay
My Mother’s Dream
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
Family Furnishings
Post and Beam
The Bear Came Over the Mountain
Runaway
Soon
Passion
The View from Castle Rock
Working for a Living
Hired Girl
Home
Dimensions
Wood
Child’s Play
Too Much Happiness
To Reach Japan
Amundsen
Train
The Eye
Dear Life

Bibliographic Note

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2014

    Highly recommended

    Deserving of every honor that she has been awarded

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2014

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    Very well thought out book i loved it very much

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2014

    Dreaaaaaaaa

    I hate this book. I always get lost in the book
    :(



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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2014

    Df

    Butt book wast of time

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