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Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro

Dance of the Happy Shades (1968)

by Alice Munro

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This was Munro's first published work and it won the Governor-General's Award for fiction in 1968. I think it is fair to say that many of the stories are autobiographical, remembering her early years in Wingham Ontario. She speaks for all of the misfit girls, those girls who don't quite fit in with the other kids at school or even their own family. Having been one of those girls I could relate.

The story "Red Dress - 1946" is about a girl who goes to the high school dance and fears she is never going to be asked for a dance. She almost leaves with another girl but, at the last moment, she is asked to dance. At the end of the night the boy walks her home and kisses her. Then he turned back to town, never knowing he had been my rescuer, that he had brought me from Mary Fortune's territory into the ordinary world. I'm sure that same story could have been written about 1966 or 1986 or 2006.

In "Boys and Girls" the daughter of a fox farmer lets a horse out of the pasture when her father was about to kill it. When her little brother tells their father what she did, the father dismisses it by saying "She's only a girl." Munro's father was a fox and poultry farmer and I'm sure Alice was taught early on that there was no room for sentiment on a farm. As I did, I'm sure she rebelled against that but felt like she didn't really belong to the family.

I think the clearest passage about the feeling of being a misfit is this one found on page 75:
...the difficulties I got into were a faithful expression of my own incommodious nature--the same nature that caused my mother to look at me on any occasion which traditionally calls for feelings of pride and maternal accomplishment (my departure for my first formal dance, I mean, or my hellbent preparations for a descent on college) with an expression of brooding and fascinated despair, as if she could not possibly expect, did not ask, that it should go with me as it did with other girls; the dreamed-of spoils of daughters--orchids, nice boys, diamond rings--would be borne home in due course by the daughters of her friends, but not by me; all she could do was hope for a lesser rather than a greater disaster--an elopement, say, with a boy who could never earn his living, rather than an abduction into the White Slave trade.

On behalf of all the other females of the world who have worried that they will never belong, I want to say thanks to Alice Munro. Thanks for showing us that we're not alone. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 9, 2017 |
I didn't realize when reading this that it was Munro's first collection. That would explain why, as never before, I was able to detect Influences. The title story, and the shocking comic ending of "A Trip to the Coast," made me think of Eudora Welty. And the central event in "The Time of Death" seems like homage to Chekhov's great "In the Ravine."
  sonofcarc | Jun 11, 2015 |
The best thing about Alice Munro's stories are how easy they are to read and read, over and over again. I keep going back to them and finding some hidden pearls of wisom or a tale underneath a story that I never noticed before. The stories keep me thinking for days and more in depth each time I go back to them. ( )
  crashmyparty | Dec 9, 2014 |
Her first book and winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction in 1968. The story, "Walkers Brothers Cowboy" brings back many memories for me as a kid growing up on a farm in Southwestern Ontario and experiencing the visit by the Fuller Brush man or the Watkins salesman. We also had our bread delivered to our door by a delivery man who loved to talk. ( )
  lamour | Sep 24, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067978151X, Paperback)

In these fifteen short stories--her eighth collection of short stories in a long and distinguished career--Alice Munro conjures ordinary lives with an extraordinary vision, displaying the remarkable talent for which she is now widely celebrated. Set on farms, by river marshes, in the lonely towns and new suburbs of western Ontario, these tales are luminous acts of attention to those vivid moments when revelation emerges from the layers of experience that lie behind even the most everyday events and lives.

"Virtuosity, elemental command, incisive like a diamond, remarkable: all these descriptions fit Alice Munro."--Christian Science Monitor

"How does one know when one is in the grip of art--of a major talent?....It is art that speaks from the pages of Alice Munro's stories."--Wall Street Journal

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Fifteen stories about life in rural Ontario deal with adolescence, loneliness, broken hearts, an abandoned wife, family relations, blind dates, and an aspiring writer.

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