Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Reading in Alice Munro's Archives

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Reading in Alice Munro's Archives

Article excerpt

JoAnn McCaig, Reading in Alice Munro's Archives (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002), xvii + 193pp. Paper. £18.95. ISBN 0-8892-0336-9.

The Alice Munro fonds in the Mackimmie Library at the University of Calgary are an invaluable resource for literary and biographical detective work, as critics like Robert Thacker, James Carscallen, and Magdalene Redekop have demonstrated. JoAnn McCaig approaches these archives differently as she looks into Munro's correspondence with her mentor Robert Weaver of the cbc, her New York literary agent Virginia Barber, her Canadian and American publishers Doug Gibson and Ann Close, and her fellow writer John Metcalf, for McCaig is interested in the business of writing and how Munro became a literary celebrity. This is a cultural studies analysis of Munro's writing career and how the words 'Canadian', 'woman', 'short story', and 'writer' have come to define her reputation.

McCaig was apparently refused permission to quote from much of this archival material, which reveals the degree of Munro's self-protectiveness over her public image, though McCaig's summaries establish her arguments in clear academic fashion. Her main point is that authorship and authority are always linked to institutions like universities, the literary marketplace, and in Munro's case (as with Laurence and Atwood) with the cultural nationalism of the 1970s. She also finds evidence in the correspondence for Munro's dependence on Weaver's initial patronage and encouragement, and then on the efforts of Barber to introduce her to the American market via a New Yorker publishing arrangement in 1976, as well as Munro's resistance to American publishers' pressures to turn her short story collections into novels. …

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