Selected Shorts: The Stories of Alice Munro — Daughter and Father

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Jupiter and its moons

Guest host Hope Davis presents a father-daughter story by Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s revisionist look at the Garden of Eden.

This is the second of two programs honoring Munro, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. Accepting the prize, she was characteristically modest, saying, “I thought that stories were so important in the world, and I wanted to make up some of these stories.” The settings and the people in her narratives are modest too, but they bear out another observation of hers: “I think any life can be interesting, any surroundings can be interesting.” 

In the course of her long career she has published over a dozen short story collections. Other honors include the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the Rea Award for the Short Story and the Man Booker International Prize.

SELECTED SHORTS has featured a number of Munro stories over the years, and the Nobel award was a good reason to celebrate her again. A special evening at Symphony Space included readings of two of her stories. Munro herself joined us via Google Hangouts, and chatted with another great contemporary Canadian novelist, Margaret Atwood.

This program features “The Moons of Jupiter,” in which a middle-aged woman is helping her aging father through a health crisis. As a result, she winds up looking down the length of her own life, his life, and that of her daughters, recalibrating old relationships with new information. In the story, her father, a working man with a taste for poetry, recites part of Joaquin Miller’s "Columbus," and its stirring refrain is probably Munro’s wry take on the vicissitudes of life: "Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!" The story is performed by Holly Hunter, who won an Oscar for her work in “The Piano,” and whose other films include “Raising Arizona,” “Broadcast News,” “The Firm,” and “Thirteen.”

The second story in the program is Ursula K. Le Guin’s “She Unnames Them.” It’s a sly feminist reworking of the story of Adam and Eve. In the original, God made “the beasts of the field and the birds of the air,” and Adam got to name everything. In Le Guin’s version, Eve thinks it’s time for a change. Reader Joanna Gleason is well suited to alternate endings — she originated the role of The Baker’s Wife in Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” for which she won the Tony Award.

“The Moons of Jupiter,” by Alice Munro, performed by Holly Hunter

“She Unnames Them,” by Ursula K. Le Guin, performed by Joanna Gleason

The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.

Check out additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS

We’re interested in your response to these programs. Please comment on this site or visit Selected Shorts.

And for more thoughts on the stories in SHORTS, check out literary commentator Hannah Tinti’s site.