For Rory’s Book Club, we are currently reading/discussing The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro.
Today, August 22nd, we begin discussing “Part I: No Advantages”. As with our last book for discussion (We Have Always Lived in the Castle), I will post the same thing on here as on the RBC discussion thread.
So here goes…
So far, View from Castle Rock has been pretty interesting to me. The fact that Munro is using fictional short stories all compiled into this one book to describe her own family’s history intrigues me. As I love history, I often enjoy historical fiction, of which these short stories have an element. For all I know about Munro, it’s possible that these stories are more truth than fiction–even the locations of where the narrator grew up make her sound like Munro, as described in the back of the book jacket.
Each story so far has progressed by generation, up until the last story of the part in which the narrator (no name given yet) has been largely involved. The very first story, “No Advantages,” was my least favorite story so far. I was, to be blunt, utterly bored with this story. It is the farthest back in history, before Scotland became part of Great Britain (if I remember correctly). I actually fell asleep twice while reading this story–and I wasn’t reading them at bed time I was just THAT bored. The tales of the narrator’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Will O’Phaup (Will of Far Hope), and his run-ins with witches and feats of long distance running were few, but the most interesting part of the story.
Thank god I remembered this book is compiled of SHORT STORIES. If it hadn’t been, I would have put the book down for good because of the first story. But, short stories aren’t always similar, so I decided to give the second story, “The View from Castle Rock,” a try. And it has been my favorite so far, with the narrator’s family coming from Scotland to Canada. And this I enjoyed most because it had that sweet, lovable character, Walter
A passage that I particularly enjoyed was found in “Working for a Living”: the story the narrator herself begins telling the whole story of her father.
He [the narrator's father] would die leaving a sick crippled wife who could not even take care of herself, an old mother full of disappointment, a younger daughter whose health had always been delicate, an older girl who was strong and bright enough but who often seemed to be self-centered and mysteriously incompetent, a son who promised to be clever and reliable but who was still only a little boy…
“Was that all you thought about?” I said when he told me this.
“Wasn’t that enough?” he said, and went on to tell me how he pulled one leg out of the snow, and then the other: he got out of that drift and…He got home.
The reason I like this passage is because it seems to show us the different views on dying, as thought by two different generations. This difference in view could be because of the ages of the father and narrator; but it might also have something to do with the way both were brought up and lived their lives. Interestingly enough, the father calls the narrator a “self-centered and mysteriously incompetent” girl in the first paragraph I quoted. This is immediately proven by her asking, essentially, why he didn’t think anything of himself when he might be dying.
I have to admit that, I think that I would sort of ask the same thing the narrator does. I mean, yes, it might be a little self-centered to wonder how one could not think of himself/herself when about to die. If I was in a situation in which I could soon die, I think I would first think of all of the stuff I’d be missing out on. This, in turn, would lead me to think of Nick (my fiance) because most of those things I haven’t done yet include him as well. And, if I had children, I’m sure they might pop in there too–all the things I didn’t get to do with them. But these all include me! I wouldn’t think of only Nick or our future children–I would think of them and myself.
This could explain why the narrator and her father disagree. He has a wife, a mother, and children–she has none of those things. So is it natural for her to think of herself, since she might not have such a strong bond to any other human? And is it natural for him to think of everyone else but himself because he worries for their futures and not necessarily (like me) what he will miss with them? I think I’d be more willing to feel the same emotions as the father if I have lived to older age and my children are all old/experienced enough to have me not need to worry about what I will miss with them–if my children have children, I would just worry about them doing right by there children, I guess.