Maybe It Was All a Dream...

We're going over Alice Munro's short story, "Free Radicals," in class tonight. To prepare, I've been reading other people's comments about the story; what they think it's about, what it means, if the main character is who she says she is...One of the more iffy comments suggested that maybe the whole story was all a dream...She just feel asleep and dreamed of a man coming to her house, threatening to hurt her, admitting he'd murdered his family, and then stealing the car. All a dream. It is my hope that Alice Munro would never write such a story, and I don't think she did in this case either. It's one of the more frustrating things about listening to other people's critiques sometimes; they can't understand the writer's choices and so invent their own possibilities. Someone else said that she had clearly just pieced together and older story and a newer one and forgotten to edit out the inconsistencies. As if: (a). She would consider doing this without carefully checking her changes; (b). The fiction editors at The New Yorker magazine (where it was originally published) would somehow miss this, but Missy, a commenter from Arizona, would catch the discrepancies. I guess I'm a little worried because I don't quite know how to talk about this story. I feel like I could read a lot of the pieces we go over again and again and still not get it right.


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