Alice Munro’s latter work formed the backbone of my dissertation. Comparing versions of Munro’s stories as they appeared, first in magazines and later in Dear Life, allowed me to focus on her revision process. This close reading of her work shaped the way I approached the redrafting of my stories, all of which explore loss and the spaces around loss.
Woven throughout my collection is the suggestion that people create identities though the telling and re-telling of their stories, reframing recollections as necessary. I am interested in how the stories (and lies) we tell ourselves, and others, shape our lives. I am also interested in how we identify ourselves after losing a role (wife, daughter, mother) by which we’ve always defined ourselves. There are words to describe those who outlive a spouse, or outlive a parent - where is the word to describe a parent who outlives a child?
My stories consider how we are unable to confirm the "truth" of a matter, when the "facts" of an event are accessible only via a memory, which may or may not be entirely trustworthy. My husband is living with early onset dementia, so memory, and loss of memory, are concerns which dominate my daily life. (The irony is heartbreaking—that I was writing this collection just as he was beginning this new phase of his life.) I am determined now, to hold on to his most important stories for him, as well as to witness him as he is now.
I thought I was incorporating ideas of liminality in my work through the use of physical and psychological thresholds. I see now that the transitory nature of dementia scaffolds the collection. I am grateful to all the authors who have shown me the potential power of short fiction; this quote is also a quiet thank you to a woman whose work has changed my life.
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