“Bardon Bus”
by Alice Munro
from The Moons of Jupiter

TrevorThe Moons of Jupiter

While there have been a few Munro stories that I didn’t particularly care for, “Bardon Bus” is the first that I actively disliked during my first read-through. I stewed on it for a day or so and sat down with it again, only to see how wrong I was. “Bardon Bus” is a masterpiece. I didn’t see it on my first go-around, but I’m now in awe of what she accomplished in this short story.

Though the story itself treads on one of my favorite topics — the hidden inner life that can be turbulent and torrid even while the surface remains calm — I was a bit put off by Munro’s fragmented structure. The narrator, a middle-aged woman, is telling this story from a friend’s apartment in Toronto where she’s working on a book about the history of a wealthy family. Meanwhile, she slips back and forth in time, remembering an affair she had while in Australia and its aftermath, but we don’t fully understand all that is going on until the end. It was a bit bewildering at first. Munro herself has described the narrator’s state as “hysterical eroticism.”

I don’t know why this was so hard to take in on my first go-through, why I was so impatient, why I didn’t recognize that bewilderment was exactly what I was supposed to feel because that’s what the narrator was expressing. I simply must have been suffering from some deficiency at the time. Maybe I was hungry. I don’t know. “Bardon Bus” as a title refers a bit to this structure. “I say to myself, ‘Bardon Bus, No. 144,’ and I see a whole succession of scenes.” Munro’s “Bardon Bus” is this succession of scenes, memories that surface, sometimes unwelcome and with no context.

All [these memories] did was stir up desire, and longing, and hopelessness, a trio of miserable caged wildcats that had been installed in me without my permission, or at least without my understanding how long they would live and how vicious they would be.

This affair, which she always knew was fleeting, has left her feeling empty and alone, desperate with desire and unable to satisfy her longings. She has to go about her business with this awful gale storming inside of her.

Munro’s opening paragraph is one of the best I’ve seen, from her or anyone. I’ll parse it a bit here. Here’s how we meet our narrator. We know nothing of the affair, nothing at all of her life. We simply hear her connect herself to a long line of women with secret passions.

I think of being an old maid, in another generation. There were plenty of old maids in my family. I come of straightened people, madly secretive, tenacious, economical. Like them, I could make a little go a long way.

While we may expect her to be talking about making a little wealth or a little food or a little warmth go a long way, the way we often hear how people with little still get by, she actually means a little passion, a little lust, and whatever tiny detail set the flames burning:

A piece of Chinese silk folded in a drawer, worn by the touch of fingers in the dark. Or the one letter, hidden under maidenly garments, never needing to be opened or read because every word is known by heart, and a touch communicates the whole.

It’s a secretive world, harbored by these “straightened people,” reminders of lust “hidden under maidenly garments.” Or perhaps:

Perhaps nothing so tangible, nothing but the memory of an ambiguous word, an intimate, casual tone of voice, a hard, helpless look. That could do. With no more than that I could manage, year after year as I scoured the milk pails, spit on the iron, followed the cows along the rough path among the alder and the black-eyed Susans, spread the clean wet overalls to dry on the fence, and the tea towels on the bushes. Who would the man be? He could be anybody.

The narrator continues to imagine herself as an old-maid, working while picturing this man, and finally retiring to her bedroom.

Upstairs my bed with the high headboard, the crocheted spread, and the rough, friendly-smelling flannelette sheets, the hot-water bottle to ease my cramps or be clenched between my legs. There I come back again and again to the center of my fantasy, to the moment when you give  yourself up, give yourself over, to the assault which is guaranteed to finish off everything you’ve been before. A stubborn virgin’s belief, this belief in perfect mastery; any broken-down wife could tell you there is no such thing.

The narrator seems to desire something that she knows is impossible, some absolute state of being, though one not accomplished without significant violence to the self. It’s as if the identity of this person is built up of this powerful inner life fed by desire, and if that desire were only sated . . . That’s not something this narrator believes is possible. If we look back on the previous story, “Accident,” we may find just the wife this narrator is talking about.

After this tremendous, complex opening section, we finally meet the woman who is narrating to us. We don’t learn her name, only that she is in Toronto, living with a friend, and working on that book of family history. She quickly tells us that a year prior, she was in Australia and ran into an old acquaintance from schooldays, an anthropologist she calls X. The affair begins, each telling themselves that it was just for a time, he apparently accepting this.

We were not afraid to use the word love. We lived without responsibility, without a future, in freedom, with generosity, in constant but not wearying celebration. We had no doubt that our happiness would last out the little time remaining.

As I mentioned above, we move back and forth to this affair, to the narrator’s agony, a subsequent relationship, and to side-stories about her friend’s own relationship troubles . . . as they are seen by the narrator, who understands that not everything comes out above the surface.

She does was women do. Perhaps she does it more often, more openly, just a bit more ill-advisedly, and more fervently. Her powers of recovery, her faith, are never exhausted. I joke about her, everybody does, but I defend her too, saying that she is not condemned to living with reservations and withdrawals, long-drawn-out dissatisfactions, inarticulate wavering miseries. Her trust is total, her miseries are sharp, and she survives without visible damage. She doesn’t allow for drift or stagnation and the spectacle of her life is not discouraging to me.

Yet she is discouraged. She knows this. Knowing it gives her hope that she’ll get over it. And I think that’s the main question in the story. Can she get over it? Does she want to? It’s agonizing to live without this fulfillment, but how does one forget, move on, to avoid the pain without also feeling like one repudiates the beauty? Doesn’t that mean the beauty was not as beautiful as it seemed, as transformative as it felt at the time?

When the story comes to the end, Munro adds in a trick. Kay has met a man named Alex Walther, an anthropologist. Kay says:

He’s a nice man. Do you know what he did? After dark when we were sitting around the fire he came over to me and just sighed, and laid his head on my lap. I thought it was such a nice simple thing to do. Like a St. Bernard. I’ve never had anybody do that before.

There’s that ephemeral gesture, the one you can hold on to for a long time. Here it may be a source of pain: because it wasn’t for her, and because it didn’t mean anything anyway. Unbidden, it may follow the narrator around. Or it may be just the detail to set her free. Munro doesn’t tell us, but given the narrator’s agony before Kay met Alex, I’m nervous for the narrator.


Betsy

I am amused at the way the title “Bardon Bus” reminds me of “bard on a bus,” and amused as well by the mock-epic tone this play on words sets in gear. The speaker/writer is, after all, in the paid service of a “rich family” to write their history. She is their bard, so to speak. It is a wicked title. The speaker/writer has a big affair, and you could describe her as the bus her thrice-married libertine lover boarded for a couple of stops. Or vice versa.

Epic might be how many people might describe their experience of the seventies sexual revolution. Quite a few people thought that everything had changed. These would be the same people who might feel pressed to use epic terms when describing what they lived through. Given how much things changed, it is curious how much some things stayed the same. I think Munro is making that point in this story with the mock-heroic allusions.

One question this story raises is whether the feminine mental landscape has really changed along with the sexual revolution, or whether women still dream of being an attachment to a (great) man, and whether this fantasy is still a driving force in the psychology of some women.

Section 1 is a riff on old maids the speaker/writer remembers from her family. These women were able to deal with their “straightened circumstances” with the uses of fantasy. The speaker/writer waxes lyric on their ability to sustain life with the fantasies that one old  letter or one piece of faded silk could unleash. The speaker/writer celebrates a “lifelong secret, a lifelong dream life.” This passage is seductive; the women seem self-denying and heroic. But the mock heroic sneaks in. When the spinsters feel satisfied with the transports of a slightly erotic, very romantic hymn, the reader sees a vision of Emily Dickinson secluded in her room, Emily being an almost epic hero of literary women.

In Section 1, the speaker/writer argues that these spinsters were “lapped in harmless craziness.” As the story proceeds, however, the reader wonders if the speaker/writer is similarly “lapped in . . . craziness,” and if she is, the reader questions just how harmless it is. This story suggests that the desire to be subsumed in a man still exists and is still a deranging force.

The reader encounters a sense of derangement in the language toward the end of the very first paragraph in the story, as if Munro were undermining the sense that the speaker/writer is trying to convey. The speaker is able, for about a page, to write in a forceful, lyric, and detailed manner about an “old-maid-craziness” that is the interior solace for spinsterhood and “straightened circumstances.” But then, at the end of this long first paragraph, the speaker/writer lapses into  a kind of mental skip, a kind of gap in logic, a kind of linguistic slippage.

Take a look at these two sentences:

There I come back again and again to the center of my fantasy, to the moment when you give yourself up, give yourself over, to the assault which is guaranteed to finish off everything you’ve been before. A stubborn virgin’s belief, this belief in perfect mastery: any broken-down wife could tell you there is no such thing.

One derangement I encountered in these two sentences was just who the “I” was meant to be — the imagined spinsters, the speaker/writer, or more likely, a conflation of the two. There is a slippage of self here.

A second derangement is when the reader encounters the word “assault,” which is neither specifically sexual nor specifically not sexual, but conflated. The speaker/old maid is stuck in the moment of giving herself over to a sexual experience she chooses to define as an assault. The words “again and again” suggest that this is a fantasy that is repeated and repeated.

A third derangement is that the speaker/dreamer imagines that sex will be a giving over or a giving up that will also “finish off everything you’ve been before,” as if this would be a relief, to be rendered from your self. To finish someone off is to kill them. This speaker is imagining that union with another will be a violent assault in which she herself will be annihilated. Why would anyone want that? Would powerlessness have anything to do with it? Does the woman imagine that sex is going to be both an invasion and also a means to power?

Munro often writes about the need to escape a bad situation. In Munro, the key to autonomy seems to be that the person caught in a trap has to finally begin to write, or finally choose divorce, or finally jump on that train, or finally jump off that train. There is a huge difference between escaping from a trap because you climbed out of it and fantasizing that the way to get out of a trap is to yield all power and be assaulted or raped by someone else.  It is about locus of control. In the one, you take charge and take action; in the other, you wait around for someone to transport you. This speaker/writer appears to have no inner locus of control.

A fourth linguistic derangement opens up a gap as big as a canyon. Initially I wondered if it were a typo or poor editing. In it, the speaker/dreamer’s language devolves from a vision of assault to sentence fragments set off by a semi-colon: “A stubborn virgin’s belief, this belief in perfect mastery;”.

What mastery of what?

What is this lunatic thinking? Is she talking about mastering yourself? Is she talking about being the master of herself? Is she talking about using submission as a means of being the master of someone else? Does she have any idea what she is trying to say? We have no idea what mastery of what discipline is being sought, as to emphasize that these are women with a mastery of nothing, or, more important, these are women who imagine they have a mastery of nothing.

I suggest that Munro uses dislocutions such as these two sentences when she wants to indicate profound confusion, or profound disintegration of self.

I want to take a slight detour here. This passage about sex as assault reminds me of “Leda and the Swan,” and specifically I am thinking of Leda “taking on the power,” and of the question of whether she takes on the knowledge with the power. I am also reminded of Dickinson’s “Master letters,” and just why she thought of him as her master; I also wonder whether her “secret, lifelong dream-life” is a viable model for the woman writer or any writer. Power, of course, or the lack of it, is the common denominator in all of this.

The stumbling continues as the speaker/writer concludes the sentence: “any broken down housewife could tell you there is no such thing.” This is essentially an unfinished thought. No such thing as what? No such thing as “perfect mastery”?

The speaker/writer’s thinking has gaps. We go from lyric love letters and hymns to submission, to assault, to assault that sounds like rape, to self-annihilation, to assault as the means to “mastery,” to the desired obliteration of the self, to a transformed self, to broken-down housewives. That’s a million mile trip, given that the speaker/dreamer seems to see most housewives as “broken-down,” which I don’t think Munro means at all.

I think what we are meant to notice is that this speaker/dreamer is a woman whose locus of control is not within herself. So, is this a “harmless craziness”?

Not at all. The speaker/dreamer goes on to tell an alarming story at the length of fifteen pages or so about a thrilling affair she had that has left her not in possession of herself. According to the mores of the 70s, her life might seem to be a triumphant tale of sexual free expression, but Munro makes clear how lacking in self she seems to be.

The speaker/writer admires a friend for her success at this kind of life:

She does what women do. Perhaps she does it more often, more openly, just a little more ill-advisedly, and more fervently. Her powers of recovery, her faith, are never exhausted. I joke about her, everybody does, but I defend her too, saying that she is not condemned to living with reservations and withdrawals, long-drawn-out dissatisfactions, inarticulate wavering miseries.

I note the word “inarticulate” — that for the speaker, the love affairs reduce her to “inarticulate wavering miseries,” and this loss of speech is signal, I argue, in Munro, to loss of will and self. Having dinner with a  male acquaintance who viciously assaults her, the speaker/dreamer “can’t think of anything to say.”

Remembering the affair, the speaker/writer/dreamer remembers what she said to the thrice married lover as they parted:

“As it is, it’s been perfect.”

I said that. And that was a lie.

Who assaulted whom here? Munro holds people accountable for their delusions and dishonesties.

In Munro it is the self that is responsible for itself.

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By |2017-08-03T17:22:25-04:00February 19th, 2016|Categories: Alice Munro, Book Reviews|9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Harri T February 22, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Munro on Munro:
    In a 1978 CBC radio clip Alice Munro tells to the interviewer Don Harron she knows exactly what she is trying to achieve with her writing:
    “To make a reality between covers that is more powerful than the reality itself”

    To me, she succeeds with that in “Bardon Bus”

    Trevor is in good company, actively disliking the story for openers. For many that became the permanent opinion.

    “Bardon Bus” is the story in “Moons” not accepted for publication in ‘The New Yorker’.
    Munro´s editor at Knopf, Ann Close reported that the “Moons” publisher Douglas Gibson did not like the story, but never explained or could not explain why.
    There are things in “Bardon Bus” that were too much for many people, things that you were not used to talk about. Sentences like: “In none of this is she so exceptional. She does what women do.” I noticed both of you omitted the first sentence in your quotes, but I think these two sentences together were real dynamite. Like you said Betsy, the narrator goes on to admire that sort of life.
    Canadian journalist Peter Gzowski commented when Munro read the opening section in a radio interview, Oct 1982: “You just read a dirty passage”.
    In the same Morningside series, going on every working day that week Munro told:
    “The narrator is living a modern woman´s life of free choice and various experience….she´s having this kind of intense response to experience, but she´s now living in a context where you are expected to take the things more lightly, so in a way there is no place, there is no room, to feel what she is feeling”. I get the feeling that the reaction from Gzowski suppressed some of Munro´s thoughts, I´ll come later to what she told was her inspiration.

    Thank you both for your analyzes. Betsy´s two last sentences sum up nicely Munro´s thinking. It is reassuring to know that it is possible to follow Munro with a person who has lived through many of the same experiences. I´m about as much younger than Munro as I am older than you.

    I like to think that section 1 is again one of Munro´s textures, this time inside an old maid´s head.
    As for the assault thing, you have to bear in mind that most if not all rural spinsters of the time Munro is referring to, have had the experience of watching animals copulate, and seeing the real assault of horses mating.
    The perfect mastery thing could be perceived as a continuum, both sexual and comprehensive, time-bound, in literature from the genre of romantic novel, to the genre of say, Fifty Shades with people almost finishing each other off.

    My first impression was that “Bardon Bus” is about how difficult it is to accept being just one in the long line of former girlfriends of a serial seducer, like Lydia in “Dulse”.

    Waiting for your post I began to dig deeper and realized the enormous psychological power built into the story. There are so many fetishes in the story, lots of them in section 1, where the narrator goes through her own phallic experiences, projected upon a relative of an earlier generation. Section 9, also a texture for a long part, is abundant with fetishes and of course, X is a fetish of the narrator.

    That is why a Freudian analysis is a natural alternative in explaining “Bardon Bus”. So we have to deal with Freud, Jung et al to understand or try to understand the story and also the mixed feelings in reader´s minds, which even the person concerned can not explain to herself.

    In psychoanalytical context “Bardon Bus” has been interpreted as a narrative of losing your omnipotent phallic mother, and the necessary refusal to accept it. Then you are not able to make the Freudian step from phallic to oedipal, and that is not good for your gender.

    I´m not entirely contented with that framework with the nameless narrator, she´s for me too complicated to be explained with only that. The supporting characters slip nicely in position.
    They are understandable because they are more or less stereotypes.

    (Ale)X a serial seducer, needing that “nice young mirror” to look in; his creativity finds irresistible ways of disarming a female, at least a receptive female, one who is ready and waiting to be charmed.
    Because of their similarity, X is very able to understand the opportunistic serial tourist Dennis, also with panicked masculinity, who sadistically uses the narrator to reinforce his faltering ego.
    They try to dominate women, sexually or socially, to defend against their castration anxiety.
    Of course Kay is also unsure about her feminity, a perfect match for Alex who needs to prove his masculinity again and again.

    I thought it safe to assume that Munro has not been writing “Bardon Bus” looking at the FreudJungetal textbooks. She is such a keen observer of herself and the world, that her story can be used as an example in psychoanalyzing.
    Not so sure anymore, section 1 is so skillfully packed with sexual fetishes and it is perhaps rather safe to assume that she must have consulted lots of literature honing the skills in her favorite subject, relations between mothers and daughters.

    The subject was not easy for Munro. She wrote three versions os “Bardon Bus”, and the version used was finally decided by her agent Virginia Barber.
    Munro´s University of Calgary archive has all three and lots of unpublished material, which has left her somewhat vulnerable to one-sided explanations of her work by (mainly Canadian) scholars. “Bardon Bus” has been dissected, psychoanalyzed, even psychiatrized and not only the story, but also Munro herself, based on that so much of her work is autobiographical.

    There is the question of the narrators possible psychotic behavior Are the ups with “hysterical eroticism” and her downs of “low-point” depressive moods – again like Lydia in “Dulse” – so significant that the bipolar – or at that time manic-depressive – diagnosis could be set.
    The only personal touch most people have of psychosis, losing the usual control of their actions, is romantic love. Almost everyone is personally familiar with the manic and depressive aspects of the process. I do not see any real symptoms of mania or depression in the story, she´s able to analyze herself, mainly compared to her friend Kay. But we cannot be sure that she is not beginning a new circle.

    Munro has identified the inspirations of “Bardon Bus” in interviews to scholars, when books about her works began to appear.
    To Beverly Rasporich she told (published in 1990) that she spent the summer 1981 in downtown Toronto, “getting a very strange feeling from Queen Street. It was a kind of hysterical eroticism. It was something about women´s clothes and the very whorish makeup they were wearing. All this was sort of nightmarish”.
    To Geoff Hancock (published in 1987) she described:” I want to have a kind of hysterical eroticism. Very edgy and sad. It´s a feeling……about the masquerades and attempts to attract love”.

  2. Betsy February 22, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Harri – I have just noticed your fantastic post. My calendar this morning does not give me time to read it and do it justice.
    I just wanted you to know that I’ve seen it and want to give it much more time to absorb and to give it reply.

    Just one remark before I resume my day: I try to see if I can figure out what Alice is saying without any reference to scholars or other writers except for her daughter and Robert Thacker (whose remarks primarily sort out her life dates and her complex publishing history). So I see from your post that my own take on this story (that submission to sexual abandon has the power to rob a woman of her self) was on target.

    I am eager, however, to really think about (and as I said, absorb) everything you have written. Thank you.

  3. Margaret February 22, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you, Trevor and Betsy, for such insight into this story. I’d never read “Bardon Bus,” never even heard the title before your post. I love your discovery of “bard on [a] bus.” This is a masterful story, beginning with the brilliant opening on old maids, of whom the narrator proves to be an honest heir. You do terrific justice to those final sentences of the opening.

    That first paragraph shines a light on the little that sustains these “straitened” spinsters, “[a] piece of Chinese silk,” “one letter,” a look, a word. Much in the same way they survive economic hardship, they could live on such things forever. As you point out, Munro makes it clear that women do that–continue to be “economical” in how they restrict their very selves in pursuit of love during this sexual revolution. A few weeks of a “feeling of perfect security” is a pretty miserly way to treat oneself; the narrator is, indeed, making “a little go a long way.”

    Kay, who seems to survive “without any visible damage,” does so by taking up a man and his story wholeheartedly, effectively losing herself in his identity. She says that love is just the “desire to see yourself reflected,” but obviously she undergoes a disintegration of self with each affair, the process you reference. There are many interesting uses of related words, such as “the shelter of the mirror” from which the dressed-up boy emerges, and the word “shelter” that surfaces in the narrator’s dream, a word she “loved.” Might falling in love be a way women hide themselves, an escape? (And, as Dennis suggests, a way for men to deny death?) About the time the narrator tries to reinvent herself with new clothes, having lost the image X gave her, she reaches a low point where “I can’t continue to move my body along the street unless I exist in his mind and in his eyes.” There is something else about economy here–Kay comes from money, the narrator doesn’t, and I wonder if this accounts somewhat for Kay’s perceived or actual security compared to the narrator’s, who can’t live that way–on that sketchy street, or serially in love–lest she feel herself “slipping under.”

    I wonder what readers think of Munro’s tidier-than-usual ending. “Alex Walther, the anthropologist,” who lays his head on Kay’s lap, must be the narrator’s same lover, “with an X in his name.” We know that soon Kay will be “in deep,” “learning his language,” which is what he does as an anthropologist, investigating other peoples’ languages in northern Queensland. This new development will be another “lick of pain” in the narrator’s recovery. At the very least she’ll be able to make art out of it, a great story.

    Bringing each other scenes, words, connections–that was what the narrator and X/Alex had, but not much substance, not what she experienced in her pleasant dream, where the white clothes turned out to be their substances, their souls, and embraces transformed into a “rare state of content.” No one is annihilated to reach this contentment. Thinking on this, the narrator gets close to understanding the “misplacement” of the dream–she and X weren’t really sharing their souls when they lived together, which is what, perhaps, men and women should be striving to share. Instead, “drunk” and in love, we seem to have made a lateral trade between the old kind of bedspring bedding, which now leans on Kay’s wall, good only as a backdrop for art, or accessories, and these modern, unconventional arrangements. Ultimately, the latter also turns out to be good for (little more than) art. Could our desires really be so “banal” as in her dream? And perhaps as impossible as this story suggests?

    I thought the scene fascinating where she and Dennis have dinner, and agree with your observations about her “inarticulate”-ness. I also see how Dennis’s theory portends another story published much later by Munro, “Post and Beam,” which focuses on two women who dream of the changes ahead in their life, changes that in fact only men will enjoy: younger loves, reinvented selves, freedom.

  4. Betsy February 22, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Margaret, thank you for your long and interesting post!

  5. Betsy February 22, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Harri, your post is so rich I had to print it out.

    I notice particularly (and thank you for it) Munro’s remarks in 1982 on the “Morningside Series”. Part of your quote is as follows: “…she’s now living in a context where you are expected to take things more lightly, so in a way, there is no place, there is no room, to feel what she is feeling.”

    Five years later, Munro uses the word “masquerades” to encapsulate the loss of self that serial (your word, Harri) sexual experiences require.

    Probably about that same time, Munro remarks upon the “hysterical sexual eroticism” that she thinks has overtaken some of the contemporary scene. The ‘hysteria’ surely plays into the ‘dislocation of self’ that I felt from the story.

    Thanks so much, Harri, for this masterful weaving of interviews and reportage.

    I like very much your comparison of the Lydia in “Dulse” to this narrator. For one thing, they are both writers living on the edge of true writing. They have no authorial autonomy; they seem to seek that sense of personal power in men ~ either to suck it out of them, or .to have an ephemeral experience of power over them.

    Harri – I have often had that thought you had: that Munro “consulted lots of literature.” I think you are right. She seems to be such a student of human psychology.

    I am less interested in the Freud/Jung leap, and more interested in the psychotic. I love your thought that falling in love is one experience with the psychotic that most of us have had! But I would chime in and say that my sense of dislocation in the narrator has a whiff of the psychotic. I like it.

    Munro’s own word, as you point out, to describe the sexualized scene in Toronto at the time is “nightmarish”. Do you think it is the nightmarish quality in the story that made so many people dislike it? Why does this story rub people the wrong way?

    Great post, Harri. Thanks so much!

    PS: Harri – Is it being too personal to ask you what country you are writing from, and what brings you to Munro?

  6. Betsy February 23, 2016 at 12:02 am

    I want to do a little riff on the title. Munro is often sly. I think she’s playing with the slippery slope a writer negotiates – that when you use, as Munro does – stories from real life, you are kind of a modern day bard. A person whose life a writer uses is like a bus the writer boards. Or could be. You are also a bard on a bus in that you are using commonplace material which you overhear. But there’s a fine line between making art of the lives of other people and simply just using other people.

    I happened to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman’s “Capote” yesterday; the movie definitely explores this problem, – the necessity that writers must use other people’s lives to make art.

    Munro’s bard on a bus makes a nod in this direction, acknowledges the problem.

    Munro, of course, is a serious writer who takes serious care with her work, something the narrator of “Bardon Bus” does not do. But I think Munro is playing here with how close a call a serious story can make in the use of other people.

  7. Betsy February 23, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Trevor and fellow readers! So sorry to have four comments in a row from me. But I wanted to respond to Margaret, whose thoughtful post appeared yesterday morning.

    Margaret! You note that “Kay comes from money” – great stuff. Most of us don’t, and Munro is always interested in the submissions to be made in an unequal relationship, and the petty rebellions, as we will see in “Prue”. And you note that “worn-out set of bedsprings” against Kay’s wall – something I missed entirely. You refer to it as representing a “lateral move” ~ much as this entire story suggests that the sexual revolution represents a lateral move for women (and men), from repression to an over-expression that amounts to a kind of emptying-out of the self.

    There is so much to note in any Munro story. It is wonderful to get these additional takes from Harri and Margaret.

  8. Margaret February 23, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks, Betsy, for your additional comments, and Harri, for your terrific contribution. Having the publishing context and Munro’s comments have enhanced my third and fourth readings of the story. It is so rich… just glanced at section 3 and noted again the sexton’s tattoos of scenes and “medallions… containing girls’ names”–not unlike the bard’s use of scenes. The narrator then explains how the lovers use these stories to entertain each other. The very next sentence reads: “We were not afraid to USE the word love.” [Caps mine.] Wow.
    I will stop here, but yes–always so much to note and ponder.

  9. Harri T February 24, 2016 at 4:43 am

    Explanations of the subconscious in Freudian terms are often useful, but if you try to make it catch-all, something easily evades, or if you take it too literally, it easily becomes a parody of the reality (or fiction).

    Yes Betsy, I´might be a little shy, but I share with pleasure more personal information with you by email. I imagine you have access to my email-address, submitted to the site. The address itself tells my county of origin.

    This I`m writing in Istanbul, but the next contribution, if inside next two months, will be from southern Africa.

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