With “Chance,” Alice Munro begins a three-story sequence (continuing with “Soon” and “Silence,” which we will cover next) that center on Juliet. All three stories can be read separate or together. We are addressing them individually, as we have done with all of Munro’s work. They were published individually at first (with “Chance” first appearing in The New Yorker in their June 14, 2004 issue). Notably, Pedro Almodóvar filmed an adaptation of all three stories in his 2016 film Julieta.
I am not sure “Chance” works particularly well on its own, though. This may just be because I know how the story continues, but I found myself struggling to make a lot out of it on its own, as much as I like the story and this sequence. Still, I think it is worth looking at this snapshot of where Juliet is in 1965 at the age of 21.
“Chance” takes us to a familiar situation in Munro’s stories: a woman is travelling to meet a lover, and she is not certain how she will be received. She is taking a chance, I suppose, and for much of the story we find her in this liminal space between one life and another. Come to think of it, that’s likely why I find this story a bit unsatisfactory on its own: it’s the beginning of a new life that is laid out in so much nuance when combined with the next two that show where this life is going.
At any rate, this young woman is Juliet. When the story begins, it is June 1965 (a year that sits between two worlds, it seems), and she is taking a “little detour” up the coast from Vancouver to see “a friend.” Juliet is young and starting her life, which will in and of itself be remarkable for how different it is — right now, anyway — from what her parents expect. She is 21, and she is teaching Greek at Torrance House School for Girls. While she gets a lot of support and admiration from her parents and colleagues, it is clear many of them think that, as a woman, this is not the best job for her. When June 1965 rolled around, she was not offered a permanent position. Ultimately, the professors wonder what will become of this young woman with so much chance in her future: when will she marry and have children that will take her away, the may wonder. And if she doesn’t, is that really the type of teacher they want at Torrance House, someone who can become “bleak and isolated”? Her own teachers who loved her and encouraged her curiosity, suggested something similar:
Their joviality did not hide their concern. Get out into the world, they had said. As if where she had been till now was nowhere.
Well, now she has a life in front of her, and she has just received a letter from a man she met on a train six months before. We know right from the first few paragraphs of the story that this man is older and married, though his wife was in an accident and is now “a total invalid, more or less brain-dead.”
While the letter Juliet received prior to heading off to “get out into the world” could be interpreted as a friendly letter following up with someone met on a train — Eric tells her about how his wife is doing, that he was visiting his eleven-year-old son that day they met, he hopes she is well at school, etc — its arrival is significant and none of that is lost on Juliet. Who, after all, sends a courteous letter to a woman he met once on a train? It’s all the more clear his intentions are not to be courteous when he ends the letter this way:
I often think of you.
I often think of you
I often think of you zzzzzz
And so, uninvited, other than this rather inviting letter, Juliet is taking this opportunity to go see what might happen with this married man she met once who lives up the coast. It’s quite a chance to take, and it’s quite the way to leave one’s life up to chance and fate, something Juliet knows well from her classics studies.
This is actually my favorite aspect of the story: Juliet’s studies — she is excellent — have led her to intellectualize her own life. She thinks of it in terms of personal fate, and that she extrapolates into a story:
She and her father and her mother had always made it their business to bring entertaining stories into the house. This had required a subtle adjustment not only of the facts but of one’s position in the world. Or so Juliet had found, when her world was school. She had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer. And now that she was away from home all the time this stance had become habitual, almost a duty.
Before Juliet arrives at Eric’s home, Munro shifts the story back to the train ride six months prior, when Juliet first met (the only time they’ve met, actually) Eric. Their meeting is entirely due to chance, helped along by a few horrific moments on the train. Indeed, the first time Juliet talks to Eric she is in distress, and he is dismissive. This leads him to come to apologize, which . . . and so on, until she shows up at his home and this happens:
She can tell by his voice that he is claiming her. She stands up, quite numb, and sees that he is older, heavier, more impetuous than she has remembered. He advances on her and she feels ransacked from top to bottom, flooded with relief, assaulted by happiness. How astonishing this is. How close to dismay.
This is almost how the story ends (while pointing us to the next couple of stories). This is how the chance Juliet took paid off initially, with Juliet finding herself much more present in her life, something she finds wonderful and terrifying. I think this paragraph is pure Munro: the way she shows Eric is not the man Juliet has been imagining for the past six months in the stories she’s played in her head, the way Munro plays with words and combinations like “assaulted by relief,” and how Munro often shows how confusing it is to find oneself getting exactly what you want — with all of the accompanying joy — and finding it to be “close to dismay.”
The story might have ended there, and I might find it more palatable as a standalone story, but Munro has a coda that briefly looks ahead to the next few weeks and months and even years. I’m glad we have two more stories with Juliet. “Chance” as it stands is a snapshot of Juliet at this moment in her life, and it’s when this moment is put into perspective with “Soon” and “Silence” that the power of these moments is truly portrayed.
Of course, I must add here as well that, after reading Betsy’s thoughts below, I can see there is so much going on here that I didn’t even think about, let alone touch on above. I’m glad we’re covering these stories on their own.
“Chance” was first published in The New Yorker in 2004, but it takes place forty years before. Twenty-two-year-old Juliet breaks with both her upbringing in eastern Canada and her graduate program in Greek studies to take up with an older, electrifying, god-like fisherman in Whale Bay on the west coast.
The difficulty being presented by Munro is the possibility you will mislay your real self, the “treasure” that is yourself. The real difficulty is that you might do this by “chance,” or that you might not realize the “chance” you are taking when you subvert yourself.
Juliet’s life (told in three stories totaling 100 or so pages) is strange and in some ways repellent. She is not the brave runaway fleeing a controlling or occasionally violent husband. She is more the runaway from convention and society itself. Brought up by her parents to hide her prodigious intellectual gifts, she learns subterfuge. Told the same thing by society, she learns the subversion of her essential self. The subversion takes the form, on the surface, of continual white lies, but its essence is to protect the self from being detected:
Be accommodating to anyone who wants to suck you dry, even if they know nothing about who you are.
When Juliet ends up in the Greek Department at the University, she thinks she finally “fits in.” Her prodigious intellectual power finally has a home. She fits in so well that her thesis advisor introduces her to his “visiting nephew” and she makes what is probably a fatal mistake (although Munro does not say this). She encourages this nephew to deflower her. Although she encourages the event, she describes it as almost rape, and he declares that she is “not his type.” By chance, she has made a dangerous choice. It feels, although Munro does not say so, almost inevitable that word of her active pursuit of casual sex would get back to the department, and the department would get “worried” about having her around, and that a female Ph.D. would be too “odd.”
Juliet’s Ph.D. is suddenly derailed, and we find her going west on the train from Toronto to a temporary job in Vancouver.
When aboard that train, Juliet begins, by chance, a very long conversation with the fisherman from Whale Bay. She is herself in need of rescue. She has just been as good as fired from her PhD program. She’s been shamed, and she re-enacts that shaming on the train — she has her period, and she’s had to leave the toilet an unflushed bloody mess because you can’t flush a toilet while the train is stopped. In addition, shame explodes into guilt. To cap off her unease, she has just played an unwitting and minor part in a man’s suicide.
In the midst of all this, by chance she meets Eric Porteous, the fisherman from Whale Bay. I pause to note that Eric’s last name reminds me of portentious, piteous, and port in a storm, although the Scottish name itself may actually be derived from the Latin portarious, meaning “porter” to the Scots — someone who gives you entrance at the gate.
What is the gate to which Eric provides Juliet entrance?
For one, they hit it off easily. She tells him how much she loves Greek studies. He also relieves her guilt. He tells her, regarding her part in the man’s suicide:
I think that this is minor. Things will happen in your life — things will probably happen in your life — that will make this seem minor. Other things you’ll be able to be guilty about.
For another, the gate that Eric provides Juliet is an escape from shame. Not just an escape from the misplaced guilt over the man’s suicide, but also an escape from shame. Juliet’s shame over her period is a kind of flashback to the way she was dismissed by the university, despite her brilliance and despite her brilliant performance. (Great, formerly all-male universities at that time prided themselves on not making things easy for women. At that exact time, Harvard made sure that Radcliffe students had very few bathrooms available to them, and it absolutely forbade Cliffies entrance to the undergraduate library. I speak from experience. Cliffies were given the impression that there was something extra-mural about their very existence and, in particular, their menstrual existence.) So when Juliet pursues Eric, he is a relief from the exclusion and the shame that the university represented.
Eric’s third provision is that he provides Juliet a gate, a portal, to her own righteous sexuality. Juliet had thought she “fit in” at the University Greek Department. But it is nothing as to what she feels when she and Eric, six months later, finally see each other again. She has asserted herself and traveled unannounced to his house in Whale Bay. Having received a wonderfully ordinary but also wonderfully seductive letter from him, one could deduce that while not specifically invited, she has also not been specifically discouraged from seeking him out. When he discovers her in his living room, he speaks to her.
She can tell by his voice that he is claiming her. She stands up, quite numb, and sees that he is older, heavier, and more impetuous than she has remembered. He advances on her and she feels herself ransacked from top to bottom, flooded with relief, assaulted by happiness. How astonishing this is. How close to dismay.
Wow . . . “ransacked from top to bottom.” I am reminded of maenads, I am reminded of Leda and the Swan, and I am reminded of the runaway frenzy women experienced in the 60s and 70s when authentic sexual experience became available to them. Juliet’s “assaulted by happiness” is not hard to understand, especially if you were 20, as I was, in 1964.
But we need to take a closer look at Juliet’s secondary thought — that the assault of happiness is accompanied by its twin — that the happiness was so close to dismay. Why dismay? Undoubtedly, held in Eric’s god-like, Dionysian thrall, Juliet simultaneously realizes if she stays with Eric, she will never return to Toronto, never resume her “odd” place in the Greek Department, never get that Ph.D., never have a structure of life that would allow her to pursue the thing she loves doing, the thing that is as much her as is her sexual existence.
Just before Eric arrived back in the house, Juliet had a vision, a kind of Tia Maria induced vision:
The thing that was your bright treasure. You don’t think about it. A loss you could not contemplate at one time, and now it becomes something you can barely remember. . . . Few people, very few, have a treasure and if you do you must hang on to it. You must not let yourself be waylaid, and have it taken from you.
This is what happens. You put it away for a little while, and now and again you look in the closet for something else and you remember, and you think, soon. Then it become something that is just there, in the closet, and other things get crowded in front of it and on top of it and finally you don’t think about it at all.
She feels both pride and shame in her own ambition, but she lets herself be tilted. She lets herself be thrown from the train. Eric has led her to a kind of “otherworld.” It remains to be seen whether Eric’s otherworld is also a sort of underworld.
To a degree, it seems like Munro is wondering what would have happened to her if she had been born ten years later. Whether she would have run away, not to a promising husband, but to a commune where all convention had been turned on its head. Or would she have run away to a stultifying academic department where some of the professors might have a “silly giggle”? Experience is all in Munro. Self definition. And paying attention.
Here I conclude my general remarks on “Chance.” What follows are notes on several unusual features in the story that I think warrant extra attention.
Note 1 Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959)
Munro only mentions Hiroshima, Mon Amour once, in the story’s second paragraph, but I think she intends us to seek out the movie and consider it in relation to the story.
The movie’s heroine, a French actress, conceals her past. She’d been a teen-aged collaborator during the war, in that she’d had a forbidden love affair with a German soldier. Later, she was discovered and shamed by her town, and then she was punished and shamed by her parents. They locked her in the basement for ten years.
Juliet herself is a riddle of subterfuge, having learned from childhood to conceal her prodigious intellectual power and to feel shame that she should be a woman who is intellectually gifted. While the Frenchwoman’s story is individually a tragedy, she is also representative of a nation of collaborators. One link one might make of the movie to “Chance” is that Juliet is representative of the thousands, nay millions, of Canadian women who were required to be ashamed that they valued their own talents and interests, lest they upset the social applecart. A second link to “Chance” is that while the nation of French collaborators were not punished, the French teenager was brutally punished for her sexual liaison. Juliet, for her part, lost her university position because she became known as a sexual person.
Another leap from the movie to Munro is that the French actress has no name, and in many Munro stories, the central female character has no name but is merely a voice. This is a woman’s position: to have a role, but to have no name.
Above all, however, the movie is important because it must have been an intellectual touchstone for Munro, given the cinematic method of the director and screenwriter (Alain Resnais and Marguerite Duras). The movie is constructed in multiple confusing flashbacks, and the director pointed out that with this new method, “time is shattered” (see “Hiroshima mon amour: Time Indefinite,” by Kent Jones). Munro, of course, is famous for a similar method of shattering time in her stories.
In addition, Munro must have recognized a compatriot in Duras. A critic in The New York Times says, “Truth, in the Durasian universe, is a slippery entity. . . and that for Duras, only the novel of a life was real, not historical facts.” Duras herself said, “It’s in the imaginative memory of time that it is rendered into life” (see The New York Times). The sentence is a little opaque. Is it time that is rendered into life in imaginative memory? Or is it truth? The artist does not, according to Duras, reveal the truth by being absolutely faithful to a conventional construct of time.
Munro continually represents truth as being only partially understood or partially revealed. The Duras-Resnais movie presents the same problem. The French actress tells her Japanese lover that she had visited the Museum, and that she had seen what had happened when the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima.
The architect responds: “You saw nothing.”
To a degree, one could argue that all of Munro’s writing is to reveal what some people have never seen, what others have been forced to conceal, and the fact that some truths are extremely difficult convey. As for the play of memory, reality and the truth, there are examples in “Chance” of how slippery the truth is in Munro. Juliet conceals and engages in white lies and subterfuge. Eric is not particularly open or openheartedly honest.
Resnais says of his French actress: “You might even imagine that everything [she] narrated was false; there’s no proof that the story she recites really happened. On a formal level, I found that ambiguity interesting.”
It is easy to see what Munro saw in Resnais.
One could imagine the specific mention of Hiroshima Mon Amour in “Chance” as a recognition of either the influence or the importance of Resnais and Duras to Munro. Obviously, they all share an investigation of the flash back as a representation of thought, and they share a common concern with how a person knows the truth.
(What strikes me primarily is that given its placement in the second paragraph of “Chance,” Hiroshima Mon Amour is meant to influence the reader’s understanding of the story and the reader’s understanding of the art of the story. I think it may have to do with the problem of the way the past intrudes upon the present and to a degree, how the intrusion of the past prevents a person from being fully involved in the present or actually fully involved in their own life or their own potential, distracted as they are by voices from the past.
One sees the Japanese architect rebuilding Hiroshima. One also sees Munro at work, regardless of any sorrow that happened in the past.
The movie is never mentioned again. But if we are to truly pay attention, there is a complex web of connection between the story, Munro, and the movie.
I would add that the story still works even if all you know is that Hiroshima, Mon Amour is a foreign movie. There are other numerous allusions and touchstones in Munro that work the same way (Sartre, Spinoza, de Beauvoir, Robbe-Grillet).
Note 2 Eric Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, and the Appendix on the Maenads
Dodds’s book, published in 1951, was not written in the traditional mode. Dodds does not venerate the Greeks for their rationality. Instead, Dodds sweeps through the ancient Greek centuries with his eye on the mystical. He even uses William James for his epigram: “The recesses of feeling, the blinder, darker strata of charcter are the only places in the world in which we catch real fact in the making.”
While riding out from Toronto to Vancouver on the train Juliet had her Dodds open to the Appendix on the Maenads. Juliet is taken with a little story about how the maenads were rescued when they got caught in a freezing storm. What Munro doesn’t tell us is that the maenads were women whose very name meant “demented.” They carried out a every other year winter ritual in which through a frenzy of wild dancing effort they hoped to access Dionysus. Dodds makes the point that this kind of transported escape through dance has been common throughout history the world over. Humans, both men and women, love the transport of the transcendent.
The reader’s problem is to notice that Juliet appears to want to be rescued, but she seems unaware of the dangers that her rescue might entail. We are warned by the fact that she has noticed that the maenads are carried off the mountain in clothes frozen stiff as a board. Munro is spinning a tale about a modern day maenad and her access to sexual pleasure, erotic liberation, and her god.
Dodds himself writes with enthusiasm about the four kinds of beneficial madness: the prophetic, the religious ritual; the poetic; and the erotic, each of them inspiring in humans access to a god such as Apollo or Eros or the muses. The maenads are the ones who seek access to Dionysis through wild, demented dancing and presumably, through wine drinking. Dodds actually entitles his chapter “The Blessings of Madness.”
Socrates apparently said in the Phaedrus: “Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness. . . provided the madness is given us by divine gift.”
Dodds himself says: “To resist Dionysus is to resist the elemental in one’s own nature.”
The problem, of course, is that once you get going it is hard to stop. What is important is that Juliet does not tell us any of this. Instead, she thinks about how the maenads had to be rescued once when they got caught in a terrible storm. What is important is that Juliet herself is in need of rescue and she seems to know it. It seems that she has lost her position at the university, despite her brilliance but because she is a sexual being.
When, during her chaotic train ride, she opens her Dodds again, it is to this puzzling quote, which she now wonders why she ever underlined: “. . . what to the partial vision of the living appears as the act of a fiend, is perceived by the wider insight of the dead to be an aspect of cosmic justice . . .”
Most likely, Munro is referring to the man who threw himself under the train and how Juliet seemed to think his death was her fault. It was the “partial vision of the living” that prevented her from comprehending how or why the suicide happened. And it is here that Eric Porteous appears, and her decision to embrace him, like a maenad, is not a surprise. She is looking for a genuine orgiastic experience, and he in fact, turns out to be the real thing.
Munro’s characters all experience the “partial vision of the living.” It is a cardinal element in her fiction.
So, does Juliet make a mistake when she chooses Eric? Is it madness or is it a necessary step? Is the hippie experience our modern-day maenad wildness? Or, if the world were not so punitive of smart, sexual women, would she have ever actually had to run away with a modern-day god?
The French movie and the Greek scholar are the two intellectual bedfellows of the piece. Taken together, they represent a Munro reality of the feminine. The Dodds admits to the sexuality that women must be allowed to experience, else a kind of madness ensues. The French movie suggests, however, that when women do embrace sexuality, convention can throw them down into a basement of shame from which they never allow themselves to emerge.
Note 3 Shame and Guilt
Shame and guilt are a topic in Greek thought, they are a topic in Dodds, and they are topic in “Chance.” Not only has Juliet been taught to be ashamed of her interests and her prodigious gifts, the weird accident of her being a train seatmate to a man who commits suicide makes her feel guilty.
Just like the weird experience of having to leave a bloody toilet unflushed replays Juliet’s experience of her being cast off by the university, the man’s suicide replays the fact that Juliet was unable to actually satisfy the advisor’s nephew.
Sex has been linked to guilt, especially for women, since Eve’s liaison with the snake in the garden. Sex, in the late sixties and early seventies, was a force to be reckoned with. The pill had made adventurous sex relatively safe, and The Joy of Sex made it compelling. Guilt abounded: clandestine affairs, betrayed spouses, abandoned children.
Munro explores in her writing the knotty problem of family guilt every which way from Sunday. Should you leave a confining marriage? Should you leave your children? Can you leave a monstrous father? Can you leave a monstrous mother? Do you have to stay and nurse your paralyzed mother?
In this particular triad of stories (“Chance,’’ “Soon,” and “Silence”) Munro actually explores the Oedipus problem: do mothers create such tight bonds with their daughters that daughters have no choice but to run away? Is the guilt the daughters feel then inappropriate? Since they are not the ones who have created the inappropriate web? Is the guilt then imposed by the mothers? But these are questions for the next two stories.
Hiroshima, mon amour presents us with a beautiful French actress who is imprisoned by her collaboration guilt.
“Chance” presents us with a guilt Juliet should not feel — empathy, yes, but guilt, no. The circumstances of the man’s suicide are happenstance and chance. Eric tells her, you should not feel guilty for this. Other things? Later? Yes, you may be guilty for them.
One concludes, both from this story and from a lengthy reading of Munro, that the one guilt she imposes, especially on women, is to have lived entirely as someone else’s slave, whether the slave master be one’s mother or father, one’s society, or one’s husband. To not be master of yourself is to be guilty, in her book.
Hence, when Juliet drinks the Tia Maria and has a vison, the vision is of squandering your gifts. It is a vision of carelessness with yourself. That you should avoid.
Note 4 National Guilt, Personal Guilt, and Art
What about national guilt? Hiroshima Mon Amour is clearly about national guilt. The French collaborators, the American atom bomb, The German Holocaust, the Japanese aggression and their refusal to surrender.
Munro does not deal with national guilt. She does not deal in any direct way with war, anti-semitism, racism, or colonialism. She does not investigate, except for one story, the lives of the indigenous peoples of Canada and she makes no investigation of Canadian guilt regarding those native peoples.
Her work concentrates, primarily, on the situation of women in provincial Canada or the situation of women who have escaped provincial Canada. She particularly investigates the power relationship between women and men. She investigates the inevitable guilt that women feel if they abandon their mothers. She also investigates the way women do or do not fully express the potential of any of their gifts, and how the social situation can terminate a woman’s development of her own gifts.
As far as guilt and patriarchy are concerned, while she is very hard on men. It must also be said she can be very hard on women, especially those women who do not attempt to know themselves. One could extrapolate that the guilt that truly absorbs Munro is women’s difficulty in assuming responsibility for their own choices.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to guilt and art. In his essay, “Cultural Criticism and Society” (1951), German thinker Theodor Adorno wrote that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”
A horror of sentimentalism and cliché marks art after the horrors of WWI and WWII. Munro’s work is similarly marked by her rigid exclusion of convention, lyricism and cliché.
To a degree, to entertain guilt is the temptation to wallow in emotionalism and the temptation to simplify. To entertain guilt is also to reject the challenge of the present. Munro explores responsibility, but she regularly interprets responsibility as being attentive to the opportunity and requirements of the present moment. The west is marked by the Christian pre-occupation with guilt. A sense of guilt permeates our society to the degree that it is difficult for a reader to recognize that Munro is continually and ultimately choosing paying attention to the present over being imprisoned by guilt.
While the French actress is consumed with guilt, Juliet herself considers the nature of guilt.
Juliet herself argues with Eric “for the necessity of some feelings of guilt both in public and in private life.” But the fact is, she is “enjoying herself” talking about public guilt. The delight she takes in thinking about guilt delights and distracts her. The actual tragedies that occasioned the necessity for public guilt are forgotten, and Adorno is right. “To write poetry [to create delight] after Auschwitz is barbaric.”
Munro here is commenting on the difficulty of considering the Holocaust and considering Hiroshima. A person could, as Juliet does when talking to Eric, enjoy the experience of considering a topic of public guilt. That enjoyment — that a person can get involved in “enjoying” oneself as one creates art or argument about an issue of “public” guilt, such as the Holocaust, or Hiroshima, or indigenous peoples — is repulsive, the way looking into a bloody toilet recently abandoned by a menstruating woman might be repulsive.
Note 5 Paralysis and being “locked in”
As opposed to the open wild expression of women’s ritual madness, you also have in the story the problem for women of being locked in. Juliet associates Hiroshima, mon amour with the idea of paralysis and the fact that Eric’s wife is paralyzed. The beautiful French actress was locked in her basement; later in life the actress is also paralyzed by her past. The Japanese architect’s wife is paralyzed, presumably from the bomb, but the architect refuses paralysis. He works.
Juliet’s situation is the Canadian version of being locked in: convention requires her to conceal her prodigious intelligence; convention also requires her to feel shame regarding the mechanics and desires of her feminine body; and convention requires her to bottle up any ambition or self-definition to which she might aspire.
Paralysis and speechlessness are themes in general in Munro’s writing. Lewis, in “Comfort,” has ALS, the horrifying disease that leaves you completely paralyzed and speechless but still completely brain aware. You are “locked in.”
Eric’s “locked-in” dying wife is an emblem for the locked-in state of women in general in the fifties, a state explored and exploded in successive decades by Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem.
Juliet herself is locked-in; she is a woman of formidable intellectual power, and yet she is taught by her parents and by society to confine the essence of herself to the basement. Leter, Juliet’s circumstances in Whale Bay cause her to lose track of her ambition. Juliet’s life continues to be that of an actress who tells white lie after white lie in order to hide herself from the world. She is her own jailor.
Paralysis also played a role in Munro’s own life. Her own mother had been paralyzed by Parkinson’s while Munro was still a teenager, and Munro’s own life was threatened by paralysis as well — stay home and help her father and siblings with her mother or marry and pursue a life of her own. And, one assumes, stay married and unhappy, or break free.
Note 6 Prodigious promise
Regarding “Chance”, I am left with these impressions: it’s a bit of a fruitcake. There is so much going on. Does it work? I don’t really know. I just know I loved thinking about it.
The thing that was your bright treasure. You don’t think about it. A loss you could not contemplate at one time, and now it becomes something you can barely remember.
Munro is talking about curiosity, about creativity, about being interested in something and being called by it. Ability. Talent. Prodigious promise. The way you best encounter the world. How you are most yourself. How women, or anyone, really, could throw themselves away in a fit of madness. Or how anyone’s prodigious promise could be thrown away when the world has a fit of madness.
The second and third stories about Juliet investigate how one lives a life when one’s prodigious promise has been set aside in service of erotic authenticity. How does a maenad survive? We shall see.