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Excerpt from "I Flirt with Alice Munro"


-Do you smell chicken manure, Ms. Munro?

-The market's full of smells you don't get in the city. It's the smell of work and rich soil and humous. It smells like simple, plentiful life. You'll like it when we get to the berry tarts my friend Johanna makes. Every Friday night—from the first of the rhubarb to the last of the pumpkins—she's up til 3 in the morning and then awake again at 6 to get the baking done. Imagine working that hard at something. Call me Alice, won't you?

-Man, it must be a hundred degrees out here. I wish I'd worn a hat like yours. I like how the straw makes your face sparkle. You had three kids and a husband in a beige city. Still you managed to write your first collection of stories, some of the most powerful stories by anyone, any time.

-Well, my girls would nap—

-Jesus, Alice. I'm so sick of that anecdote. Can't you give me something better? More honest? Something that doesn't make us all feel like slugs? When I started to write stories, coping with a bipolar pregnancy full of worry and woe—in my mid-thirties and blooming late in all regards—I read that you'd written Dance of the Happy Shades while they slept. I took comfort. Well, I thought, that seems okay. The baby will sleep and I'll get at it, I'll write the best of my prose, full of deep feelings and great details. It will be a lovely internal time. And then I'll be patient when the baby wakes up, because I'll have had creative fulfillment for the couple of hours, peace, and then I'll dance with baby around the kitchen singing Supremes songs with 'baby' in the lyrics. Art heals, you bet, and I anticipated this new, better life, its riches.
       Anyway. One critic says you are able to compress without miniaturizing. Comment?

-Here, have a plum. This will knock your socks off. Bernie gets these off a tree planted by his great great grandfather, Jeremiah Glover. He's given everybody grafts, but no one's plums taste quite as earthy and sweet as Bernie's.

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