‘Walker Brothers Cowboy’ by Alice Munro

You can’t really do a list of short stories without Alice Munro. You could say that about other people I’ve missed out here, of course – Joyce, or Raymond Carver. But Munro seems to me the person who has engaged the most, and most persistently, with the form itself. Over decades, she’s honed what a story can do – and this is a great early example. It’s all about the gaps – the things missing from the character’s lives, the things missing from the narrator’s understanding, the information missing from what Munro reveals. Short stories can play with this in the way longer writing can’t – they can let the gaps within the story extend out beyond its confines and sketch out the larger emptiness beyond.

From Dance of the Happy Shades, Ryerson Press, 1968, and collected in Selected Stories, McClelland Stewart, 1996

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