BOOKS: Women on the Edge

Alice Munro's masterly short stories are richer than most novels

If black belts were awarded for writing short stories, Canada's Alice Munro would have one with bells on. Open Secrets (Knopf; 294 pages; $23) is another stunning victory over one of the toughest of literary forms. The eight stories in this volume are about women uneasily balanced between their conventional past and a present that tips them in new and strange directions.

No toe-stubbing subtexts are hidden here. Munro's gender agenda is neatly buried in her quietly daring art. An Albanian Virgin, for example, spans half a century and half the globe to join vastly different lives. A Canadian tourist who...

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