From the Paris Review Interview Archives: Alice Munro Meets Her Second Husband

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09/21/2010 12:51 PM |

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Continuing our efforts to help you Procrastinate Better by exploring the exhaustive complete archive of Paris Review interviews, we travel back to the Summer 1994 issue, and Jeanne McCulloch and Mona Simpson’s interview with Alice Munro, who’d at that point just published Open Secrets. In the course of The Art of Fiction #137, conducted a short drive from Munro’s girlhood home, she discussed her life, her fiction, and how they bled together…

INTERVIEWER

How did you meet Gerry [Fremlin, your second husband]?

MUNRO

I had known Gerry when we were in university together. He was a senior, and I was a freshman. He was a returned World War II veteran, which meant that there were seven years between us. I had a terrific crush on him when I was eighteen, but he did not notice me at all. He was noticing other people. It was a small university so you sort of knew everybody and who they were. And he was one of that small group of people who seemed—I think we called them bohemian, when they still said bohemian; they wrote poetry for the literary magazine, and they were dangerous, got drunk and so on. I thought he was connected with the magazine, and when I wrote my first story, part of my plan was that I would take this manuscript to him. Then we would fall into conversation, and he would fall in love with me, and everything would go on from there. I took the story to him, and he said, John Cairns is the editor, he’s down the hall. That was our only exchange.

INTERVIEWER

That was your only exchange all through your years in college?

MUNRO

Yes. But then, after I had published the story, he had left university. I was working as a waitress between my first and second years, I got a letter from Gerry. It was really a wonderful letter all about the story. It was my first fan letter. But it wasn’t about me at all, and it didn’t mention my beauty, or that it would be nice for us to get together or any of that. It was simply a literary appreciation. So that I appreciated it less than I might have if it had been from anybody else because I was hoping that it would be more. But it was a nice letter. Then, after I moved back to London and had the job at Western, he somehow heard me on the radio. I did an interview. I must have said where I was living and given the impression that I was not married anymore, because he then came to see me.

INTERVIEWER

And this was twenty-some odd years later?

MUNRO

Easily. More than twenty years later, and we hadn’t seen each other in the meantime. He didn’t look at all as I’d expected. He just called me up and said, This is Gerry Fremlin. I’m in Clinton, and I was wondering if we could have lunch together sometime. I knew his home was in Clinton and I thought he had probably come home to see his parents. I think by this time I knew that he was working in Ottawa, I’d heard that from somebody. And I thought the wife and children were back in Ottawa, and he’s home to visit his parents and he thought he’d like to have lunch with an old acquaintance. So this is what I expected until he turned up and I learned that he was living in Clinton and there was no wife and no children. We went to the faculty club and had three martinis each, at lunch. I think we were nervous. But we rapidly became very well acquainted. I think we were talking about living together by the end of the afternoon. It was very quick. I guess I finished out that term teaching at Western and then came up to Clinton, and we started living together there in the home where he had moved back to look after his mother.