Cliché is powerful when it identifies the profundity in common feelings, and it’s a particularly effective tool in loud, cathartic rock music. When we are young and precarious, to shut the door on sentimentality just means locking it in our bedrooms, where it’s liable to grow tentacles and start strangling people. You can feel it in “Formidable Cool,” a teen fable whose hapless lead is caught lusting after an unrepentant playboy. (When we’re introduced, he has his “hand in somebody’s knickers” at the social club.) In describing his allure, Rowsell sneaks in a caution against the perils of rock orthodoxy. “Believe in the chorus,” she teases, “Believe in love.” Taking her word, the protagonist bundles into a hasty sexual encounter with him, and is humiliated; Rowsell, an unsympathetic narrator, mercilessly taunts her for her naivety: “If you knew it was all an act/Then what are you crying for?” The moral is: watch who you mythologize. Being Brit-rock’s most tolerable flag-bearer in years, Wolf Alice are uniquely qualified to dispense it.
I am becoming a follower of first sentences! Sometimes second sentences are also of considerable interest. With Munro it can be a challenge to try and deduce where she is actually going to go with those first two sentences. With hindsight it is easy to see but it is fun to examine all the other directions in which she might have taken the reader. The three women in this story are equally interesting: I imagine them as one person and think about what the story could be under those circumstances. I liked this description of Muriel’s social life: “It wasn’t true that she never found a man. She found one fairly often but hardly ever one that she could bring to supper.” And the phrase summarizing alcohol use in the country: “drinking in the barn, abstinence in the house”. And how about Dorrie’s excuse for being late to a supper party: “she had to shoot a feral cat”! Beats all those old excuses for not bringing your homework to school. There is so much fun in this piece but also much to think about like when Millicent tells Dorrie that marriage will give her “a real life” and Dorrie replies “I have a life.” I found myself wondering who had the “real life”? “Who wanted the “real life”? Does marriage allow for a “real life” or not? Do I have a “real life”? This story brought me joy and much to ponder.