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Novel way to sell short story is lousy

Walk into a bookstore and you're likely to find Away From Her on the "New in Paperback" shelf, complete with a luminous portrait of the film adaptation's stars, Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.

Read writer-director Sarah Polley's ardent preface, or skip to the actual piece of fiction, and you'll realize that Away From Her is not a novel, but Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," put onto 73 pages of large print and reissued for a whopping nine bucks.

Stroll into the fiction racks, and you can find Munro's complete short-story collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, including "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," for a mere $6 more.

For a film made out of passion for Munro's fiction and addressed to a literate audience, wouldn't it have been apt, as well as generous, to reissue the collection with that cover and Polley's preface? As a publication, Away from Her is so shoddily conceived that it carries a fake title page saying Away from Her before the beginning of the story clearly labeled "The Bear Came Over the Mountain." Topping the list of "Also by Alice Munro" paperbacks on the back page is Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - without mentioning that you've just read the final story in the collection.

It's sad to see Munro's cuttingly tender story about the bonds of memory and marriage, and Polley's labor of love, used to fleece bookworms.

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