Alice Munro is renowned around the world for her superb short stories, and she has the prizes and the reviews to show why many claim her as the world’s best. An American reviewer for The Atlantic magazine said simply, “She is the living writer most likely to be read in a hundred years.”
To my delight, Alice wrote the introduction to my memoirs, Stories About Storytellers. In the book I talk proudly about our long association as author and editor, now amounting to fourteen story collections. I note that one of the happy coincidences that brought us together was the fact that Alice grew up in Huron County, Ontario, which is a landscape dominated by many branches of one river, the Maitland. Thanks to my mother, I bear that fairly uncommon family title as my middle name, as in Douglas Maitland Gibson.
Alice’s own semi-fictional memoir, The View From Castle Rock, begins with the story of her own family, the Laidlaws, in the Scottish Borders. The earliest ancestor she found, Will Laidlaw, was born around 1700, and gained such local fame that his tombstone epitaph in Ettrick Kirkyard reads: “Here lyeth William Laidlaw, the far-fam’d Will o’ Phaup, who for feats of frolic, agility and strength, had no equal in his day.”
That epitaph was written by his prominent literary grandson, James Hogg.
Yes, yes, you say. We know that Alice’s wonderfully perceptive short stories may range beyond her usual Huron County settings, sometimes as far as Australia, Albania, or even the world of a 19th century Russian female mathematician, as in “Too Much Happiness.” But what on earth does she have to do with the manly sporting world of Scottish rugby in 2013?
Last week the Scottish national rugby team played their annual grudge match against the English rugby team. They lost heavily. But every single Scottish point was scored by three men.
Their names were Maitland, Laidlaw and Hogg.