Every publisher I had ever met had assured me that I would have to grow up and write novels before I could be taken seriously as a writer. The result of this was that I wasted much time and effort trying to turn myself into a novelist, and had become so depressed that I was unable to write at all.
The first book I read by Alice Munro was Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You.
After that I was hooked and read everything of hers. She was my biggest literary fan.
Over the course of her career, she has won the Man Booker International Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, and Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction – three times.
In 2009 she withdrew her new book from the Giller Prize competition on the grounds that she had won the prize twice already, so she wanted to step aside to make room for a younger writer. Oh, so Canadian.
She was the thirteenth woman to be awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Nobel Prize announcer Professor Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, said that of all Nobel Prize winners in literature she was the most universally popular winner.
In her interview with the CBC, Munro emphasized the significance of her win not for herself, but for her art form:
I really hope that this would make people see the short story as an important art,” she said, “not just something that you played around with until you got a novel written.
Several years back I went to meet her at a reading in Montreal. I don’t remember much what we talked about but I do recall how friendly and down to earth she was.
Yesterday, at the Metropolis Blue International Literary Festival, I attended a tribute to Alice Munro. It was animated by her long time publisher Douglas Gibson.
The event included several successful writers who’d been influenced by Alice Munro.
There was Richard Ford, the American writer who read from one of Munro’s most widely read stories, Miles City Montana.
Madeline Thien, spoke of the influence Munro had on her own writing and the usage of the elasticity of time in her short stories. She read an excerpt from The Jack Randa Hotel:
“But love affairs were the main concern of her life, and she knew that she was not being honest when she belittled them. They were sweet, they were sour; she was happy in them, she was miserable. She knew what it was to wait in a bar for a man who never showed up. To wait for letters, to cry in public, and on the other hand to be pestered by a man she no longer wanted.”
“All I could see when I closed my eyes, the first few nights after working there,” she remembers, “was turkeys. I saw them hanging upside down, plucked and stiffened, pale and cold, with the heads and necks limp, the eyes and nostrils clotted with dark blood; the remaining bits of feathers – those dark and bloody, too – seemed to form a crown. I saw them not with aversion but with a sense of endless work to be done.”
Emmanuel Kattan chose to read from her collection Runaway. He emphasized how she uses language to draw silence to say what cannot be expressed with words.
The room was packed as everyone came to pay tribute to one of the great story writers of our time often compared to Chekhov, Flaubert and other greats of short fiction.