Alice Munro

Peter J. Thompson/National Post file photo http://www.knjiznica-delnice.com/knjige_alice.html

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. 

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 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.

Alice Munro

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.”

Jonathan Goldstein read from Munro’s short story The Turkey Season.

“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 book coverchose 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.

34 thoughts on “Alice Munro

  1. “so she wanted to step aside to make room for a younger writer. Oh, so Canadian.”—Loved that. 🙂
    I’ve never read any of her work. Lovely tribute to her.

    • Hi Susan-

      Hard question. There’s Alice Munro’s Best. But perhaps you might try taking some out of the library and seeing which you like. I liked The Progress of Love but I also liked so many others such as Friend of My Youth and Who Do You Think You Are. These were her early books. Because her books are a collection of short stories there are stories I liked better than others.
      Let me know what you think.
      Thanks for reading and stopping by. 🙂

  2. thanks Carol for giving me a glimpse of what I missed.

    I ended up in the writing workshop with 7 other women, and almost walked out since we were asked to imagine a certain situation and write about it in 10 minutes. I managed to stay and pull it off….actually quite enjoyed reading my own writing although everyone was more experienced than me.

    At the end of the workshop, two women from out of town wanted to have dinner together…. so it ended up being an interesting evening…. taking a peek into other women’s lives…. each with her own struggle.

    Thanks again for suggesting I try it out.

    Ursula

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. I’ve always thought you had to have a novel published to be a writer, too. I’ve written four novels, none are published, and I still feel like a writer. But I know that feeling…we all have these unrealistic goals that define us, I am a believer of doing what you love. Shoot for the stars but be satisfied with the yard view.

    • I love your quote at the end. 🙂
      You’ve probably heard that a writer is someone who writes. You’ve got 4 novels written … I guess you’ve put in your hours and are on your way to being published…that’s the way it seems to work, anyway.
      I also believe in doing what you love…otherwise, what’s the point.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Claudia. 🙂

  4. I haven’t read her work before but I am definitely more curious now. It’s interesting to me how as young artists- speaking for myself, at least- I spent so much time way back when trying to be that serious actor/writer rather than just acting or writing. Both are such acts that one has to do to become them, really.

    Sounds like she has been a wonderful inspiration for you and others. Was she there at this last one too? I love that it was a tribute to her- a rockstar author in her own right.

    • I think we all go through this searching stage of “what am I going to be when I grow up.” Some people though know it very young. But for me ,as far as my writing went, I experimented with all sorts of genres trying to find my niche.
      She was a great inspiration for me. No, she wasn’t present at the tribute. She is too old. She wasn’t even able to make it to Stockholm to pick up her Nobel Prize …her daughter did it for her.
      Thanks for reading, Diahann. 🙂

    • You’re welcome. It’s hard for me to say whether I prefer her earlier or later works. But you might want to start with The best of Alice Munro. Her stories make you marvel and she paints an excellent picture of her settings whether in Scotland, Albania, Sweden, Russia or Ontario.
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  5. I, as well, have not read any of her stories. Shame! Blushing now. Late bloomer I was, but I did read Margaret Lawrence. So glad you liked her though. I watched a video or two or three when she was interviewed at her home once she received the Nobel prize. What an honour! But as well, she seems to be such a sweet woman. Lovely tribute to someone who worked hard at her desk.

    • Drew, you are missing some of Canada’s best.
      I also loved Margaret Lawrence. I remember, years ago, teaching English lit in high school and we were studying one of her novels. I wrote to her to tell her about it and she promptly wrote back a very lovey letter to the class. I don’t know what happened to that letter. What a shame.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Thanks you so much, Aquileana, for reading my post and commenting on it. It means a lot to me. I am happy that you are familiar with Alice Munro. I have always loved her writing, not only because I too (like her) am Canadian, but because she takes us to the simple places in life and makes them important.Many of her stories appeared in The New Yorker.I was unfamiliar with Deep Holes. Thanks for the link. Hope you’re having a great day. 🙂

  6. I am in awe of your meeting someone who you respected and revered, Carol! I like that you told us a lot about her writings and her life, too. I think she sounds like an excellent person, with character. I like the fact she wished to allow others to win awards, too. Your expression made me smile about Canadians! I hope to read about Alice Munro soon. I am in the middle of Frank McCourt’s triology, I read “Angela’s Ashes” and now am on “‘Tis.” The third book is called, “Bad Teacher.” A male friend suggested reading about the Irish roots of McCourt and how he wrote about his immigration since I had written about my grandparents’ journey to America. (Two different love stories, one of my great grandparents and the other, of my grandparents on my mother’s side.) I will be checking Alice Munro out sometime soon, I hope! This was very helpful and informative, Carol!

  7. Makes me proud to be Canadian… I love Alive Munro. Almost as much as I love Alistair Macleod, another master of the short story

  8. I like writing short stories, and Alice Munro was not only the first female Canadian author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but she was the first author to do so by writing only short stories! Her latest publication is available in bookstores: Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014. She’s also won the W.H. Smith Prize, the National Book Circle Critics Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the Lannan Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the Rea Award for the Short Story. In Canada, she has won the Governor General’s Award, the Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Libris Award. Despite all of these honours, she remains very humble.

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