Author Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize: What you should know about her
Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro might be a new name for you. Here's your cheat-sheet to the now-massively famous author, to keep you well-equipped for Twitter, party conversation and book-title-dropping purposes.
Alice Munro, a Canadian writer of short stories, won the Nobel Prize for Literature today, becoming in the process the thirteenth woman to win the prize in the history of the Nobel Prize.
While some bibliophiles have been thrilled, some of you might be more like these people:
If so, Alice Munro might be little more than a vaguely familiar name to you.
So here's your cheat-sheet to the now-massively famous author, to keep you well-equipped for Twitter, party conversations and book-title-dropping purposes.
1. Who is Alice Munro?
Alice Munro, born in 1931, is a Canadian short story writer whose stories are set primarily in Huron County in her native southern Ontario. She's no stranger to big prizes. She won the Man Booker International Prize in 2009 for her work and is a three time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction in Canada (1968, 1978, and 1986). She also won the O Henry Award for short fiction twice, for Passion (2006) and What Do You Want to Know For? (2008).
2. What is her writing like?
Munro's known for her short stories. Her subjects and her writing style, such as a reliance on narration to describe the events in her books, have earned her the moniker "our Chekhov," in reference to the 19th century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov - a term affectionately coined by Russian-American short story writer Cynthia Ozick.
Munro herself has said she writes about the "underbelly of relationships," adding she sets her stories in Canada "because I live life here at a level of irritation which I would not achieve in a place that I knew less well."
"There are no such things as big and little subjects," she has said. "The major things, the evils, that exist in the world have a direct relationship to the evil that exists around a dining room table when people are doing things to each other."
In a 2010 interview, she said she wanted readers "to feel something is astonishing - not the 'what happens' but the way everything happens," she explained, adding that "long short story fictions do that best" for her as opposed to full-length novels.
3. Which book of hers do I buy if I've never read her stuff before?
If you've got Flipkart open in the next tab, buy The Selected Stories of Alice Munro. It's a volume of short stories that was published in 1996, and collects stories previously published in her eight previous books.
If you don't want to read the literary equivalent of a 'Greatest Hits' CD, check out The Beggar Maid.
The Beggar Maid was published in 1977. In this series of interweaving stories, Munro recreates the evolving bond between two women over the course of almost forty years. One is Flo, practical, suspicious of other people's airs, at times dismayingly vulgar. the other is Rose, Flo's stepdaughter, a clumsy, shy girl who somehow leaves the small town she grew up in to achieve her own equivocal success in the larger world.
If you don't want to get the book and like to read anyway, trawl your way through the archive of her short stories on The New Yorker. The archive includes The Bear Came Over The Mountain, which many have hailed as one of her best works. This story was also turned into the film Away from Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.
4. Okay, I liked her stories. What now?
Read author Jonathan Franzen's piece in the New York Times about why he loves Alice Munro's writing, and why she's a much better writer than a well-known one.
Listen to Munro talking on a New York Times podcast about why she likes writing about ordinary people: "None of them seem ordinary to me...they all want something very much."
Listen to an audio interview with her right after she won the Nobel Prize here.
5. I didn't like her stories. Does anyone agree with me so I can validate my opinion?
Sure! Check out this article by Christian Lorentzen, writer and editor, where he rips into the many defenses erected by Munro fans. An excerpt below:
"Reading ten of her collections in a row has induced in me not a glow of admiration but a state of mental torpor that spread into the rest of my life. I became sad, like her characters, and like them I got sadder. I grew attuned to the ways life is shabby or grubby, words that come up all the time in her stories, as well as to people’s residential and familial histories, details she never leaves out...
"‘You’re reading them the wrong way,’ someone told me. This too ought to go without saying. Munro’s stories suffer when they’re collected because the right way to read them is in a magazine, where they can be tucked between, say, a report on the war in Syria and a reconsideration of Stefan Zweig to provide a rural interlude between current atrocities and past masterpieces, or profiles of celebrities or sophisticated entrepreneurs."
with inputs from Associated Press
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