The literary world is rejoicing in the news that Alice Munro has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature.
Over the last few years more talk has centred around who was overlooked rather than who has won, but this year the world seems at peace with the decision, a tribute to the legacy of Alice Munro.
More than ever it feels as though booklovers have a Nobel Prize winner we can relate to, one of our own.
“I think maybe I was successful in doing this because I didn’t have any other talents,” she has stated in interviews.
“I’m not really an intellectual,” Munro said. “I was an OK housewife but I wasn’t that great. There was never anything else that I was really drawn to doing so nothing interfered in the way life interferes for so many people.
“It always does seem like magic to me.”
Munro has always been an exceptional writer from her earliest days (her first story was published in 1950 to acclaim), but it’s her love of books that make her such a popular winner.
In 1963, she and her husband bought a house in Victoria, Canada and opened a bookstore, Munro’s Books, described by author Allan Fotheringham as “the most magnificent bookstore in Canada, possibly in North America”.
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.
In 1994 Munro sat down with The Paris Review to talk about her life and career. It’s a beautiful, deeply personal piece that reflects her own work magnificently.
Here’s a taste:
Have you ever had a specific time to write?
When the kids were little, my time was as soon as they left for school. So I worked very hard in those years. My husband and I owned a bookstore, and even when I was working there, I stayed at home until noon. I was supposed to be doing housework, and I would also do my writing then. Later on, when I wasn’t working everyday in the store, I would write until everybody came home for lunch and then after they went back, probably till about two-thirty, and then I would have a quick cup of coffee and start doing the housework, trying to get it all done before late afternoon.
What about before the girls were old enough to go to school?
You wrote when they had naps?
Yes. From one to three in the afternoon. I wrote a lot of stuff that wasn’t any good, but I was fairly productive. The year I wrote my second book, Lives of Girls and Women, I was enormously productive. I had four kids because one of the girls’ friends was living with us, and I worked in the store two days a week. I used to work until maybe one o’clock in the morning and then get up at six. And I remember thinking, You know, maybe I’ll die, this is terrible, I’ll have a heart attack. I was only about thirty-nine or so, but I was thinking this; then I thought, Well even if I do, I’ve got that many pages written now. They can see how it’s going to come out. It was a kind of desperate, desperate race. I don’t have that kind of energy now.
Take a little time to read the full thing, it’s a joy.
So, ladies and gentlemen, a toast…
To Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature.
One for the booklovers.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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