Friday, October 11, 2013

Alice Munro - Nobel Prize winner

As anyone following the news has heard, Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  She is the first Canadian to do so, unless one counts Saul Bellow, who self-identified as an American.  She seems like a good choice overall.

I'm well aware of Munro but actually have read little of her work, though I am slowly correcting this.  This is despite owning nearly all of her short story collections, which are:
R Dance of the Happy Shades – 1968
R Lives of Girls and Women – 1971
R Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You – 1974
R Who Do You Think You Are? – 1978
R The Moons of Jupiter – 1982
R The Progress of Love – 1986
R Friend of My Youth – 1990
Open Secrets – 1994
The Love of a Good Woman – 1998
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - 2001
Runaway – 2004
The View from Castle Rock – 2006
Too Much Happiness – 2009
Dear Life – 2012

I own all except Dear Life, which I was waiting for to arrive in paperback.*  Since I am going to the mall today, I will see if the paperback version has already been stickered over with "Nobel Winner," in which case I'll probably pick one up.  It is somewhat sad that Munro has said that Dear Life will probably be her last collection and possibly she won't write any more stories at all, but she did get plenty of recognition in her time.  Who knows -- she may decide to write one or two more vignettes down the road.  It just depends on whether the writing bug strikes her again, I guess.

I did read one or possibly two collections for a Canadian fiction class focusing on Ontario at UT.  It was probably Dance of the Happy Shades, but it might possibly have been Lives of Girls and Women (or both).  One of these days I'll track down the notebook for that course...

One interesting factoid about Alice Munro is that she has a reasonably strong B.C. connection.  While living in Victoria with her first husband, they opened Munro's, which is still a very well-stocked bookstore (a lot like Borders when it just operated in Ann Arbor and was a local store -- it was great back then).  I knew someone who worked there, though on my last two trips to Victoria I resisted the opportunity to pop in (and buy more books that I don't really need).

Anyway, it is pretty shameful how little of her oeuvre I have actually read.  While I would love to say I would just add her to the TBR pile for 2014, I am so oversubscribed already, particularly now that I am trying to read the core of Barbara Comyns and Molly Keane before leaving for Toronto.  I may just settle for reading (or rereading) the first two collections (interspersed with Proust perhaps -- Munro as the anti-Proust?) and read the rest in Toronto starting in late 2014 but not expecting to finish until 2015.  That actually might be appropriate, as the stories in the first two collections were largely written while she was still in B.C.  It also might be nice to only set out to read one or two at a time instead of feeling obligated to read them all at once (the stories in Lives of Girls and Women are more linked, however, and that collection should be read a bit more as a novel than her other collections).  Sounds like a plan.

* Did I post this list already?  It seems that I did and I may even have mentioned that Hate, Friend, Love and Marriage would be a good starting point for a sestina (would only need two more words -- children and divorce probably).  I had another comment somewhere about what would make a particularly good Canadian sestina -- something like Bread, Milk, Smokes, Bacon, Beer, Coffee. (This was based on a short story title by Carol Shields that was in turn riffing on a sign in a convenience store that read Milk Bread Beer Ice-- I write just a bit about it here -- still a bit torn over whether to substitute donuts for bread, but bread has more possibilities for other uses, which is critical for a sestina, and I could always slip in a couple of donuts anyway on the side.)

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