Her name has come up every fall in recent years (and the bookies had her as second favorite this year) but the announcement is still a bit of a surprise. The Nobel jury has tended to favor writers who have a “political” side to their fiction — “political” is one adjective that would not apply to Alice’s work.
What she is is a decent, generous human being with an exceptional talent for both observation and the ability to capture the results of that observation in words. Every one of her stories is like a carefully sculpted, three dimensional word picture. When considered as a body of work, they capture an entire community — there is a reason why southwestern Ontario is known as Munro country.
She is 82 now and has announced that Dear Life, the collection released late last year, would be her last. If you are looking for it on a Giller list, incidentally, you won’t find it — it is a sign of Munro’s humility that after winning the Prize twice she asked her publishers to stop submitting her books for consideration.
I have read all of Alice’s collections, but most of that reading took place before I started blogging here. You will find reviews of three here: The View From Castle Rock, the autobiographical collection which traces her own family history starting in Scotland; Too Much Happiness, her 2009 collection; and the previously mentioned Dear Life.
And I have another review schedule to close out 2013 — I will be re-reading her first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades, as the concluding book in my 2013 project of revisiting 12 Canadian authors who influenced me. I first read it when it was published in 1968 and I was 20 years old. Today’s Nobel announcement underlined that I have been reading, enjoying and appreciating Alice Munro’s work for most of my adult life — I have every intention of revisiting some of her other early collections as well.
Alice Munro is a deserving winner — and I am sure that many Canadian readers are as proud as I am that her work has received the international recognition that the Nobel Prize represents.