July 10, 2018

Happy eighty-seven, Alice Munro!


Alice Munro. Via YouTube.

“This is what really interests me and what draws me and what is the most important thing about writing fiction, I think: not to dissect people, but to celebrate the essential mystery.”

The excellent words of Canadian bookseller, short story writer, and Nobel laureate Alice Munro, who’s celebrating her eighty-seventh birthday — presumably with some unfussy, psychologically revealing cake and, we hope, a dab of festive poutine.

Munro, of course, is the author of fourteen collections of short stories, and has received veritable larch forests of literary accolades: not just the Nobel, but also three Governor General’s Awards, two Giller Prizes, a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Man Booker International Price, the Marian Engel Award, the O. Henry Award, a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, the Edward MacDowell Medal, a knighthood in the Order of Arts and Letters, and the Lorne Pierce Medal.

In 2004, Dephne Merkin wrote, “‘Our Chekhov,’ Cynthia Ozick called her in a vaulting comparison that has become something of an obligatory tip of the critical hat ever since, bringing ever more stratospheric analogies to Tolstoy and Flaubert in its wake.”

Today, one great way to celebrate Munro and her frankly incredible career is by watching her 2013 Nobel Lecture. In true Munrovian fashion, it diverged from the usual format of an author’s monologic description of their own work — instead, Munro’s lecture took the form of a lively, videotaped conversation with Swedish journalist Stefan Åsberg. Munro talks about The Little Mermaid, the hard and necessary work of editing, growing up a writer in a community of practical-minded non-readers, and much more. Enjoy: