December 10, 2013

In lieu of a Nobel lecture, Alice Munro shares an interview


Today around 10:30 AM EST, Alice Munro will celebrate her Nobel Prize in Literature from Victoria, B.C., while her daughter Jenny accepts the prize at a fancy awards ceremony in Stockholm.

Munro agreed to be a part of a video interview, since she is not well enough to travel there in person for a lecture. (The full transcript is available here.) In the video above, Munro calls the prize a “vindication” for devoting her life to short stories.

She also talks about the bookstore she owned with her husband:

It was our livelihood. It was all we had. We didn’t have any other source of income. The first day when we opened we made 175 dollars. – Which you thought was a lot. Well, it was, cause it took us a long time to get back to that again.

I used to sit behind the desk and find the books for people and handle all the things you do in a bookstore, generally just by myself, and people came in and talked about books a lot, it was very much a place for people to get together rather than immediately buy things, and this was especially true at night, when I’d be sitting here by myself, and I had these people come in every night, talking to me about something, and it was great, it was a lot of fun. Up until this point I had been a housewife, I was at home all the time, I was a writer as well, but this was a wonderful chance to get into the world. I don’t think we made much money, possibly I talked to people a little too much, you know, instead of getting them to the books, but it was a fantastic time in my life.

Munro’s book sales have skyrocketed since the Nobel was announced on October 10, especially in Canada. The paperback edition of Dear Life was published there on October 8: perfect timing.

The Vancouver Sun reports between September 21 and October 26, her sales have increased 4,424% in Canada (according to BookNet Canada), 2,625 in Ireland, 369% in Australia, and 979% in the U.S. (according to Bookscan). Additionally, sales of her translated work increased 4,213% in Italy and 1,890% in Spain.

BookNet Canada put together a thirteen-page presentation if you’re interested in further details about this particular Nobel bump. (Their endearing conclusion is that they’d like to give Munro “a virtual high five and a bear hug” for her achievements.)


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.