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Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize in Literature
October 10, 2013 4:12 AM   Subscribe

Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Munro is praised by the Swedish Academy as a "master of the contemporary short story." You can read a long interview with her at the Paris Review website and read some of her short fiction at The New Yorker's website: Amundsen, Gravel, Face, Deep-Holes, Free Radicals, Dimension, Wenlock Edge, The View from Castle Rock, Passion, Runaway and The Bear Came Over the Mountain.
posted by Kattullus (81 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
Finally.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:12 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Nobel organization tweets: "The Swedish Academy has not been able to get a hold of Alice Munro, left a phone message."

I bet her answering machine will fill up quickly.
posted by Kattullus at 4:15 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So very richly deserved. Yay.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:15 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and you can watch a video of the announcement and listen to an interview with Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which starts at about 8:15. Englund especially cites the book The View from Castle Rock as one of his favorite ever books.
posted by Kattullus at 4:20 AM on October 10, 2013


Yay!
posted by bilabial at 4:27 AM on October 10, 2013


Oh wow, this is the first thing I saw online today. What great news. She deserves it so completely.
posted by nevercalm at 4:28 AM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Onion's take.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:33 AM on October 10, 2013


nthing 'Yay'!
posted by Segundus at 4:38 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


* silently jumps up and down and does the Happy Dance*
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:43 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why silently? =)
posted by Kattullus at 4:49 AM on October 10, 2013


Amazingly, she's Canada's first Literature laureate. (Bellow just doesn't count as Canadian.)
posted by Bromius at 4:55 AM on October 10, 2013


Amazingly, she's Canada's first Literature laureate. (Bellow just doesn't count as Canadian.)

Should have been won earlier by Robertson Davies but then, by Nobel logic, it wouldn't be going now to Munro.
posted by vacapinta at 5:03 AM on October 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Always glad to see another Davies fan come out of the woodwork.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:04 AM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes! So glad this finally happened.
posted by arkady at 5:14 AM on October 10, 2013


Huzzah! I started reading her after reading an interview where DFW called her one of the greatest authors alive. No regrets there. She's amazing.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:16 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was introduced to Munro eight years ago on what turned out to be the worst online date I've ever had. Over the course of two hours what began as a polite discussion turned contentious, then outright hostile. I always felt I got the kids in the dissolution of the world's shortest, most awful marriage.

Congratulations Ms. Munro, and thanks for the stories.
posted by echocollate at 5:21 AM on October 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Huzzah!

(Nelson laugh at David Gilmour: HA HA!)
posted by kmz at 5:32 AM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Always glad to see another Davies fan come out of the woodwork.

And three make a trilogy?
posted by Bromius at 5:34 AM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


A big fan of both Munro and Davies. It's interessting how different they are. Davies is telling big rollicking stories and Munro crafting elegant small emotional gems.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:40 AM on October 10, 2013


silently jumps up and down and does the Happy Dance

Why silently?


It's the dance of the happy shades; that's just how it's done.
posted by LionIndex at 5:42 AM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have read an awful lot of Munro's work, and one of the things I quite like is that the imp of the perverse never seems to be that far under the surface in her stories.
So, well deserved congratulations.

As a Canadian, I feel somewhat awkwardly proud about this, because, that's what we do.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 5:45 AM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a longtime reader of her work, as a Canadian woman living in Southern Ontario, as a lover of good writing - I am so pleased, and I feel like a good old friend of mine has just been honoured. Her works inspire that kind of feeling in me.
posted by hepta at 5:55 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there's a keener observer and slyer recorder of class distinction in small-town North America, I've yet to meet her. Good on her!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:12 AM on October 10, 2013


No doubt this is well deserved. But we ought not overlook this: Today will most likely be the closest every Canadian I know ever gets to experiencing smugness.

(Seriously. The ones I know are downright unreasonably protective and proud when it comes to Munro and her literary legacy. Like she's their older sister or something.)
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:14 AM on October 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Excellent news, and very well-deserved!

Now maybe she'll be in the curriculum...
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:20 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kattullus, did you link to every Munro story available on the New Yorker site or pick and choose? (I understand that perhaps not everything she's published there since the advent of the internet is available) I first heard of/noticed Munro entirely from reading her stories published there, where they clearly stood out amongst even the normal high quality fiction work normally published. That alone is fairly striking, but it would be even more so if I started recognizing her name after 4 stories or so.
posted by LionIndex at 6:24 AM on October 10, 2013


She really is a magnificent, insightful writer, and so deserves this sort of recognition.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 6:29 AM on October 10, 2013


YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

I AM DANCING AROUND THE KITCHEN WITH MY CAT IN MY ARMS

FUCK YEAH
posted by jokeefe at 6:30 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Finally.
posted by pracowity at 6:49 AM on October 10, 2013


When I read "Lives of Girls and Women" I first understood how the sacred and the profane can cohabit in the everyday lives of small town kids. I was/am a small town kid, and the small, religious town I grew up in told me it was either or. Munro's stories told me I didn't have to choose. I could go to church and get saved, and then out into the alley and get fucked, and it was all beautiful all at once. Now, teaching high school in a small, religious town, that's how I can see my students, and that's how I try to help them see themselves.
posted by kneecapped at 6:56 AM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


As the first person to mention her on MeFi, as well as a longtime fan, I am thrilled with this news (as is my wife, who was so excited when she heard she almost woke me up to tell me). The only downside is that this makes it considerably less likely that Roth will get the Nobel he so richly deserves. But he'll be in good company.
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hooray! What wonderful news for:

- Canadian literature (Bellow just doesn't count; I'm gonna think of this as Canada's first Nobel in literature)

- women writers (Munro is only the 13th female laureate. "Can this be possible? Really? It seems dreadful there's only 13 of us" was her reaction when the CBC interviewer brought this up)

- short stories ("I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.” Heed the words of the newest laureate!)

I guess the grey lining on the shining silver cloud is that Margaret Atwood and especially Mavis Gallant (oh! Mavis Gallant!) probably won't see their Nobel numbers ever come up.

But hey! Hooray! Alice Munro! Alice Munro! Alice Munro!
posted by erlking at 7:10 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh yes, Mavis Gallant, who I love even more than Alice Munro. Oh, I know. If only.
posted by jokeefe at 7:15 AM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Excellent news, and very well-deserved!

Now maybe she'll be in the curriculum...
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:20 AM on October 10
[+] [!]


I was introduced to Alice Munro in HS sophomore English class, and have adored her ever since. Very happy to hear this.
posted by jaksemas at 7:16 AM on October 10, 2013


Just to add to erlking's list-- this is also great news for the short story as it has been previously cast as "minor" and "feminine"-- this idea that you had to write huge door-stopping novels to be taken seriously.
posted by jokeefe at 7:17 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


GrammarMoses: "Always glad to see another Davies fan come out of the woodwork."

Represent!
posted by chavenet at 7:18 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


And now, to Munro: where should one start?
posted by chavenet at 7:20 AM on October 10, 2013


Always glad to see another Davies fan come out of the woodwork.

And three make a trilogy?


Robertson Davies fans don't come out of the woodwork, they appear, as if by magic, from a secret pocket in a well-tailored morning coat.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:26 AM on October 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Today will most likely be the closest every Canadian I know ever gets to experiencing smugness.

Oh, come off it. Canada vies with Sweden when it comes to smugness; during the long and unlamented reign of George W Bush 'look south in smugness' was practically the national motto...
posted by Segundus at 7:28 AM on October 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Where to start with Munro: well, the stories linked in the original post are all excellent. My favourite of them is "The Bear Came Over the Mountain." It's an excellent example of all the qualities for which Munro is often praised.

In terms of collections, "Lives of Girls and Women" is classic, probably the most likely one to find its way onto high school or university syllabi, here in Canada at least. "Who Do You Think You Are" (which is called "The Beggar Maid" in some countries) is another great collection in a similar vein (a linked story-cycle about a small town in Southwestern Ontario). I have a special fondness for "The Moons of Jupiter," and I also thought her latest collection, "Dear Life," was quite good.
posted by erlking at 7:38 AM on October 10, 2013


I am glad that my first thought on seeing the Munro headline was erroneous. The last time I read an interview with her she seemed indifferent to public recognition or lack of it.
posted by bukvich at 7:40 AM on October 10, 2013


The last time I read an interview with her she seemed indifferent to public recognition or lack of it.

No one's capable of being indifferent to winning a Nobel, whatever they may publicly say about it.
posted by shivohum at 7:52 AM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I confess I've only read a couple of her stories in the New Yorker; if I wanted to pick up one of her collections, any recommendations on which one to start with? (And another big Davies fan here.)
posted by skycrashesdown at 7:57 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And now, to Munro: where should one start?

I have Selected Stories, which is sort of a greatest hits compilation, which with the way Munro works, could work for or against you (kind of). You get a solid cross-section of her work from her first published stuff until about 2000, so that's good. But, as erlking notes, some of her collections, as originally published, have stories that are all linked together so that when you only read three out of the ten or so, you might feel like you're missing something. I'm pretty sure Who Do You Think You Are/The Beggar Maid (mostly about two women from what I can tell), The View From Castle Rock, and The Moons of Jupiter have linked stories that share geography more closely than is normal for Munro (seems like pretty much all her stories are set in Ontario), or share characters at different points in their lives.
posted by LionIndex at 8:03 AM on October 10, 2013


languagehat: The only downside is that this makes it considerably less likely that Roth will get the Nobel he so richly deserves. But he'll be in good company.

Absolutely. My 2nd thought (after delight for Munro) was "wow - you really don't want to be having breakfast with Philip Roth today..!".
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:21 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


echocollate: I was introduced to Munro eight years ago on what turned out to be the worst online date I've ever had. Over the course of two hours what began as a polite discussion turned contentious, then outright hostile. I always felt I got the kids in the dissolution of the world's shortest, most awful marriage.

I initially read this as saying that echocollate had a bad experience online-dating Alice Munro.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:21 AM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Bizarrely, The Washington Post has greeted the news with satire, "the story you might be reading if Munro were from an authoritarian, developing country such as China or Russia, as Nobel literature winners often are. Just to reiterate: It's satire."
...
While not overtly political, Munro is known for stories that capture the struggles of regular Canadians. Though tolerated by the government, her work is seen as a challenge to the country's rulers. She first gained international acclaim with her 1968 collection "Dance of the Happy Shades," which offered a tender portrait of life under the brutal reign of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
...
State media in Canada reacted positively to the news, calling it a great victory for the Canadian nation and the state ideology. Still, Munro is expected to come under intense pressure from Canadian exile communities, who are already calling on the author to use this moment to focus greater attention on the lack of political freedoms in Canada.


Ha ha, but it's really not funny. We read that cookie cutter story often because in a totalitarian country a non-political artist who wins an international award actually does have an obligation to speak out, possibly an unwanted obligation. International acclaim makes it embarrassing to kill/disappear/imprison an artist, making that artist one of the few people in the country with freedom of speech. What about that is ridiculous, meriting satire?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:43 AM on October 10, 2013


I believe she is also the first bookseller to win the award.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:45 AM on October 10, 2013


She is a great writer and I am so glad she won this. I hope many more people discover her as a result.
posted by caddis at 8:48 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


YES! Wonderful news!
posted by scody at 8:48 AM on October 10, 2013


Is describing Russia as a developing country part of the satire? Does China having had two winners count as often?

What a weird article
posted by dng at 8:50 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


She is so amazing. What a great choice. I am thrilled.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:04 AM on October 10, 2013


LionIndex: Kattullus, did you link to every Munro story available on the New Yorker site or pick and choose?

Originally I was going to link to a couple of stories I especially like but then I noticed that only a few of her stories were free-to-read so I linked to all. Not every story of hers works for every person but pretty much every story if hers works for someone, so I figured it would be more useful to link to all the ones online.
posted by Kattullus at 10:06 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And now, to Munro: where should one start?

A Beginner's Guide to Alice Munro
posted by gladly at 10:41 AM on October 10, 2013


what great news to wake up to. one of the first cbc reports explained her ability to capture the measure of the human experience in a few words with these lines from The Beggar Maid:

It was a miracle; it was a mistake. It was what she had dreamed of; it was not what she wanted.
posted by ecourbanist at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Man I love Alice Munro. I also love the fact that she learned about the news earlier today right here in Victoria.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:54 AM on October 10, 2013


Davies is telling big rollicking stories and Munro crafting elegant small emotional gems.

But you see, that's not what she does at all. Her stories are not "small" by any measure except perhaps length. The short story became identified with "feminine" writing and has been diminished in consequence, compared to those big "masculine" novels (which are often really not that much more meaningful or profound, just wordier); so it's incredibly exciting to have her work recognized by the Nobel.
posted by jokeefe at 11:11 AM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yay Southwestern Ontario Gothic!
posted by LMGM at 11:38 AM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Davies is telling big rollicking stories and Munro crafting elegant small emotional gems.

But you see, that's not what she does at all. Her stories are not "small" by any measure except perhaps length. The short story became identified with "feminine" writing and has been diminished in consequence, compared to those big "masculine" novels (which are often really not that much more meaningful or profound, just wordier); so it's incredibly exciting to have her work recognized by the Nobel.


In addition, I've never felt Davies (who I love) writes 'big rollicking stories'. There are a lot of small intimacies in Davies' writings that seem like a parallel of Munro's stories (who I don't love as much but I'm so happy about her winning!). When he writes about someone growing up in a small town, he's really just writing from another side of Munro's stories. Maybe the male side of things, but also as someone who left or who also didn't fit in. I actually imagine their stories as happening in the same fictional town. A very depressing town where tragedy is only a moment away and no one laughs happily.

Love them.
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:49 AM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Worth noting: she's one of 13 women to win a Nobel for Literature. Ever.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:24 PM on October 10, 2013


The short story became identified with "feminine" writing and has been diminished in consequence, compared to those big "masculine" novels (which are often really not that much more meaningful or profound, just wordier); so it's incredibly exciting to have her work recognized by the Nobel.

I realize this is a thing, but as a Mississippi native who grew up reading Barry Hannah and Larry Brown, the characterization of the short story as "feminine" and therefore "diminished in consequence" is weird to me. Sure both of those men wrote novels, but their primary form was the short story. At any rate, the idea that stories by women primarily about women are fundamentally feminine is equally weird. For Christ's sake, they're not tampon commercials.

I also appreciate that Munro says in that Paris Review interview that she was heavily influenced by female Southern writers like Eudora Welta and Flannery O'Connor. I carry absurd pride in the literary tradition of my oft-troubled (and oft-troublesome) home region. That I love Ms. Munro's stories so much makes me feel part of a transnational literary exchange program.
posted by echocollate at 1:09 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finally some good news! This is great.
posted by medusa at 1:47 PM on October 10, 2013


For those asking about where to begin with Munro: here is a handy guide.

"Considering which of Alice Munro’s stories to read can feel something like considering what to eat from an enormous box of chocolates. There are an overwhelming number of choices, many of which have disconcertingly similar appearances...."
posted by erlking at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh shoot, dangit, the link I just posted was also posted by gladly, about ten comments up. Herp derp. Sorry sorry sorry.

Alice Munro is still fantastic!
posted by erlking at 2:10 PM on October 10, 2013


This is the best news I've heard in a long time.

I read Runaway a couple years ago and was blown away - and I've been a rank fanboy of hers since I started reading short stories (let's call it 30 years). I've read many many novels that were nowhere near as satisfying as any of the stories in that collection. I've given it as a gift maybe a dozen times.
To be fair it could as easily have been "Hateship, Loveship..." Or any of her other books.

I feel like the right thing actually happened here I'm so glad.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:24 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is fantastic news! Yay!
posted by goo at 4:24 PM on October 10, 2013


I guess the grey lining on the shining silver cloud is that Margaret Atwood and especially Mavis Gallant (oh! Mavis Gallant!) probably won't see their Nobel numbers ever come up.

I was kinda hoping Atwood would get a shot at the big one, but the Nobellers don't really love dabblers in SF, unless it's Lessing.

I was resistant to reading Munro for years because it vaguely seemed to fit into a category of dreary rural Can-Lit that I grew up with in school. But I was wrong, Munro is an intense writer!

Yay Southwestern Ontario Gothic!

posted by ovvl at 5:29 PM on October 10, 2013


Hooray!

One of my favorite lines:

“Hatred is always a sin, my mother told me. Remember that. One drop of hatred in your soul will spread and discolor everything like a drop of black ink in white milk. I was struck by that and meant to try it, but knew I shouldn’t waste the milk.”
― Alice Munro, Vintage Munro
posted by BlueHorse at 8:27 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, come off it. Canada vies with Sweden when it comes to smugness; during the long and unlamented reign of George W Bush 'look south in smugness' was practically the national motto...

Anecdata, of course, but the Canadians I knew during that time were striking more of a tone somewhere between pity and concern, as if their own brother, who they liked very much, was falling into a bad crowd. I suppose you could read smugness into the pity end of it, but I didn't.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:10 AM on October 11, 2013


I got introduced to my extended, Canadian family-in-law during the Bush years. They had many, many comments to make. Some of them did seem a tiny bit smug, but more often they were sympathetic murmurs, or they were good-natured ribbing; sort of the political equivalent of, "Boy, your hockey team sure is sucking it right now, har-har!"
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:43 AM on October 11, 2013


Ah, I checked MeFi yesterday just before the FPP was posted and I thought we wouldn't be discussing the award. I'm glad a short-story writer got it and her literary worth is a given.
posted by ersatz at 6:19 AM on October 11, 2013


Jeezy Chreezy, ersatz, I posted 9 minutes after the announcement, it takes a few minutes to get a post together =)

If it had been Svetlana Alexievich the post would've gone up immediately but my guess was off by a few miles.
posted by Kattullus at 8:20 AM on October 11, 2013


Michiko Kakutani has "An Appreciation" of Alice Munro in today's NY Times, and it is one of the better tributes/essays/think-pieces on Munro to emerge since her win (one whole day ago!): Master of the Intricacies of the Human Heart. It's a nice "in case you don't know, this is why she deserves the Nobel" kind of piece.
posted by erlking at 8:32 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Onion's take.

Can someone please explain how they're satirizing her style? Because I don't know her, nor her style. Also, sucks for John Ashbery.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:59 AM on October 11, 2013


Coincidentally, I taught her short story "How I Met My Husband" to my lit class the day before this was announced. Maybe now more of them will actually read it. ("I like for people to think what pleases them and makes them happy," indeed.)

Also glad to see the outpouring of love here for Davies and would like to add my loud voice to the chorus. I will hug the last line of The Cunning Man to my chest until leave I must.
posted by ilana at 11:19 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


...or the first line of Fifth Business. "My lifelong involvement with Mrs. Dempster began...." How could you stop reading, after that?

I forget how many times I read the Deptford Trilogy as a teenager, and I wish I'd liked anything else written by Davies. It's odd, to love three books by one writer so much and no others.
posted by jokeefe at 11:29 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can someone please explain how they're satirizing her style? Because I don't know her, nor her style. Also, sucks for John Ashbery.

Sorry. The Onion published that piece before the committee had given the prize to Munro.

This is the Onion's take.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:32 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jeezy Chreezy, ersatz, I posted 9 minutes after the announcement, it takes a few minutes to get a post together =)

Even if it had been 364 days late, I would still have no complaints about the man who is actually in the arena who made the FPP ;) I hadn't noticed that my editor called me right after the announcement.
posted by ersatz at 6:44 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's probably the unfunniest Onion piece I've ever read.
posted by storybored at 9:01 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]






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