Alice Munro

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Alice Munro
Born Alice Ann Laidlaw
(1931-07-10) 10 July 1931 (age 82)
Wingham, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Author
Language English
Nationality Canadian
Citizenship Canada
Alma mater The University of Western Ontario[1]
Genres Short stories
Notable award(s) Governor General's Award (1968, 1978, 1986)
Giller Prize (1998, 2004)
Man Booker International Prize (2009)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2013)
Spouse(s) James Munro (1951–1972)
Gerald Fremlin (1976–2013, his death)
Children 3

Alice Ann Munro (/ˈælɨs ˌæn mʌnˈr/, née Laidlaw /ˈldlɔː/; born 10 July 1931) is a Canadian author writing in English. Munro's work has been described as having revolutionized the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time.[2] Her stories have been said to "embed more than announce, reveal more than parade."[3]

Munro's fiction is most often set in her native Huron County in southwestern Ontario.[4] Her stories explore human complexities in an uncomplicated prose style.[5] Munro's writing has established her as "one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction," or, as Cynthia Ozick put it, "our Chekhov."[6] Munro is the recipient of many literary accolades, including the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as "master of the contemporary short story",[7] and the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work. She is also a three-time winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction and was the recipient of the Writers' Trust of Canada's 1996 Marian Engel Award, as well as the 2004 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Runaway.[7][8][9][10][11]

Life and work[edit]

Early life[edit]

Munro was born Alice Ann Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario. Her father, Robert Eric Laidlaw, was a fox and mink farmer,[12] and her mother, Anne Clarke Laidlaw (née Chamney), was a schoolteacher. Munro began writing as a teenager, publishing her first story, "The Dimensions of a Shadow," in 1950 while studying English and journalism at the University of Western Ontario under a two-year scholarship.[13][14] During this period she worked as a waitress, a tobacco picker, and a library clerk. In 1951, she left the university, where she had been majoring in English since 1949, to marry fellow student James Munro. They moved to Dundarave, West Vancouver, for James's job in a department store. In 1963, the couple moved to Victoria, where they opened Munro's Books, which still operates.

Career[edit]

Munro's highly acclaimed first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), won the Governor General's Award, Canada's highest literary prize.[15] That success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories. In 1978, Munro's collection of interlinked stories Who Do You Think You Are? was published (titled The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose in the United States). This book earned Munro a second Governor General's Literary Award.[16] From 1979 to 1982, she toured Australia, China and Scandinavia for public appearances and readings. In 1980 Munro held the position of writer in residence at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Queensland. In 2006, Munro's story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" was adapted for the screen and directed by Sarah Polley as Away from Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.

Since the 1980s, Munro has published a short-story collection at least once every four years, most recently in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2012. First versions of Munro's stories have appeared in journals such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Harper's Magazine, Mademoiselle, and The Paris Review. Her collections have been translated into thirteen languages.[1] On 10 October 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, cited as a "master of the contemporary short story".[8][17][18] She is the first Canadian and the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.[19]

Munro is noted for her longtime association with editor and publisher Douglas Gibson.[20] When Gibson left Macmillan of Canada in 1986 to launch his own Douglas Gibson Books imprint at McClelland and Stewart, Munro returned the advance that Macmillan had already paid her for The Progress of Love so that she could follow Gibson to the new company.[21] Munro and Gibson have retained their professional association ever since; when Gibson published his own memoirs in 2011, Munro wrote the introduction, and to this day Gibson often makes public appearances on Munro's behalf when her health prevents her from appearing personally.[22]

Almost twenty of Munro's works have been made available for free on the web. However, in most cases these are the first versions only.[23] From the period before 2003, 16 stories have been included in Munro's own compilations more than twice, with two of her works scoring even four republications: "Carried Away" and "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage".[24]

Writing[edit]

Many of Munro's stories are set in Huron County, Ontario. Her strong regional focus is one of the features of her fiction. Another is the omniscient narrator who serves to make sense of the world. Many compare Munro's small-town settings to writers from the rural South of the United States. As in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, her characters often confront deep-rooted customs and traditions, but the reaction of Munro's characters is generally less intense than their Southern counterparts'. Her male characters tend to capture the essence of the everyman, while her female characters are more complex. Much of Munro's work exemplifies the literary genre known as Southern Ontario Gothic.[25]

Munro's work is often compared with the great short-story writers. In her stories, as in Chekhov's, plot is secondary and "little happens." As with Chekhov, Garan Holcombe notes: "All is based on the epiphanic moment, the sudden enlightenment, the concise, subtle, revelatory detail." Munro's work deals with "love and work, and the failings of both. She shares Chekhov's obsession with time and our much-lamented inability to delay or prevent its relentless movement forward."[26] Munro's short novels have also been compared to those of the Sardinian poet and writer Grazia Deledda, also a Nobel Prize winner (in 1926).[citation needed]

A frequent theme of her work, particularly evident in her early stories, has been the dilemmas of a girl coming of age and coming to terms with her family and the small town she grew up in. In recent work such as Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) and Runaway (2004) she has shifted her focus to the travails of middle age, of women alone, and of the elderly. It is a mark of her style for characters to experience a revelation that sheds light on, and gives meaning to, an event.

Munro's prose reveals the ambiguities of life: "ironic and serious at the same time," "mottoes of godliness and honor and flaming bigotry," "special, useless knowledge," "tones of shrill and happy outrage," "the bad taste, the heartlessness, the joy of it." Her style places the fantastic next to the ordinary, with each undercutting the other in ways that simply and effortlessly evoke life.[27] As Robert Thacker has it:

"Munro's writing creates... an empathetic union among readers, critics most apparent among them. We are drawn to her writing by its verisimilitude – not of mimesis, so-called and... 'realism' – but rather the feeling of being itself... of just being a human being."[28]

Many critics have asserted that Munro's stories often have the emotional and literary depth of novels. Some have asked whether Munro actually writes short stories or novels. Alex Keegan, writing in Eclectica, gave a simple answer: "Who cares? In most Munro stories there is as much as in many novels."[29]

Research on Munro's work has been undertaken since the early 1970s, with the first PhD thesis published in 1972.[30] The first book-length volume collecting the papers presented at the University of Waterloo first conference on her oeuvre was published in 1984, The Art of Alice Munro: Saying the Unsayable.[31] In 2003/2004, the journal Open Letter. Canadian quarterly review of writing and sources published 14 contributions on Munro's work, in Autumn 2010 the Journal of the Short Story in English (JSSE)/Les cahiers de la nouvelle dedicated a special issue to Munro, and in May 2012 an issue of the journal Narrative focussed on a single story by Munro, "Passion" (2004), with an introduction, a summary of the story, and five essays of analysis.[32]

Creating new versions[edit]

Alice Munro publishes variant versions of her stories, and sometimes within a short span of time. Among the latter, her works "Save the Reaper" and "Passion" came out in two different versions in the same year, in 1998 and 2004 respectively. At the other end of the scale, two stories were republished in a variant version about 30 years later, "Home" (1974/2006) and "Wood" (1980/2009).[33]

Ann Close and Lisa Dickler Awano reported in 2006 that Munro had not wanted to reread the galleys of Runaway (2004): ”No, because I’ll rewrite the stories.” In their symposium contribution An Appreciation of Alice Munro they say that of her story ”Powers”, for example, Munro did eight versions in all.[34]

Section variants of "Wood"

Awano writes that "Wood" is a good example of how Munro, being "a tireless self-editor",[35] rewrites and revises a story, in this case returning to it for a second publication nearly thirty years later. In this case, Awano says, Munro revised characterizations, themes and perspectives, as well as rhythmic syllables, a conjunction or a punctuation mark. The characters change, too. Inferring from the perspective they take on things, they are middle-age in 1980, and in 2009 they are older. Awano perceives a heightened lyricism brought about not least by the poetic precision of the revision undertaken by the author.[35] The 2009 version is made up of eight sections instead of three in 1980, and it has a new ending. Awano writes that Munro literally "refinishes" the first take on the story, with an ambiguity that is characteristic of Munro’s endings, and that the author re-imagines her stories throughout her work a variety of ways.[35]

Several stories were re-published with considerable variation as to which content goes into which section. This can be seen, for example, in "Home", "The Progress of Love", "What Do You Want to Know For?", "The Children Stay", "Save the Reaper", "The Bear Came Over the Mountain", "Passion", "The View Fom Castle Rock", "Wenlock Edge", and "Deep-Holes".

Personal life[edit]

Munro married James Munro in 1951. Their daughters Sheila, Catherine, and Jenny were born in 1953, 1955, and 1957 respectively; Catherine died 15 hours after birth.

In 1963, the Munros moved to Victoria where they opened Munro's Books, a popular bookstore still in business. In 1966, their daughter Andrea was born. Alice and James Munro divorced in 1972.

Munro returned to Ontario to become writer in residence at the University of Western Ontario, and in 1976 received an honorary LLD from the institution. In 1976, she married Gerald Fremlin, a cartographer and geographer she met in her university days.[13] The couple moved to a farm outside Clinton, Ontario, and later to a house in Clinton, where Fremlin died on 17 April 2013, aged 88.[36] Munro and Fremlin also owned a home in Comox, British Columbia.[1]

At a Toronto appearance in October 2009, Munro indicated that she had received treatment for cancer and for a heart condition requiring coronary-artery bypass surgery.[37]

In 2002, her daughter Sheila Munro published a childhood memoir, Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up With Alice Munro.

Works[edit]

Original short-story collections[edit]

Short-story compilations[edit]

  • Selected Stories – 1996
  • No Love Lost – 2003
  • Vintage Munro – 2004
  • Alice Munro's Best: A Selection of Stories – Toronto 2006/ Carried Away: A Selection of Stories – New York 2006; both with an introduction by Margaret Atwood
  • New Selected Stories – 2011
  • Lying Under the Apple Tree – 2014 (expected to be out by the end of April 2014)

Selected awards and honours[edit]

Awards[edit]

Honors[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Preface. Dance of the Happy Shades. Alice Munro. First Vintage contemporaries Edition, August 1998. ISBN 0-679-78151-X Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York.
  2. ^ Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature, by Julie Bosmans, The New York Times, 10 October 2013
  3. ^ W.H. New, Literature in English, thecanadianencyclopedia.com, 2 December 2012, last edited 16 December 2013.
  4. ^ Marchand, P. (29 August 2009). "Open Book: Philip Marchand on Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro". The National Post. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  5. ^ Meyer, M. "Alice Munro". Meyer Literature. Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2007. [dead link]
  6. ^ Merkin, Daphne (24 October 2004). "Northern Exposures". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 25 February 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 – Press Release" (PDF). 10 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Bosman, Julie (10 October 2013). "Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature". New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Alice Munro wins Man Booker International prize". The Guardian. 27 May 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "Past Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award Winners". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Past Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Winners". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Jeanne McCulloch, Mona Simpson "Alice Munro, The Art of Fiction No. 137", The Paris Review No. 131, Summer 1994
  13. ^ a b Jason Winders (10 October 2013). "Alice Munro, LLD'76, wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature". Western News. The University of Western Ontario. 
  14. ^ "Canada's Alice Munro, 'master' of short stories, wins Nobel Prize in literature". CNN. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  15. ^ "Past GG Winners 1968". canadacouncil.ca. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  16. ^ "Past GG Winners 1978". canadacouncil.ca. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  17. ^ "Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize for Literature". BBC News. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  18. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Alice Munro". Nobelprize.org. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Saul Bellow, the 1976 laureate, was born in Canada, but he moved to the United States at age nine and became a US citizen at twenty-six.
  20. ^ Panofsky, Ruth (2012). The Literary Legacy of the Macmillan Company of Canada: Making Books and Mapping Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9780802098771. 
  21. ^ "Munro follows publisher Gibson from Macmillan". Toronto Star, April 30, 1986.
  22. ^ "Alice Munro unlikely to come out of retirement following Nobel win". CTV News, October 11, 2013.
  23. ^ Which of the stories have free Web versions.
  24. ^ For further details, see List of short stories by Alice Munro.
  25. ^ Susanne Becker, Gothic Forms of Feminine Fictions. Manchester University Press, 1999.
  26. ^ Holcombe, Garan (2005). "Alice Munro". Contemporary Writers. London: British Arts Council. Retrieved 20 June 2007. 
  27. ^ Hoy, Helen (1980). "Dull, Simple, Amazing and Unfathomable: Paradox and Double Vision In Alice Munro's Fiction". Studies in Canadian Literature (University of New Brunswick) 5 (1). Retrieved 20 June 2007. 
  28. ^ Thacker, Robert (1998) Review of Some other reality: Alice Munro's Something I've been Meaning to Tell You, by Louis K. MacKendrick. Journal of Canadian Studies, Summer 1998.
  29. ^ Keegan, Alex (August–September 1998). "Munro: The Short Answer". Eclectica 2 (5). Archived from the original on 25 June 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2007. 
  30. ^ J.R. (Tim) Struthers, Some Highly Subversive Activities: A Brief Polemic and a Checklist of Works on Alice Munro, in: Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne (SCL/ÉLC), Volume 06, Number 1 (1981).
  31. ^ The Art of Alice Munro: Saying the Unsayable (1984) was edited by Judith Miller. Source: Héliane Ventura, Introduction to Special issue: The Short Stories of Alice Munro, Journal of the Short Story in English / Les Cahiers de la nouvelle, No. 55, Autumn 2010.
  32. ^ Journal of the Short Story in English (JSSE)/Les cahiers de la nouvelle special issue
  33. ^ For details please see List of short stories by Alice Munro
  34. ^ An Appreciation of Alice Munro, by Ann Close and Lisa Dickler Awano, Compiler and Editor. In: The Virginia Quarterly Review. VQR Symposium on Alice Munro. Summer 2006, S. 102–105.
  35. ^ a b c Lisa Dickler Awano, Kindling The Creative Fire: Alice Munro’s Two Versions of “Wood”, New Haven Review, 30 May 2012.
  36. ^ "Gerald Fremlin (obituary)". Clinton News-Record. April 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  37. ^ The Canadian Press (22 October 2009). "Alice Munro reveals cancer fight". CBC News. Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  38. ^ Trillium Book Award Winners
  39. ^ The Booker Prize Foundation "Alice Munro wins 2009 Man Booker International Prize."
  40. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013". NobelPrize.org. 
  41. ^ "ARCHIVED – Canada Gazette – GOVERNMENT HOUSE". Gazette.gc.ca. 9 November 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  42. ^ "Mint releases silver coin to honour Alice Munro’s Nobel win". The Globe and Mail. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Atwood, Margaret et al. "Appreciations of Alice Munro." Virginia Quarterly Review 82.3 (Summer 2006): 91–107. Interviews with various authors (Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Michael Cunningham, Charles McGrath, Daniel Menaker and others) presented in first-person essay format
  • Awano, Lisa Dickler. "Kindling The Creative Fire: Alice Munro's Two Versions of ‘Wood.'" New Haven Review (30 May 2012). Examining overall themes in Alice Munro's fiction through a study of her two versions of "Wood."
  • Awano, Lisa Dickler. "Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness." Virginia Quarterly Review (22 October 2010). Long-form book review of Too Much Happiness in the context of Alice Munro's canon.
  • Besner, Neil Kalman. Introducing Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women: a reader's guide. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1990.)
  • Blodgett, E. D. Alice Munro. (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.)
  • Carrington, Ildikó de Papp. Controlling the Uncontrollable: the fiction of Alice Munro. (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1989.)
  • Carscallen, James. The Other Country: patterns in the writing of Alice Munro. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.)
  • Cox, Alisa. Alice Munro. (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2004.)
  • Davey, Frank. 'Class, Family Furnishings, and Munro's Early Stories.' In Ventura and Conde. 79–88.
  • de Papp Carrington, Ildiko."What's in a Title?: Alice Munro's 'Carried Away.'" Studies in Short Fiction. 20.4 (Fall 1993): 555.
  • Dolnick, Ben. "A Beginner's Guide to Alice Munro" The Millions (5 July 2012)
  • Elliott, Gayle. "A Different Track: Feminist meta-narrative in Alice Munro's 'Friend of My Youth.'" Journal of Modern Literature. 20.1 (Summer 1996): 75.
  • Fowler, Rowena. "The Art of Alice Munro: The Beggar Maid and Lives of Girls and Women." Critique. 25.4 (Summer 1984): 189.
  • Garson, Marjorie. "Alice Munro and Charlotte Bronte." University of Toronto Quarterly 69.4 (Fall 2000): 783.
  • Genoways, Ted. "Ordinary Outsiders." Virginia Quarterly Review 82.3 (Summer 2006): 80–81.
  • Gibson, Douglas. Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others. (ECW Press, 2011.) Excerpt.
  • Gittings, Christopher E.. "Constructing a Scots-Canadian Ground: Family history and cultural translation in Alice Munro." Studies in Short Fiction 34.1 (Winter 1997): 27
  • Hallvard, Dahlie. Alice Munro and Her Works. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1984.)
  • Hebel, Ajay. The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's discourse of absence. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.)
  • Hiscock, Andrew. "Longing for a Human Climate: Alice Munro's 'Friend of My Youth' and the culture of loss." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 32.2 (1997): 18.
  • Hooper, Brad The Fiction of Alice Munro: An Appreciation (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008), ISBN 978-0-275-99121-0
  • Houston, Pam. "A Hopeful Sign: The making of metonymic meaning in Munro's 'Meneseteung.'" Kenyon Review 14.4 (Fall 1992): 79.
  • Howells, Coral Ann. Alice Munro. (New York: Manchester University Press, 1998), ISBN 978-0-7190-4558-5
  • Hoy, H. "'Dull, Simple, Amazing and Unfathomable': Paradox and Double Vision In Alice Munro's Fiction." Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne (SCL/ÉLC), Volume 5.1. (1980).
  • Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. 'Alice Munro's Two Secrets.' In Ventura and Conde. 25–37.
  • Levene, Mark. "It Was About Vanishing: A Glimpse of Alice Munro's Stories." University of Toronto Quarterly 68.4 (Fall 1999): 841.
  • Lynch, Gerald. "No Honey, I'm Home." Canadian Literature 160 (Spring 1999): 73.
  • MacKendrick, Louis King. Some Other Reality: Alice Munro's Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.)
  • Martin, W.R. Alice Munro: paradox and parallel. (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1987.)
  • Mazur, Carol and Moulder, Cathy. Alice Munro: An Annotated Bibliography of Works and Criticism. (Toronto: Scarecrow Press, 2007.) ISBN 978-0-8108-5924
  • McCaig, JoAnn. Reading In: Alice Munro's archives. (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002.)
  • Miller, Judith, ed. The Art of Alice Munro: saying the unsayable: papers from the Waterloo conference. (Waterloo: Waterloo Press, 1984.)
  • Munro, Sheila. Lives of Mother and Daughters: growing up with Alice Munro. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.)
  • Pfaus, B. Alice Munro. (Ottawa: Golden Dog Press, 1984.)
  • Rasporich, Beverly Jean. Dance of the Sexes: art and gender in the fiction of Alice Munro. (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1990.)
  • Redekop, Magdalene. Mothers and Other Clowns: the stories of Alice Munro. (New York: Routledge, 1992.)
  • Ross, Catherine Sheldrick. Alice Munro: a double life. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1992.)
  • Simpson, Mona. A Quiet Genius The Atlantic. (December 2001)
  • Smythe, Karen E. Figuring Grief: Gallant, Munro and the poetics of elegy. (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992.)
  • Steele, Apollonia and Tener, Jean F., editors. The Alice Munro Papers: Second Accession. (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1987.)
  • Tausky, Thomas E. Biocritical Essay. The University of Calgary Library Special Collections (1986)
  • Thacker, Robert. Alice Munro: writing her lives: a biography. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2005.)
  • Thacker, Robert. Ed. The Rest of the Story: critical essays on Alice Munro. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1999.)
  • Ventura, Héliane, and Mary Condé, eds. Alice Munro. Open Letter 11:9 (Fall-Winter 2003-4). ISSN 0048-1939. Proceedings of the Alice Munro conference L'écriture du secret/Writing Secrets, Université d'Orléans, 2003.

External links[edit]