Celebrating Canadian Achievement: Alice Munro Brings Home 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature

[avatar user=”jporter” size=”medium” align=”left”]J.S. Porter, Writer, Poet[/avatar]

Congratulations Alice Munro!

I’m writing this note on Thursday, October 10, 2013 – a very Happy Day for Canada.

It’s not every day you wake up in the morning and the radio announces that a Nobel Prize has gone to a Canadian.

Alice Munro from Wingham, Ontario is the 2013 recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature. Deservedly so.  The official announcement from Stockholm makes mention of her being a “Master of the Contemporary Short Story.” Some have called her the Chekhov of our time. To my mind, she’s the best short story writer since Raymond Carver.

Good for the Nobel Committee to honour someone who has devoted her life to an art form that doesn’t always get much attention. People tend to know the names of novelists or maybe even poets, but short story writers? Canada is particularly blessed with amazing practitioners of short fiction whether the multi-talented Margaret Atwood who, among her many other writerly productions, occasionally pens a short story or the hugely talented Mavis Gallant who, like Munro, specializes in short stories.

Why do the great artists of the short story tend to be women in our country?

Alice Munro carefully crafts stories—many set in the Huron county of her childhood—centred on moments when life takes a subtle turn not always registered at the time. And, if they’re retrospectively registered, the moments tend to be ambiguous and experienced ambivalently.

Munro is a master of divided and conflicted hearts, of relationships which generate mixed emotions between one person and another. She reminds us that big dramas happen to ordinary people in ordinary towns in quiet, undramatic ways. Life happens when you’re looking away or off to one side.

So, how should I celebrate this special day?

I’m opening up my best wine. I’m also thinking of reading or re-reading something from that long chain of achievement from Dance of the Happy Shades and Lives of Girls and Women to Too Much Happiness and Dear Life.

J.S. Porter