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Alice Munro – The Master of the Contemporary Short Story

alice-munro

Readers expect stories to be easy to read and digest—after all, they’re short! Writers believe short stories can be taken apart like a radio to figure out how they work—after all, they’re short!

Neither turns out to be true. And nowhere is it less true than with Alice Munro.

The short story form got well deserved recognition when 82 year old Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2013. Munro is called a “master of the contemporary short story,”; it is well-deserved, and hard-earned (and comes not long after she announced her retirement from fiction).

After 14 story collections, Munro has reached at least a couple generations of writers with her psychologically subtle stories about ordinary men and women in Huron County, Ontario, her birthplace and home. Only the 13th woman writer to win the Nobel, Munro has previously won the Man Booker Prize in 2009, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction in Canada three times (1968, 1978, and 1986), and two O. Henry Awards (2006 and 2008).

Here is what Munro says about her gravitating to writing short stories.

” Why do I like to write short stories? Well, I certainly didn’t intend to. I was going to write a novel. And still! I still come up with ideas for novels. And I even start novels. But something happens to them. They break up. I look at what I really want to do with the material, and it never turns out to be a novel. But when I was younger, it was simply a matter of expediency. I had small children, I didn’t have any help. Some of this was before the days of automatic washing machines, if you can actually believe it. There was no way I could get that kind of time. I couldn’t look ahead and say, this is going to take me a year, because I thought every moment something might happen that would take all time away from me. So I wrote in bits and pieces with a limited time expectation. Perhaps I got used to thinking of my material in terms of things that worked that way. And then when I got a little more time, I started writing these odder stories, which branch out a lot.”

For a detailed sketch of Munro’s early life, see her wonderful 2011 biographical essay “Dear Life” in The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/09/19/dear-life

Short Story compilations by Alice Munro

Dance of the Happy Shades – 1968 (winner of the 1968 Governor General’s Award for Fiction)
Lives of Girls and Women – 1971
Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You – 1974
Who Do You Think You Are? – 1978 (winner of the 1978 Governor General’s Award for Fiction; also published as The Beggar Maid)
The Moons of Jupiter – 1982 (nominated for a Governor General’s Award)
The Progress of Love – 1986 (winner of the 1986 Governor General’s Award for Fiction)
Friend of My Youth – 1990 (winner of the Trillium Book Award)
Open Secrets – 1994 (nominated for a Governor General’s Award)
The Love of a Good Woman – 1998 (winner of the 1998 Giller Prize)
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – 2001 (republished as Away From Her)
Runaway – 2004 (winner of the Giller Prize and Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize) ISBN 1-4000-4281-X
The View from Castle Rock – 2006
Too Much Happiness – 2009
Dear Life – 2012

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About Preeti Singh

I am a bookaholic. I love stories, storytelling. I enjoy helping people structure their storytelling, and I love to share the stories I discover.

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This entry was posted on November 5, 2014 by in Author Profiles, Short Stories and tagged , , .
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