October 10, 2013

Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.

"Alice Munro, the renowned Canadian short-story writer whose visceral work explores the tangled relationships between men and women, small-town existence and the fallibility of memory, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Ms. Munro, 82, is the 13th woman to win the prize."

Is that interesting or exciting? I can't remember if I've ever read anything of hers. Were there stories in The New Yorker back in the 1970s, when it seemed important to read delicately honed observations of what men and women were doing in their relationships? I can't remember if there were or even why it seemed important back then, when it quite obviously isn't doesn't anymore.

Let's see what The New Yorker is saying about this. They're highlighting an interview from 2012:
In your stories, there is often a stigma attached to any girl who attracts attention to herself—individualism, for women, is seen as a shameful impulse....

I was brought up to believe that the worst thing you could do was “call attention to yourself,” or “think you were smart.”...

You’ve written so much about young women who feel trapped in marriage and motherhood and cast around for something more to life....

It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful....

I’m sure this is an irritating question, but do you consider yourself a feminist writer?

I never think about being a feminist writer, but of course I wouldn’t know. I don’t see things all put together in that way. I do think it’s plenty hard to be a man. Think if I’d had to support a family, in those early years of failure?

19 comments:

Tank said...

A very good writer in the William Trevor, dry, English tradition.

If you read one or two of her short stories you'll know right away if you like that sort of thing. If you do, she's very good. IMHO, most people won't like her style.

Henry said...

Works for me. It is about freaking time a short story writer won the prize. Alas, it is too late for Borges.

Ann Althouse said...

@Tank

"“For years and years I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel,” she told The New Yorker in 2012. “Then I found that they were all I could do, and so I faced that. I suppose that my trying to get so much into stories has been a compensation.”"

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

I usually catch one thing a year I think over in the New Yorker, and they've got cartoons! That interview was it.

Paddy O said...

"I can't remember if I've ever read anything of hers"

I see what you did there.

Cath said...

Don't be fooled or put off by the "feminist" label. Although Munro's characters are mostly female, and her settings are mostly rural or small-town Canada, she writes with tremendous depth and insight about human life and experience in a way that transcends her specific subjects and settings. If you haven't read her she really is worth checking out.

St. George said...

The Nobel Prizes are jokes.

Here are the people who pick the Literature winner...

Per Wästberg (Chairman)
FD, Writer

Horace Engdahl
Professor, Writer

Kjell Espmark
FD, Emeritus Professor, Writer

Katarina Frostenson
Writer

Kristina Lugn
Writer

Peter Englund (Secretary)
Professor, Writer

And they are advised by unnamed "experts."

So far as I can tell, about 5-6 obscure Norwegians pick the winners in other categories as well.

What a great PR stunt.

David said...

The description of what Alice Munro writes about makes her sound like another stupid chick lit lady. Far from the case. She's just a wonderful writer, and there's nothing conventional or pc about her take on "relationships." Many of her stories are more about the impact when people take counsel of their fears and delusions than about "relationships." There's no wordy agonizing. She delivers emotion by detail and circumstance, not blithering self examination by her characters.

I've read a large percentage of her work, many stories multiple times. They get better with rereading. I have never thought of her as feminist, or anti-feminist, or non-feminist. The feminist label is being pushed by people who think that every woman who is good at something must be classified as a feminist.

Amexpat said...

So far as I can tell, about 5-6 obscure Norwegians pick the winners in other categories as well.

Here's an obscure fact, obscure Norwegians pick the Peace Prize and obscure Swedes pick the rest.

MadisonMan said...

Ms. Munro, 82, is the 13th woman to win the prize

For those of you keeping track.

(And why would you?)

Deirdre Mundy said...

So.... she's basically a Canadian Flannery O'Connor? I might have to give her a try!

SJ said...

Wait a minute...wasn't Alice Munro a character in a novel by James Fenimore Cooper?

Tina Trent said...

Rather than trying to force their disappointments on the world, Munro's characters bear them, themselves. Not as joyful as O'Connor, but admirable, in a fallen world. I don't know who deserves a Nobel, but I know who doesn't -- and she's not in that group.

Nathan said...

If Murakami couldn't win this year, I'm not sure if his time will ever come. Unless the committee wants to wait until he's the dear old man of letters, but I don't think the Nobel should be the Kennedy Center Honors of literature, recognizing authors for a body of work, which usually means a handful of texts by that time decades old followed by a robust career of publishing copy.

Adonis from Syria would have been a politically trendy pick, and it would be nice to recognize a poet again.

How long before an American author receives the honor again? Pynchon's name was bandied about. Cormac McCarthy. Philip Roth.

Bob Dylan, of course. I'm not sure how seriously to take his candidacy.

If the committee wants to recognize a writer whose substantial body of work has affected a wide international readership and arguably had the strongest cultural impact, they could do much worse than Stan Lee.

Fr. Denis Lemieux said...

I'm Canadian, and we're raised, at least the literary ones of us, on a steady diet of Munro, Margaret Lawrence, and Margaret Atwood. She is by far the best of them, a fantastic stylist and a penetrating observer of humanity. Her collection of stories 'Friend of My Youth' is one of her best works. And (while I usually don't care much about Nobel prizes) I am tickled pink she got this recognition late in her life.

dustbunny said...

I'm surprised they gave the prize to such a deeply satisfying and brilliant writer. To have read her yet not remembered anything of the experience is, for me, very odd. Her stories awaken me to the mysterious nature of the most ordinary lives.

Big Mike said...

I looked at the list of laureates and was surprised at how few I've read, not to mention how many of those few I read only because I had to read them in high school or college.

Personally, I think Donald Knuth should be a Nobel laureate for literature. He proves that one can write about the dullest things (see "Seminumerical Algorithms" or "Surreal Numbers") and make it accessible.

roesch/voltaire said...

Been reading her for years,(New Yorker published one of her stories in 1985,)and consider her one of the best short story writers of our time.Her world is nuanced with an undertone of drama that slowly reveals itself in the ordinary tensions of life.

roesch/voltaire said...

Been reading her for years,(New Yorker published one of her stories in 1985,)and consider her one of the best short story writers of our time.Her world is nuanced with an undertone of drama that slowly reveals itself in the ordinary tensions of life.