Thursday, May 28, 2009

Congratulations to Alice Munro

I was thrilled to learn that Alice Munro has just been awarded the Man Booker International Prize. The prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. In seeking out literary excellence, the judges consider a writer's body of work, rather than a single novel. The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel; there are no submissions from publishers. Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe won the 2007 prize and Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare won the inaugural prize in 2005 and went on to gain worldwide recognition for his work.

In an essay written today by Geoff Pevere, Books Columnist for, Pevere had this to say about Munro's writing: "For Munro, the pinpricking of individual lives permitted by the short story opens apertures through which universal experience can be glimpsed. No detail is extraneous, no observation incidental. Every action is significant insofar as it represents a choice, and all lives are an accumulation of momentary events. Sometimes it may appear that nothing is happening. But something always is....Contained within it is the notion of genetic fate, how the patterns set by parents become the trenches in which their children's lives are circumscribed. Also typical are the circumstances: domestic, intimate, almost entirely devoid of what would conventionally be considered drama."

I'm a huge fan of Munro's writing and of excellent short stories in general. One (of many) of her stories that knocked my socks off is "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," from the collection entitled Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, about a woman suffering from Alzheimer's and how it affects her husband and their relationship. Very moving. An incredibly powerful movie was later made based on that story: "Away from Her," starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. Christie was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance and won both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.

Speaking of great short story writers, another of my favorites, Lorrie Moore, finally has a new book coming out after several years: A Gate at the Stairs, a novel, will be published in September. Her most recent collection of stories was Birds of America, published in 1998. (Although a compilation of stories from her first three collections came out in 2008.) Her previous novels are Anagrams and Who Will run the Frog Hospital?

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