My Best Stories, Alice Munro

In case you didn’t know, Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. If you didn’t know this, then you’re probably not my friend (so thank you for reading the blog without me forcing you to!) or my follower on Twitter (and really, you should fix that) because all I could talk about for the month of October was Alice Munro.

The day of the announcement, I bumped into my neighbour in the middle of the crosswalk on 75th Street crossing 82nd Avenue. (If you’re familiar with this area of Edmonton, then you’ll recognize how risky our behaviour was, and hopefully my parents aren’t reading this post.) We stopped to chat in the middle of the intersection, and she asked me how I was doing. “Amazing! Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature!” (Sidebar: Every time I shared this news with someone who didn’t know who Alice Munro was, I couldn’t help but feel like a wizard bumping into a muggle on the day that the He Who Must Not Be Named was first defeated and explaining why I was so overjoyed.)

“Oh cool,” she responded. “That’s a pretty big deal, right?” Once I’d confirmed that it was, she promised to read one of Munro’s books sometime soon. (Also, I’ve made it my new life mission to spread the works of the Prophet Alice far and wide.)

I could become quite loquacious in this post explaining why I worship Alice Munro, but instead, I’m just going to drop this excerpt from Peter Englund’s speech when he presented Munro’s daughter with the award:

“Over the years, numerous prominent scientists have received their well-deserved reward in this auditorium for having solved some of the great enigmas of the universe or of our material existence. But you, Alice Munro, like few others, have come close to solving the greatest mystery of them all: the human heart and its caprices.

Munro never leaves you. I’d read “The Progress of Love” in my junior English class at the U of A, and I’m still struck by the narrator’s ersatz memory of watching her mother burn three thousand dollars in a stove while her father stands sentinel. Or, even though I’d forgotten most of the plot of “Runaway,” the image and significance of Flora the goat returning from the fog stayed with me (“When two human beings divided by hostility are both, at the same time, mystified–no frightened–by the same apparition, there is a bond that springs up between them, and they find themselves united in the most unexpected way. United in their humanity”). And I have new takeaways–on grief: “I have a feeling that is so hard to describe. It’s like a boiled egg in my chest, with the shell left on” and the way that Alice Munro fucks with your heart in “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.”

Alice–I’m going to call her Alice now because I want to have her over for dinner next week, so it’s only polite–fires all the synapses of my brain and my heart at once. She is, above all, a writer who inspires other writers to write.


“Would you like another glass of wine, Alice?” She laughs. “Of course I’ll take another glass, Matthew!”

Books Read: 17


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