miércoles, 11 de julio de 2018

Alice Munro




Alice Munro
(1931)

Canadian short story writer and novelist, often characterized as a Canadian Chekhov, although her characters are not Chekhovian in the sense that they were passive and powerless to change their lives. Munro describes sensitively the lifestyles, customs, and values of ordinary people, often revealing in the process hidden meanings and personal tragedies. Although Munro's stories deal with the lives of women, her stance is not explicitly feminist. Munro has been mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.




"This nun had smiled once in a while to show that her religion was supposed to make people happy, but most of the time she looked out at her audience as if she believed that other people were mainly in the world for her to boss around." (from Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, 2001)




Alice Munro was born Alice Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario, where she grew up on a farm with her sister and brother. Her ancestors – the Scots Presbyterian Laidlaws and the Irish Anglican Chamneys – had arrived in Upper Canada after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Among the Laidlaw relatives left behind in Scotland was the poet and prose writer James Hogg (1770-1835), a friend of Byron, Wordsworth, and Southey. Before taking up farming, Munro's father, Robert Eric Laidlaw, had raised foxes and minks and worked as a watch-man. Anne Clarke Laidlaw (née Chamney), Munro's mother, had been a teacher. She suffered from Parkinson's disease and died in 1959.

Munro was expected to continue the farming business, but when she was 12, she decided to become a writer – "my oddity just shone out of me;" she once said. At the age of eighteen, Munro won a scholarship to the University of Western Ontario. In 1951 she married a fellow student, James Munro, and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. In the early 1960s, the family moved to Victoria, where Munro founded with her husband a successful bookstore.

Munro's first story, 'The Dimensions of a Shadow', came out in 1950. The CBSB bought and broadcast 'The Strangers' in October 1951 and her work appeared in such magazines as Mayfair, the Canadian Forum, Queen's Quarterly, Chatelaine, and the Tamarack Review, but it was no until 1968, that her first collection of short stories was published by Ryerson Press. "I never intended to be a short-story writer," Munro once said. The book, Dance of the Happy Shades, was awarded Canada's prestigious Governor General's Award. Several of the stories had earlier been published in periodicals and drew on Munro's own childhood experience. "The short story is alive and well in Canada," wrote Martin Levin in The New York Times (September 23, 1973), "where most of the 15 tales originate like a fresh winds from the North."



"The street is shaded, is some places, by maple trees whose roots have cracked and heaved the sidewalk and spread out like crocodiles into the bare yards. People are sitting out, men in shirt-sleeves and undershirts and women in aprons - not people we know but if anybody looks ready to nod and say, "Warm night," my father will nod and say something the same." (from 'Walker Brothers Cowboy', in Dance of the Happy Shades, 1968)



Munro's second book, Lives of Girls and Women (1971), was a cycle of interlocked stories about the childhood of a young woman, who wants to become a writer. Her portrait of the artist as a young girl gained international attention and was also made into a television movie, starring Munro's daughter Jenny.

Munro marriage broke down in 1972. She returned to southern Ontario, and married Gerald Fremlin, a geographer, whom she had known as a student. They moved into a white frame house, with nasturtiums, raspberry canes, a birdbath, and trees in the backyard. Referring to Flaubert she once said, "Live an orderly way like a bourgeois so that you can be violent and original in your work." Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You from 1974 collected together pieces published in magazines such as the New Yorker, Viva and Redbook. The author was first unhappy with the book, and pulled it from the presses for restructuring. In Britain the work was published as a novel. Munro's third collection, however, contains some of her finest stories, including 'Wild Swans', 'Mischief' and 'Simon's Luck.' Also in Who Do You Think You Are? (1978), which followed the lives of two women, Rose and Flo, her stepmother, the tales were interlinked. Rose leaves the small town of Hanratty in Ontario, marries well, and becomes a successful television actress, but eventually she returns to take care of Flo, who has always been comfortable with her place in the world.

From the beginning, Munro has been true to her own literary style and voice. Generally her stories are set in small towns in southern Ontario and British Columbia. Her style has been described as beautifully transparent; it is unsentimental and detailed as in a photograph, much is left unsaid, but at the same time the undercurrents are oddly poignant and disturbing. The past is always present in the here and now. "The complexity of things -- the things within things -- just seems to be endless," Munro has said. "I mean nothing is easy, nothing is simple." As a rule, Munro's characters are people we meet every day, but their choices are not obvious. Sometimes a small incident changes the course of their lives, gives it a new perspective, or provides a key piece to the story.

Munro has received the Governor General's Award for Fiction three times. The short film adaptation of her story 'Boys and Girls' won an Oscar in 1984. Munro received in 1990 the Canada Council Molson Prize for lifetime contributions to her country's cultural life. In 2009, she won the £60,000 Man Booker International prize.





For further reading

Probable Fictions: Alice Munro's Narrative Acts, ed. by Louis K. Mackendrick (1981); Controlling the Uncontrollable: The Fiction of Alice Munro by Ildiko De Papp Carrington (1989); Dance of the Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro by Beverly Rasporich (1990); Alice Munro: A Double Life by Catherine Ross (1992); The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's Discourse of Absence by Ajay Heble (1994); The Influence of Painting on Five Canadian Writers by John Cooke (1996); Alice Munro by Coral Ann Howells (1998); The Rest of the Story: Critical Essays on Alice Munro, ed. by Robert Thacker (1999); Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing up With Alice Munro by Sheila Munro (2002); Reading in: Alice Munro's Archives by Joann McCaig (2002); Alice Munro: Writing Her Lives: A Biography by Robert Thacker (2005); Alice Munro's Narrative Art by Isla Duncan (2011) 




Selected works 

Dance of the Happy Shades, 1968 
Lives of Girls and Women, 1971 
Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, 1974 
Who Do You Think You Are?, 1978 (UK and US The Beggar Maid) - Kerjäläistyttö (suom. Kristiina Rikman) 
The Moons of Jupiter, 1982 
The Progress of Love, 1986 
Friend of My Youth, 1990 
Open Secrets, 1994 

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/munro.htm





"Meneseteung" 
by Alice Munro

While novels are arguably about life's big moments, stories, Munro says, are about "the moments within moments". This is the story of Almeda Roth, a little known Victorian poetess-spinster who lives in a small Canadian town. She resides on the respectable Dufferin Street but her back gate opens onto the edge of a boghole, an area known locally as the Pearl Street Swamp. "Bushy and luxuriant weeds grow there, makeshift shacks have been out up ... " and a woman cries out: 'Kill me! Kill me!' ...Yet there is something taunting and triumphant about her cry." It makes Almeda uncomfortably aware of the narrowness of her own life, one in which she waits to see if Jarvis Poulter will finally deem her to be suitable wife material. The woman of the Pearl Street Swamp is to Almeda what Bertha is to Jane Eyre: her alter ego, her nemesis, but also the agent for Almeda's new, painful insight. The detail of Almeda's home and her inner world are tenderly and sharply observed. Munro's prose is, as usual, translucent - so breathtakingly clear there is nothing between you and the world she creates.

Alison MacLeod's top 10 short stories



"Love of a Good Woman"
 by Alice Munro

Munro has changed our sense of what the short story can do as radically as Chekhov and Mansfield did at the beginning of the 20th century. She uses the form so capaciously – a whole community in 1950s rural Canada is captured in the loose weave of this one – around a woman who believes she's uncovered the secret of a violent death. She makes plans to do the right thing, bring the secret into the light of day. There's never a false or fussy note, as Munro penetrates in words into the hidden roots of how we choose to live, and why we act.






Profile
Alice Munro
THE MISTRESS OF ALL SHE SURVEYS

For 40 years, the Canadian writer's short stories have been treasured by her many loyal fans. Now her remarkable gift for unpacking the lives of small-town people has garnered her one of the great literary accolades



by Hephzibah Anderson
The Observer, Sunday 31 May 2009


Alice Munro
Photo by PR


Alice Munro is widely regarded as one of the world's best living short-story writers. Her fans include Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen, and a comparison with Chekhov has been so well reported, it risks becoming meaningless - until you recall that its originator was peppery fellow writer Cynthia Ozick. All of this should make her one of literature's worst-kept secrets, yet when she was declared winner of the Man Brooker International Prize five days ago, it seemed as if she was being rediscovered.

She was born Alice Laidlaw in 1931, the eldest of three children. Her most recently published volume, The View From Castle Rock, was spun explicitly from family history and revealed that she can trace her ancestry back to Scotland and James Hogg, friend of Robert Burns, and author of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. In recent generations, the clan has lived in the county of Huron, part of south-western Ontario, Canada's sprawling answer to the American Midwest. There, Munro's father and mother, a former schoolteacher, struggled to keep afloat a fox and mink farm on the outskirts of Wingham, a provincial town just like those that fill her fiction.

She married after two years of college and became a mother at 21. The family moved to Vancouver - almost as far away as she could get without leaving the country. Three more children came along.

All the while, Munro was writing, sneaking an hour here and there while the babies napped or while dinner cooked. As she once told an interviewer, there was housework to be done as well as reading. Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers were early influences, and she frequently cites William Maxwell as a defining literary love.

The determination to write had set in with adolescence and Munro got her start through a radio show called Anthology, produced by Robert Weaver, who nurtured such other talents as Mordecai Richler and Mavis Gallant. She was regularly submitting stories to the New Yorker, receiving in return polite, pencilled rejection slips. In a Paris Review interview, she noted a preponderance of ageing spinsters in her early work. "I think I knew that at heart I was an ageing spinster," she said, her distinctive wit audible through the interview's studiously unadorned Q&A format.

The Depression hung over her earliest years and she was just a little too old to take advantage of a succession of 20th-century cultural moments. By the time Elvis had teenagers all shook up, she had become a wife and mother. She was well into her 30s when flower power bloomed and nearing 40 with a book to her name by the time the women's movement got into its stride.

That first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades, was published in 1968. Made up of stories written over a 15-year period, it won her the prestigious Governor General's Award. She followed it with Lives of Girls and Women. Published in 1971 and billed as a novel - her only one - it offered a fictionalised portrait of her girlhood and contained the observation that people's lives "were dull, simple, amazing and unfathomable - deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum". She had found her material.

Though she has written memorably about men - there are brandy-tippling, salty heroes in the latest collection - the lives she writes of are invariably female. She credits her mother as her major source, and over the course of 11 collections she has become one of the most acute chroniclers of female sexuality, sidling up to erotic secrets in a way that lends them extra charge. As Margaret Atwood notes: "Pushing the sexual boundaries is distinctly thrilling for many a Munro woman; but in order to trespass you have to know exactly where the fence is and Munro's universe is crisscrossed with meticulously defined borders. Hands, chairs, glances - all are part of an intricate inner map strewn with barbed wire and booby traps and secret paths through the shrubbery."

After 20 years, Munro and her husband parted. By the time she returned, newly single, to Huron, she had been gone 23 years, though on the page, she had rarely left.

"I think I married to be able to write, to settle down and give my attention back to the important thing," she has said. "Sometimes now when I look back at those early years I think: this was a hard-hearted young woman."

A similar steeliness lies at the core of her writing and it's one of its most compelling qualities. As Alison Samuel, her long-time UK editor at Chatto & Windus, says: "There's a hard nugget inside her stories - something really muscular."

Her second husband is a retired geographer and his understanding of the region complements her own. They had met at college, where he was older and hipper and didn't notice her, even when she submitted a story to a magazine he was involved with. He did write her a letter about that story a few years afterwards - it was her first piece of fan mail, but she had been hoping for a different kind of note. Decades later, they reconnected for a nervous, three-Martini lunch and by the end of the afternoon it was almost settled that they would move in together. They live just 10 miles from her childhood home.

She has perfected precisely the kind of regional writing that the Swedish Academy sneers at. Yet, as Ali Smith observed reviewing Runaway, her tenth collection: "Munro's stories enact what can only be called a sort of magic. Reading them, you sense what's about to happen before it does and this sense of expectancy happens not in an obvious way but because you have become complicit with both the story and its consequences - you have been made local to its characters. In Munro's hands, this kind of localising is what storytelling means, and the telling of even the bleakest stories is a hopeful act."

Plenty happens in Munro's stories. Her prose is exact and unflinching, coolly anatomising vengeful grudges, dark crimes and curdled emotions. Just as buttoned-down fronts conceal the seamy undersides of her characters' natures, so the surface plainness of her writing disguises her bold risk-taking when it comes to form and time. She has what Daniel Menaker, who for years edited her at the New Yorker, calls "a slyly postmodern sensibility". She writes about the way people, especially women, narrate their own life stories, and how those stories evolve, shaped by omissions and fabrications, each version overlapping and conflicting with the next to shape reality.

As a reader, she takes a pleasingly cavalier approach to books, hopscotching her way through narratives, sometimes starting at the end or, as with her initial reading of The Brothers Karamazov, skipping entire sections.

"A story is not like a road to follow," she has written. "It's more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows."

Her new collection, due to be published this autumn, promises to be her darkest yet. Its contents tell of a humiliating seduction, dangerous intimacy, and deadly jealousy. Its title is Too Much Happiness



Munro has built a career almost exclusively on short fiction. Though her stories have gradually grown in length (the shortest in the forthcoming book is more than 7,000 words long), there remains only the one full-length novel. As Chatto's Samuel points out, Munro's writing is so wonderfully crafted, it rises far above well-rehearsed debates concerning the form and its future. To say that she has made the short story her own and reinvigorated it somehow falls short - she has reinvented it.

In interviews, she chalks up her pluck to naivety, and her success to hard graft (each story takes an average six to eight months to write, beginning life as a notebook scribble, then going through multiple drafts before being shown to anyone). Listening to her talk - her soft voice drawing out the Celtic lilt you'll hear in certain Canadian accents, her pretty features framed by a haze of silvery curls - you might almost believe her.

It's in keeping with the way she lives her creative life that she should scoop not the established Man Booker Prize (only novels are eligible, though judge Claire Tomalin insisted that she be included on the 1980 shortlist for The Beggar Maid), but the newer Man Booker International.

It is equally fitting that this is fast becoming the more significant award, appearing an ever more competent alternative to the Nobel. Her victory should mean that those readers discovering her for the first time meet not only a great short-story writer, but also a great writer.

The Munro lowdown


Born Alice Laidlaw on July 10 1931. Married for 20 years to James Munro. Three daughters, the eldest of whom, Sheila, has published a memoir, Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing up With Alice Munro. Divorced 1972. Married Gerald Fremlin 1976.

Best of times Winning the £60,000 2009 Man Booker International Prize.

Worst of times In 1980, she became writer in residence at the University of Queensland in Australia, and was given a fancy, state-of-the-art office to work in. She sat there thinking and thinking, but couldn't write a thing.

What she says "I never have a problem with finding material. I wait for it to turn up and it always turns up. It's dealing with the material I'm inundated with that poses the problem."

"I have all these disconnected realities in my own life and I see them in other people's lives. That was one of the problems - why I couldn't write novels, I never saw things hanging together any too well."

What they say "Any writer has to gawk when reading her because her work is very subtle and precise. Her thoughtfulness about every subject is so concentrated." Jane Smiley, Man Booker International judge

"She writes novels in miniature." Charles McGrath, former New York Times literary editor.




Alice Munro Puts Down Her Pen 
to Let the World In

By  Charles McGrath
Published: July 1, 2013

CLINTON, Ontario — Accepting a literary prize in Toronto last month, Alice Munro, the acclaimed short-story writer — “our Chekhov,” as Cynthia Ozick has called her — winner of the Man Booker International Prize and just about every important North American literary award for which she is eligible, told a newspaper interviewer, “I’m probably not going to write anymore.”

Ms. Munro, who will turn 82 next week, has talked this way before. In 2006 she told a writer from The Toronto Globe and Mail, “I don’t know if I have the energy to do this anymore.” She then went on to publish yet another story collection, her 14th, called "Dear Life" It came out last fall, and reviewers, as usual, remarked on her insightful handling of themes like the bleakness of small-town life; the eruptive, transforming power of sex; and the trouble women have making their way in a world run by men.

But recently, sitting on the back porch of her home on the edge of town here, Ms. Munro insisted that this time she really means to retire. She was wearing pants, a loose cotton top and sensible sandals that revealed toenails painted electric blue, and she seemed cheerful and relaxed. There will be no more books after "Dear Life," she said, and the four autobiographical stories that conclude the book — retellings, in a way, of ones with which she began her career — will be her last. “Put your money on it,” she said.

For great writers, retirement is a fairly recent career option. There have always been writers, like Thomas Hardy and Saul Bellow, who kept at it until the very end, but there are many more, like Proust, Dickens and Balzac, who died prematurely, worn out by writing itself. Margaret Drabble may have started a trend when, in 2009, at the age of 69, she announced that she was calling it quits. Ms. Munro said she was encouraged by the example of Philip Roth, who declared that he was done last fall, as he was getting ready to turn 80. “I put great faith in Philip Roth,” she said, adding, “He seems so happy now.”

In 2009, Ms. Munro revealed that she had undergone coronary bypass surgery and been treated for cancer, but she said that her health now was good — or rather, not too bad. “That’s how we talk in Canada,” she explained. “You don’t say to someone, ‘You’re looking well.’ You say, ‘You don’t seem so bad.’ ” The great recent upheaval in her life, she added, was the death in April of her second husband, Gerald Fremlin, to whom she was “tremendously close.”

Ever since, she went on, she has been making an effort to be more social, to see people and to accept invitations. “I do things quite purposefully now to get out on the surface of life,” she said. “It just seems natural now for me to do what other 81-year-olds do.” She laughed and added, “If you’ll only tell me what that is.”

Ms. Munro is famously self-effacing and publicity-shy — traits that probably stem in part from old-fashioned Canadian modesty and in part from wariness, a wish not to be pinned down. In interviews she is funny, direct and unpretentious but also a little elusive, apt to ask almost as many questions as she answers. Nobody in Clinton knows who she is, she said, “or if they do, they’re a little embarrassed.”

“It’s not the sort of life you should want,” she went on. “But I like that nobody here cares much about writing. It allows me to feel quite free.”

From the time she was 14, Ms. Munro said, she knew absolutely that she wanted to be a writer. “But back then you didn’t go around announcing something like that,” she said. “You didn’t call attention. Maybe it was being Canadian, maybe it was being a woman. Maybe both.” She pursued her career with unusual discipline, faithfully completing her quota of pages every day while also raising three daughters and helping her first husband, James Munro, run a bookshop, and persisted, despite not winning much early recognition. Her first collection came out only in 1968, when she was 37, and her work didn’t attract attention outside Canada until it began appearing in The New Yorker in the late ’70s. (I was her first editor at the magazine.)

She began to make her reputation with her fifth and sixth books, "The Moons of Jupiter" (1982) and "The Progress of Love" (1986), in which she frequently spurned the traditional architecture of the short story, beginning at the end and ending sometimes in the middle. Slowly she then ascended to what Margaret Atwood called “international literary sainthood.”

“What I feel now is that I don’t have the energy anymore,” she said, echoing what she told The Globe and Mail in 2006. “Starting off as I did at a time when women didn’t do much else besides bring up children — it’s very hard, and you get very tired. I feel a bit tired now — pleasantly tired.” She paused and added: “There is a nice feeling about being just like everyone else now. But it also means that the most important thing in my life is gone. No, not the most important thing. The most important was my husband, and now they’re both gone.”

Ms. Munro’s house, a late-19th-century bungalow on a dead-end street that backs down to some railroad tracks, is the house Mr. Fremlin was born and grew up in. Out back is a walnut grove he planted, and the yard is populated by some of his whimsical sculptures, among them a bathtub painted to look like a Holstein. The inside is comfortable but unfancy and almost defiantly unmodern. In the dining room there is even a portrait of Queen Victoria, along with a dictionary stand and various bric-a-brac collected by Ms. Munro’s mother. Mr. Fremlin, a retired geographer and editor of The National Atlas of Canada, had his own office, but Ms. Munro writes — or wrote — in a corner of the dining room, at a tiny desk facing a window that overlooks the driveway.

They moved here in the late ’70s to care for her husband’s aging mother, she explained, and never saw any point in leaving. Ms. Munro grew up in Wingham, a little town about 20 miles to the north, where her father raised turkeys. These towns and the surrounding Huron County countryside, great expanses of Ontario farmland bisected by roads that cross at exact right angles, and dotted by the occasional silo or red-brick farmhouse with the maple leaf flag flying out front, are the world of Ms. Munro’s fiction: a world of small, isolated communities where ambition is frowned on, especially in women; where longings are kept secret; and everyone knows, or thinks he knows, everyone else’s business.

“To me, it’s the most interesting place in the world,” Ms. Munro said. “I suppose that’s because I know more about it. I find it endlessly fascinating.” She added, though, that Huron County had changed since she began writing. “People are more aware now of cities and of different ways of life,” she explained. “I suppose the writing I do is a bit in the past, and I’m not sure it’s the kind of writing I would do if I were starting now.”

Critics have often called Ms. Munro’s stories novels in miniature, a compliment she resists a little. “We can do without that word ‘miniature,’ ” she said sharply, but then added that for years she was not content writing short stories. “While working on my first five books, I kept wishing I was writing a novel,” she said. “I thought until you wrote a novel, you weren’t taken seriously as a writer. It used to trouble me a lot, but nothing troubles me now, and besides, there has been a change. I think short stories are taken more seriously now than they were.”

Another thing that bothers Ms. Munro less than it used to is the process of growing old, a subject that preoccupies some of her best stories. “I worry less than I did,” she said. “There’s nothing you can do about it, and it’s better than being dead. I feel that I’ve done what I wanted to do, and that makes me feel fairly content.”

She smiled and added: “I can have people around a lot more, because I’m not always chasing them away so I can work on my novel. My non-novel, I mean.”

2013
Nobel Prize in Literature
2009
Man Booker International Prize
2007
Commonwealth Writers Prize (Caribbean and Canada Region, Best Book)
2007
James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction)
2007
Man Booker International Prize (nominee)
2005
Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region, Best Book)
2004
Giller Prize (Canada)
1998
Giller Prize (Canada)
1995
Irish Times International Fiction Prize
1995
WH Smith Literary Award
1990
Canada Council Molson Prize
1990
Commonwealth Writers Prize (Caribbean and Canada Region, Best Book)
1990
Irish Times International Fiction Prize
1990
Ontario Trillium Book Award
1986
Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction (Canada)
1986
Marian Engel Award (Canada)
1980
Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist)
1978
Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction (Canada)
1977
Canada-Australia Literary Prize
1971
Canadian Booksellers Association Award
1968
Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction (Canada)



BIBLIOGRAPHY


Lying Under the Apple Tree: New Selected Stories
Dear Life
Too Much Happiness
Carried Away
The View from Castle Rock
Runaway
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
Queenie: A Story
The Love of a Good Woman
Selected Stories
A Wilderness Station
Open Secrets
Friend of My Youth
Best American Short Stories
Night Light: Stories of Aging
The Progress of Love
The Moons of Jupiter: Stories
Who Do You Think You Are?: Stories
Personal Fictions: Stories by Munro, Wiebe, Thomas & Blaise, selected by Michael Ondaatje
Here and Now
Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You: Thirteen Stories
The Narrative Voice: Stories and Reflections by Canadian Authors
Lives of Girls and Women
Sixteen by Twelve: Short Stories by Canadian Writers
Dance of the Happy Shades
Canadian Short Stories