Alice Munro – WOMAN of ACTION™



A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this woman stated as ‘Brought up on the wrong side of the tracks in Canada, Alice Munro found reading – then writing – was an escape from a difficult home life. Described as a ‘shy housewife‘ when she won her first award, she has since been compared to Chekhov and is now, at 72, seen as the finest living writer of short stories.’




Alice Munro

Alice Munro


Alice Ann Munro (née Laidlaw; born 10 July 1931) is a Canadian author writing in English.

Munro was born Alice Ann Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario. Her father, Robert Eric Laidlaw, was a fox and mink farmer, and her mother, Anne Clarke Laidlaw (née Chamney), was a schoolteacher. Munro began writing as a teenager, publishing her first story, “The Dimensions of a Shadow,” in 1950 while studying English and journalism at the University of Western Ontario under a two-year scholarship.

munro-alice-2409During this period she worked as a waitress, a tobacco picker, and a library clerk. In 1951, she left the university, where she had been majoring in English since 1949, to marry fellow student James Munro. They moved to Dundarave, West Vancouver, for James’s job in a department store. In 1963, the couple moved to Victoria, where they opened Munro’s Books, which still operates. photo by Jerry Baker

In the 1950’s she married Jim Munro and bore four daughters; Catherine, the second, died shortly after she was born. In 1963 the Munros opened a bookstore in Victoria which soon made a good name for itself. During these years Munro struggled to piece together time for writing; she managed by writing short narrative forms and by constantly thinking about her characters and plots while doing housework or caring for her family.

In 1963, the Munros moved to Victoria where they opened Munro’s Books, a popular bookstore still in business. In 1966, their daughter Andrea was born. Alice and James Munro divorced in 1972. In 1976 she married the geographer Gerald Fremlin, with whom she still lives.

Munro returned to Ontario to become writer in residence at the University of Western Ontario, and in 1976 received an honorary LLD from the institution. In 1976, she married Gerald Fremlin, a cartographer and geographer she met in her university days. The couple moved to a farm outside Clinton, Ontario, and later to a house in Clinton, where Fremlin died on 17 April 2013, aged 88.

At a Toronto appearance in October 2009, Munro indicated that she had received treatment for cancer and for a heart condition requiring coronary-artery bypass surgery.

alicemunro_story1The focus of Munro’s fiction is her native Huron County in southwestern Ontario. Her “accessible, moving stories” explore human complexities in a seemingly effortless style. Munro’s writing has established her as “one of our greatest contemporary writers of fiction,” or, as Cynthia Ozick put it, “our Chekhov.”

Munro’s highly acclaimed first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), won the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s highest literary prize.[11] That success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories sometimes erroneously described as a novel. In 1978, Munro’s collection of interlinked stories Who Do You Think You Are? was published (titled The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose in the United States). This book earned Munro a second Governor General’s Literary Award.

Many of Munro’s stories are set in Huron County, Ontario. Her strong regional focus is one of the features of her fiction. Another is the omniscient narrator who serves to make sense of the world. Many compare Munro’s small-town settings to writers from the rural South of the United States. Her female characters, though, are more complex. Much of Munro’s work exemplifies the literary genre known as Southern Ontario Gothic.

Munro’s work is often compared with the great short-story writers. In her stories, as in Chekhov’s, plot is secondary and “little happens.” As with Chekhov, Garan Holcombe notes: “All is based on the epiphanic moment, the sudden enlightenment, the concise, subtle, revelatory detail.” Munro’s work deals with “love and work, and the failings of both. She shares Chekhov’s obsession with time and our much-lamented inability to delay or prevent its relentless movement forward.”

A frequent theme of her work—particularly evident in her early stories—has been the dilemmas of a girl coming of age and coming to terms with her family and the small town she grew up in. In recent work such as Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) and Runaway (2004) she has shifted her focus to the travails of middle age, of women alone and of the elderly. It is a mark of her style for characters to experience a revelation that sheds light on, and gives meaning to, an event.

Munro’s prose reveals the ambiguities of life: “ironic and serious at the same time,” “mottoes of godliness and honor and flaming bigotry,” “special, useless knowledge,” “tones of shrill and happy outrage,” “the bad taste, the heartlessness, the joy of it.” Her style places the fantastic next to the ordinary, with each undercutting the other in ways that simply and effortlessly evoke life.

As Robert Thacker notes: “Munro’s writing creates… an empathetic union among readers, critics most apparent among them. We are drawn to her writing by its verisimilitude – not of mimesis, so-called and… ‘realism’ – but rather the feeling of being itself… of just being a human being.”

From 1979 to 1982, she toured Australia, China and Scandinavia. In 1980 Munro held the position of writer in residence at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Queensland. Through the 1980s and 1990s, she published a short-story collection about once every four years.

Many critics have asserted that Munro’s stories often have the emotional and literary depth of novels. Some have asked whether Munro actually writes short stories or novels. Alex Keegan, writing in Eclectica, gave a simple answer: “Who cares? In most Munro stories there is as much as in many novels.”

Munro received her second Governor award exactly three decades after her first, in 1998, for The Progress of Love. The syuzhet (plot) of the “Progress of Love” is rather intriguing because it presents a coherent, yet “reorganized” rendition of specific and select events that have been chosen from the “complete, chronological story” that belongs to each one of the protagonists in this story. This “reorganized” rendition is, by nature, incomplete because it is not possible, nor is it desirable, to incorporate every detail and event into a concise story. In “The Progress of Love,” the rather difficult task of selecting and presenting specific elements and events was also compounded by the fact that Munro chose to interweave Fame’s story (ie. the narrator’s story) with another story that belonged to her mother- Marietta.

MUNRO progress of loveMunro, however, gracefully managed to leap over this hurdle by utilizing a narrative mode that shifted from the first person narrative mode to the third person and back again. A point which is made evident by the fact that this story moves from Fame’s story, which is written in the first person- to Marietta’s story, which is told in the third person.

Both of Fame and Marietta’s stories are also presented in a manner that gives these stories a subjective air, but this is an exceptionally deceptive illusion because neither one of these stories are subjective. As it has been suggested in the “New Anthology of Canadian Literature,” Fame and Marietta’s stories actually reflect a “new stage in Munro’s writing,” (p.661) a phase which has been associated with a desire to “emphasize the power of perception and memory” (p.661).

Towards the end of this story, for instance, Fame provides the reader with a detailed account of the memories that she has of her mother “burn[ing] up three thousand dollars,” (p.676) whilst under the protective watch of her husband. As it turns out, however, Fame’s father “did not know about it until that Sunday afternoon in Mr. Florence’s Chrysler.” (p.678) READ MORE

In 2005, TIME magazine named Munro a TIME 100 Honoree. “Alice Munro is 73 now, and she deserves the Nobel Prize,” TIME wrote. “Her fiction admits readers to a more intimate knowledge and respect for what they already possess.”

In 2009, Munro won the Man Booker International Prize, honoring her lifetime body of work. That same year, she published the short-story collection Too Much Happiness.

Munro would go on to publish 13 short-story collections by her 80th birthday. Most recently, in 2012, she published Dear Life—her final story collection, according to the writer, who announced that she was retiring from writing in June 2013.

Munro’s stories have appeared frequently in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Mademoiselle, and The Paris Review. In interviews to promote her 2006 collection The View from Castle Rock, Munro suggested that she might not publish any further collections. She later recanted and published further work. Her collection Too Much Happiness was published in August 2009. Her story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” was adapted for the screen and directed by Sarah Polley as Away from Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. It debuted at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost to No Country for Old Men.

On 10 October 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, cited as a “master of the contemporary short story“. She is the first Canadian and the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win,” said Munro when contacted by The Canadian Press.

The recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature and the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, she is also a three-time winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction.

Alfred Nobel had broad cultural interests. During his early youth, he developed his literary interests which lasted throughout his life. His library consisted of a rich and broad selection of literature in different languages. During the last years of his life, he tried his hand as an author and began writing fiction.

Literature was the fourth prize area Nobel mentioned in his will.

The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy, Stockholm, Sweden.

Associated PRESS stated: ” STOCKHOLM (AP) — Canadian writer Alice Munro won this year’s Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday.

The Swedish Academy, which selects Nobel literature winners, called her a “master of the contemporary short story.”

She’s the first Canadian writer to receive the prestigious $1.2 million award since Saul Bellow, who won in 1976 and left for the U.S. as a boy.

Munro’s writing has brought her numerous awards. She won a National Book Critics Circle prize for “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” and is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s prize, Canada’s highest literary honor.

Often compared to Anton Chekhov, the 82-year-old writer has attained near-canonical status as a thorough, but forgiving, documenter of the human spirit.

Her published work often turns on the difference between Munro’s growing up in Wingham, a conservative Canadian town west of Toronto, and her life after the social revolution of the 1960s.

In an interview with AP in 2003, she described the ’60s as “wonderful.”

It was “because, having been born in 1931, I was a little old, but not too old, and women like me after a couple of years were wearing miniskirts and prancing around,” she said.

Last year’s Nobel literature award went to Mo Yan of China.

The 2013 Nobel announcements continue Friday with the Nobel Peace Prize, followed by the economics prize on Monday.”

In 2013, Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her work as “master of the modern short story”.

In 2002, her daughter Sheila Munro published a childhood memoir, Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up With Alice Munro.

Alice Munro Literary GardenAlice Munro Literary Garden 273 Josephine St, Wingham, ON N0G 2W0 ‎
(519) 357-1096.


Fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood, who acknowledges Munro as a shame-busting, truth-telling pioneer, has stressed the broad life-spanning perspective in her tales: “She writes about the difficulties faced by people who are bigger or smaller than they are expected to be. When her protagonists look back… the older people they have become possess within them all of the people that they have been. She’s very good on what people expect, and then on the letdown.”


“More than any writer since Chekhov, Munro strives for and achieves, in each of her stories, a gestaltlike completeness in the representation of a life. She always had a genius for developing and unpacking moments of epiphany. But it’s in the three collections since Selected Stories (1996) that she’s taken the really big, world-class leap and become a master of suspense. The moments she’s pursuing now aren’t moments of realization; they’re moments of fateful, irrevocable, dramatic action. And what this means for the reader is you can’t even begin to guess at a story’s meaning until you’ve followed every twist; it’s always the last page or two that switches all lights on.” (Jonathan Franzen, 2004)


A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this prolific writer into our global alumni with open arms, in gratitude for her devotion to bettering the lives of all through the written word.


Brava Alice!



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