(Updated to include an even better, face-to-face interview with Alice Munro.)
When news came through that Alice Munro had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the outpouring of joy on her behalf was astonishing. While some recent winners have evoked a “who the heck is that?” response, Munro’s short story brilliance is known around the world, and almost universally celebrated. (There are those who don’t like Dickens, either.)
Last week, ahead of Tuesday’s official ceremony in snowy Stockholm, Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told Canadian Press: “From my 10 years experience handing out the Nobel Prize, I’ve never seen a prize so popular.”
The reaction in good old Canada was particularly giddy, despite absurdly careful media reports referring to her as the first Canadian “woman” to win the Nobel Prize, since, after all, previous winner Saul Bellow had spent the first nine years of his life in Quebec. Sigh.
However, unlike Bellow and Booker/Giller Prize recipient Eleanor Catton, who resided in the Great White North until she was all of six, Alice Munro is a life-long Canadian. All her literary influences are here. She’s ours, folks, her influence on Canadian readers profound.
To mark this wonderful moment in our literary history, a few of us have organized a night of appreciation and readings devoted to Alice Munro’s prodigious body of work. The list of speakers/readers is impressive:
Shaena Lambert; Hal Wake; Anakana Schofield; Sandy Garossino; Actor Tom Scholte; Caroline Adderson; Anne Giardini (novelist and Carol Shields’ daughter); Cynthia FLood; Cathleen With; Aislinn Hunter (Alice’s cousin); Betsy Warland; Fiona Lam; Elise Partridge; and me.
Host for the evening is the Globe and Mail’s superb arts correspondent, Marsha Lederman, while the tireless Kerry Gold has been chief motivator.
We are calling the event, Munro’s Books, with the kind permission of her ex-husband, Jim, who runs the great bookstore of that name in Victoria.
It takes place Thursday night, 7 o’clock, at The Tangent Café, 2095 Commercial Drive. Snow or no snow. Craft beer on tap. Free admission. Y’all come, now. It should be quite the evening.
To whet your appetite, here is a lovely recent interview with the great Alice Munro, done by Swedish television for the Nobel Prize folks.