Saturday, March 1, 2014

Books by Alice Munro - February 24, 2014

A selection of her books
Alice Munro

We tried a different format for this meeting and decided since Alice Munro is the 2013 winner of the Nobel prize for Literature to each read different collections of her short stories and discuss the short story format and Ms. Munro's style. Michèle presented the author.

It is the middle of winter and several of our members have escaped the wind, snow and cold so we were only six. Beth, Colette, Jane, Jolene, Shirley and Michèle were present. Jane prepared a nice feast using almost only Ontario products, cheese, cheeseballs, a lovely meatloaf with Ontario meat and Chapman's ice cream that is made Markdale, Ontario not 100 km from Wingham where Alice Munro was born.

Alice Munro was born Alice Laidlaw in July 1931. Her father was a mink farmer and her mother a teacher. She was raised in Wingham, Ontario, and in 1949 won a two year scholarship to the University of Western Ontario where she studied English and Journalism. She met both James Munro and Gerald Fremlin at University.  While at university she published three stories in the University magazine Folio. In 1951 when her scholarship money was finished, she left university marrying James Munro. They subsequently moved to British Columbia.  During this time Alice sold several of her stories to CBC radio for the Robert Weaver program Canadian Short Stories.  She published her first collection of short stories in 1968 - Dance of the Happy Shades and went on to publish a total of 14 collections along with many short stories in the magazine The New Yorker and other literary magazines.

In 1972 Alice Munro left her marriage and British Columbia and moved back to Ontario.  She married Gerald Fremlin in 1976 and lived in Clinton until his death in 2013.

Alice Munro won three Governor General's Awards, two Giller Prizes and several other awards, the most prestigious being the Nobel prize for Literature in 2013.

The great majority of her stories take place in small town Ontario and she has been able to describe in concise prose small town life and the Ontario landscape allowing us to easily imagine the surroundings in which a story takes place.  She has often taken her own and other family member experiences as the basis of her stories. Some people in her hometown of Wingham, sometimes felt that her characters and stories were a bit too similar to reality and she was sometimes criticized in local newspapers.

Many of Ms. Munro's stories have dark story lines and linger on the unsavory parts of her characters leaving them with few endearing qualities. A couple of her collections, notably Runaway have stories that are brighter. Several of our members decided they preferred a novel to short stories.  They sometimes felt as if there wasn't quite enough in a story to satisfy them. However all were pleased to have had the opportunity to read and discover Alice Munro's works.  The short story format pleased some who have a very busy life, allowing them to read completely one story in a sitting.

Several Canadian authors began writing short stories, Margaret Atwood, Morley Callahan, Roch Carrier, Lyn Coady, Robertson Davies, Margaret Laurence and most notably Mavis Gallant who died recently. Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant both wrote exclusively short story collections and have an international reputation.

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