Under the Christmas tree for me this year:
This last book has made every top 10 list I have seen. Although the octogenarian author Alice Munro has been writing for decades, it’s only in recent years – since she received the Man Booker prize in 2009, that she’s received this sort of entirely deserved recognition.
She is much loved-by-writers and arguably the best-living English language short story writer alive and writing today.
It’s certainly not because she’s a short story writer; short stories don’t sell as well as novels, which themselves don’t sell as well as non-fiction.
And it’s not because of her subject matter which falls into that sometimes pejoratively labelled category called ‘domestic’ - for more on this see Meg Wolitzer’s brilliant essay on The Second Shelf: The Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women in the NY Times earlier this year.
The two main reasons (in addition to great writing, characters, plots, etc.) are:
1. Her stories are quintessentially novelistic: she manages to covey entire lives in 30 pages in a way no one else ever has
2. She has a unique relationship with time so the events never unfold either chronologically or with the sort of predictable, so called “earned” or set up flashbacks the rest of us mere mortals use. Her use of time is unique and entirely in keeping with how the brain, memory, and life actually work.
To prove that I am a die-hard fan, I offer the following photo of me in front of Munro’s Books in Victoria, Canada, a terrific independent bookstore Alice started with her first husband in the 1960s: