Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alice in NobelLand

A toast, a toast to the greatest writer of short stories in the world - Alice Munro, a woman who beams ferocious shards of light into the heart of small town Ontario. Who would ever have thought, 30 years ago, that those intimate stories of Canadian women and children and the men they love and hate would be awarded the Nobel Prize? There is justice. Particularly now, because Alice is ill and a recent widow - this great honour, and its accompanying pile of dough, came just in time. Proud proud proud.

I wish the news people would stop calling her the second Canadian Nobel for Literature, after Saul Bellow, who left Canada when he was nine and as far as I know, never came back. (I just checked that on Wikipedia, and learned that Bellow's Russian-Jewish mother's maiden name was Gordin. Which was the uncommon name of my Russian-Jewish great-grandfather Jacob Gordin, the Jewish Shakespeare. So Saul Bellow the Canadian and I are quite possibly related!)

I just heard a clip of an interview Alice Munro did with the late Peter Gzowski, talking about how each time she begins a story, it's as if all the others she's written do not exist, like starting from scratch. She was quoted as saying this morning, with her customary generosity, that this award would help the cause of Canadian literature generally. And I think she's right.

In the late seventies, my parents went to China. Dad brought some paperbacks with him, among them Munro's "Lives of Girls and Women." I have the notebook he kept during the trip, detailing the scientists he was visiting, the meals, and the books he read. Beside the name of that book, he wrote, "Send to Beth." And he did. It was the first Munro I'd read and I loved it, as did he; we discussed it avidly.

Brava, Alice Munro. A whole country is prouder today. And we Canadian writers are glowing with reflected light.

Speaking of reflected light - and the lives of girls and women - Brucie and I just came back from seeing a documentary, "Vermeer and Music," about Vermeer's many paintings that include musical instruments. The doc ended with the sad information that when this greatest of geniuses died, at the age of 43, he was nearly penniless. So many brilliant artists are not appreciated during their lifetimes. Thank God, this great Canadian writer is.


  1. I'll bet Margaret Atwood is jealous as all heck!

  2. I did wonder, for a brief moment, if when she heard, she thought, "Well, there goes mine." It would be unusual for two Canadian women to win in short order, though it might happen - Atwood has an extraordinary body of work too. I think she's genuinely happy for and proud of her friend. But also, maybe inside, yes, a teeny tiny bit jealous.