On Saturday, July 10, 2021, Alice Munro will turn 90. Since she is , so far, Canada’s only Nobel Prizewinner for Literature, this will be an occasion for the country to mark with pride.
In 1921 The Wingham Advance-Times announced the birth: “Laidlaw – In Wingham General Hospital on Friday, July 10th, to Mr. and Mrs. R.E. Laidlaw, a daughter, Alice Ann.” From that simple beginning in Huron County, Ontario, Alice Laidlaw went on to a career that involved meeting and marrying a man at Western named Jim Munro. In time he became a bookseller in Victoria, with his wife Alice working in the bookstore, while producing three fine daughters and, oh yes, writing short stories on the side.
Those short stories proved to be the beginning of a major literary career, so that one important magazine, The Atlantic, stated with confidence in 2001 that “Alice Munro is the living writer most likely to be read in a hundred years’ time.”
Consider the list of books that she has produced over her career– all of them, please note, collections of short stories, although one of them, Lives of Girls and Women, 1971, was inaccurately presented as a novel, because of the publishing world’s belief in those days that “short stories don’t sell”. Alice Munro helped to change that.
In order of publication Alice Munro’s books are, Dance of the Happy Shades, Lives of Girls and Women, Something I’ve been Meaning to Tell You, Who Do You Think You Are? (published outside Canada with the inferior title The Beggar Maid), The Moons of Jupiter, The Progress of Love, Friend of My Youth, Open Secrets, Selected Stories, The Love of a Good Woman, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Runaway, and The View from Castle Rock. An astonishing record.
Now, sadly, Alice is not writing any new material. Instead she is living quietly at home in small town, Ontario, and is avoiding any further public engagements. But her stories live on, and her millions of admirers, like me, (and I was lucky enough to work with her from Who Do You Think You Are? onward until The View from Castle Rock) will wish to celebrate her long life.