Thursday, May 28, 2009

Richly Deserved

Canadian short story writer Alice Munro has won the $60,000 Man Booker International Prize. This is the third awarding of this biennial prize. Unlike the much more well-known Booker Award this one is for the body of work, not just a single one.

The judge’s panel said “Alice Munro is mostly known as a short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels’. Hear! Hear! One of my favourite authors I have always felt her portrayal of the contemporary human conditon is superb. She captures the ambiguities of existence better than any one else. Every winter I tend to specialise with one writer. The last three have been Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and last winter Alice Munro. She keeps good company.

A depression baby like me Munro grew up in SW Ontario. This area has been the major setting for her stories. Her father had a silver fox farm hit hard by the slump. Her descriptions of her family’s and neighbours’ hardships during these times are both bleak and rewarding revealing a deep understanding of human relationships.

I feel she understands men very well while the subtlety of her woman characters is a joy to this reader, often baffled by female complexity. Their dilemmas as they grow up, encounter traditional small-town behaviour, deal with courtship, marriage, break-up, divorce, the troubles of middle age and the loneliness of old age are impressively presented. Her stories are an art form. The spare and lucid prose counterpoints enlightenment and bigotry.

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