Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature this year.
Not for the first time, the prize is awarded to a writer I have never read. In the past years, more often than not, I have not even heard of the prize winners.
Goes to show my unsophisticated taste in literature, I guess.
Alice Munro I had at least heard of, but never gotten around to reading. In order to amend this, I bought her much acclaimed collection of short stories: Dear Life. As an audiobook. I enjoy being read to.
The collection holds 14 short stories, her preferred format, I am told.
Each of the stories is like a novel-in-miniature, most of them set in the rural towns around Lake Huron in Munro’s native Ontario. Small-town people leading small-town lives. The small-town pace reflected in her slow flowing, low keyed use of language, free of rhetorical flourishes. Running smooth and unrippled, hinting at something deep and hidden below. Not one word out of place, though, not one cliché, not one empty word. Amazing.
The stories are relievingly narrative-based and straightforward. We are convinced that the characters have real lives before the stories commence and continuing existences after. We are given a glimpse into the lives of ordinary everyday people, we witness real life-in-progress.
But the straightforwardness is deceptive.
In the stories, lives are forever altered by chance encounters, actions not taken, or by simple twists of fate that turn a person out of his or her accustomed path and into a new way of being or thinking. We become witnesses to these crucial moments.
Life is not straightforward, not to small-town-people, not to me.
Munro gives an indelible portrait of how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.
She made my top 20 list of authors. Easily.