1. ranjit23das

    ranjit23das Member

    Jul 29, 2012
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    Leeds, UK

    Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by ranjit23das, Dec 26, 2013.


    When I read that Alice Munro had won the prize I bought a kindle copy of her book, "Dear Life". I am only half way through the collection of short stories but my impression so far has been that the stories are nice but her writing style is nothing special.

    She writes in a very detached and matter-of-fact style, so making it hard for the reader to find resonance/ emphasize with the characters and their bad fortune. For example, one character's mother leaves the father for an actor and in their drugged out haze the character's sibling drowns. Two dramatic moments in a short story but I felt no sympathy for any of the characters. In another story, a young female teacher teaching in a TB clinic in the fifties is seduced by the doctor in the clinic and loses her virginity to him. He promises to marry her but later leaves her at the alter. Again, a very sorry tale but I am not left with feelings of empathy for the teacher or feeling angry towards the doctor.

    Maybe I am missing something? Happy to stand corrected.
  2. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Your post is a good reminder that no author will appeal to all people. I don't love Alice Munro's writing either, and for the reasons you've stated, but I consider her a worthy-enough winner. There are people who don't want an emotional ride when they're reading; they prefer the content of a story to be matter-of-fact, ordinary and 'realistic.' I think Alice Munro appeals to those people, but not to the likes of you and me.

    I think it's important to keep this idea in mind, as a writer. Not everybody is going to like what you do. It's important that some people 'get' what you're doing, and like what you're doing. They're the ones you should really listen to, when it comes to suggestions for improvement. They are your target audience. Obviously you and I are not Alice Munro's target audience!

    I would feel more aggrieved about her winning the prize if I thought Alice Munro was a 'bad' writer—but she clearly is not. Just not my cup of tea. So fair enough.
  3. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Jul 17, 2008
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    I guess we should be asking whether or not sympathizing with characters is important. I don't think it's important, but your opinion may be different, which is perfectly fine. Besides, I don't think Munro's goal is to get the reader to sympathize with the character but rather to understand his/her situation.

    By the way, have you read any other short story writers of this genre? Munro is no doubt influenced by masters of the form such as Chekhov, Maupassant, etc. Maybe if you start with those guys, you'll come to understand why she writes the way she does.
  4. Fitzroy Zeph

    Fitzroy Zeph Contributor Contributor

    Nov 7, 2013
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    I'd not read Alice Munro, although we have a couple of her collections up in our bookcase. Being Canadian myself and her winning the Nobel, quickly prompted me to drag them down and have a go. Like @jannert said, she's not for everyone, but her writing style is very good, and as a writer, you could do a lot worse than select a few short stories of hers to read. As for winning the Nobel, Canadians were extremely proud of her achievement.

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