Interview: Munro Nobel Prize win boosts Canadian bookstore

2013-10-12 06:44:24 GMT2013-10-12 14:44:24(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Al Campbell, Huang Xiaonan & Ma Xiaocheng

VICTORIA, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Alice Munro's Nobel Prize win in literature has proven lucrative not just for the celebrated Canadian writer, but for the British Columbia bookstore she co-founded with her ex-husband.

When it was announced in Sweden on Wednesday that the 82-year-old author of short stories had been awarded one of literature's highest honors, fans descended on Munro's Books in Victoria and bought out the store's complete Munro catalogue, which has 14 titles in all.

James Munro, who was married to the author from 1951 to 1972 and co-founded the book store with his then-wife in 1963, said fans and media were gathered outside the building before it opened for the day, after news broke of the win in the early hours of the morning.

With the author was no longer involved in the bookstore and declining to do interviews, James Munro said he had been fielding media requests from all over the world.

He said he had spoken to his ex-wife -- who lives in Comox north of Victoria and is the first Canadian woman to receive the prize -- following her win, which comes with a check for 8 million Swedish krona (about 1.23 million U.S. dollars).

"Well, she was a little bit confused. It was early in the morning, but very, very pleased. And she seemed to have forgotten or really not known that she was on any kind of a shortlist for the Nobel Prize," James Munro said Thursday.

"I think she was quite surprised, and a lot of people were, but you know I wasn't all that surprised ... I have read some of her stories that got published in Dance of the Happy Shades and I thought that was as good as any short story ever written. I've always felt that. So it's a wonderful thing that she's won this, but I just think it's really well deserved."

Alice Munro, who began writing as a young mother of three children in the late 1950s, originally gained recognition for her short stories. Most are set in rural Ontario where she grew up in the 1930s and 1940s, and feature common themes such as young girls coming of age, small towns and relationships, which have struck a chord with readers across the world.

In 1968, her first collection of short stories, Dance of the Happy Shades, was published and won Canada's prestigious Governor General's Literary Award the same year. She was 37 years old at the time, and since then has never looked back -- going on to win the award twice more, as well as several others.

"When I began writing there was a very small community of Canadian writers and little attention was paid by the world," she told Postmedia News. "I'm so thrilled to be chosen as this year's Nobel Prize for Literature recipient. I hope it fosters further interest in all Canadian writers. I also hope this brings further recognition to the short story form."

Alice Munro's prose can best be described as elongated short stories, and has proven favorable with many readers who are unwilling to plough through lengthy novels.

"I like to read one at one sitting and then go on to another at another time. So the format I like very much," said customer Gary Lacharit, while perusing the titles on the shelf at Munro's Books. "And she (Munro) is the master of short stories. She has developed a style that's very, very comfortable. It's like putting on an old pair of slippers to read her."

Some critics have called her "Canada's Chekov," likening her to the Russian short story master.

Ex-husband James Munro said she is extremely careful with her writing and if she's not happy with the outcome, rewrites will ensue.

"(Her) characters are very carefully delineated. Everything is made very, very real," he said. "That's a real art to be valued. Beautifully done, she makes ordinary people important."

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