Alice Munro is the winner of this year's Nobel Prize for literature. Here are a couple of excerpts from The New Republic's writings about Munro:Chloe Schama on Dear Life, 2012:
In a piece published in the National Post yesterday, Alice Munro—hours after winning the Trillium Book Award for her short story collection Dear Life—told a reporter that she was “probably not going to write anymore.” “Not that I didn’t love writing,” she added, “but I think you do get to a stage where you sort of think about your life in a different way.
It’s that season again: time for the annual purge of my bookshelves. As usual, my ambition outstripped my reviewing appetite this year, and I’m left facing a shelf full of worthy titles that I somehow never got around to. So, as I did in this space last year, I’m making my year-end compilation not a greatest-hits list but a list of the books I regret not having written about. Among them are two novels (one a very impressive debut), the best collection of short fiction I’ve read in years, an essay collection, and a memoir. Open City, by Teju Cole (Random House).
The Free World By David Bezmozgis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 356 pp., $26) To call a short-story writer Chekhovian is among the worst of the book reviewer’s clichés, a lazy shorthand that no longer means anything other than that the person writes very good short stories. But what is often forgotten amid the contemporary adulation of Chekhov as the master of the form—in fact he was the master only of a certain kind of short tale—is that, after a couple of early attempts, he declined to write novels.
The idea for “The Lottery,” first published in 1948 and now one of the most widely anthologized works of American fiction, came to Shirley Jackson while she was pushing her baby daughter in her stroller. When they got home, she writes in an essay included in the new Library of America collection of her writings, she put away her groceries, put the baby in a playpen, and in a single sitting wrote the story, which describes, without elaboration or allegory, a village ritual in which the inhabitants gather annually to stone one of their neighbors.
A few years ago, the Mexican literary magazine Letras Libres asked me to write an essay about major trends in the last decade of American literature. The more I thought about what such trends might be, the less convinced I became that there even was such a thing as “American literature” anymore. The books that had interested me most in the late 1990s and early 2000s were by writers who were emigrants or members of minority ethnic groups: Ha Jin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, Nathan Englander.
The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A worthy follow-up to Adichie’s magnificent novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, this collection of short stories explores the lives of African women, at home and abroad. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer. The title sounds like a bad joke, but Dyer’s novel-in-two-parts, like his standout book of essays, demonstrates how deeply innovative a writer he is. Every Man Dies Alone, by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hoffman.
The Ministry of Special CasesBy Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf, 339 pp., $25) IN ONE OF the best-known stories in For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, the collection of short stories that shot Nathan Englander into the literary stratosphere seven years ago, a middle-aged WASP sitting in a taxi cab has the sudden and inexplicable revelation that he is Jewish. The next day he visits a rabbi in Brooklyn, who informs him that he is a gilgul, or reincarnated soul, and sends him off with a copy of The Chosen.
AWAY FROM HERLionsgate FRACTURENew Line WHAT A TREAT it is to watch Sarah Polley’s career flourish. First, her acting. A few months ago she was in The Secret Life of Words,where she created a young woman stilled by gross experience. Now, after directing several shorts, Polley has directed her first feature, Away From Her (in which she does not appear).