Alice Munro

From Academic Kids

Alice Munro (born Alice Ann Laidlaw on July 10, 1931) is a noted Canadian short story writer. Munro is widely considered to be one of the greatest short story writers in modern literature.




Alice Munro was born in the small rural town of Wingham, Ontario to a farming family. She began writing as a teenager and published her first story, "The Dimensions of a Shadow," while a student at the University of Western Ontario in 1950. She left university to marry James Munro and move to Vancouver in 1951. Her daughters Shelia and Jenny were born in 1953 and 1957 respectively. In 1963 she moved to Victoria and established Munro Books. In 1966, her third daughter, Sarah was born.

Her first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades, was not published until 1968, but was highly acclaimed and won that year’s Governor General's Award, Canada’s highest literary prize. This success was followed by Lives of Girls and Women (1971), a collection of interlinked stories that was published as a novel. She and James Munro were divorced in 1972 when she returned to Ontario to become Writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario. She married Gerald Fremlin in 1976 and they moved to a farm outside Clinton, Ontario, where they continue to live.

In 1978, Munro's Who Do You Think You Are? was published (titled Beggar Maid in American editions); wining the Governor General’s Literary Award for the second time. From 1979 to 1982, she toured Australia, China and Scandinavia. In 1980 she held the position of Writer-in-residence at both the University of British Columbia and the University of Queensland. Through the 1980s and 1990s Munro published a short-story collection about once every four years, to increasing acclaim; winning both national and international awards (see Works and Awards and honours below).

In 2002, her daughter Sheila Munro published a childhood memoir, Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing Up With Alice Munro.

Writing style

Many of Munro’s stories are set in Huron County, Ontario. Her strong regional focus is one of the features of her fiction. Another is the all-knowing narrator who serves to make sense of the world. Many compare Munro's small town settings to American writers of the rural South. As in the writing of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, her characters, often confront deep-rooted customs and traditions. However, the reaction of Munro's characters is less intense than their southern counterparts. Thus, particularly with respect to her male characters, she may be said to capture the essense of everyman. Her female characters, though, are more complex. Much of Munro's work exemplifies the literary genre known as Southern Ontario Gothic.

A frequent theme of her work is the dilemmas of a girl coming of age and coming to terms with her family and the small town she grew up in. In recent work she has shifted her focus to the travails of middle age, of women alone and of the elderly. It is a mark of her style for characters to experience a revelation that sheds light on, and gives meaning to, an event.

Munro's spare and lucid language and command of detail gives her fiction a "remarkable precision," as Helen Hoy observes. Munro's prose reveals the ambiguities of life: "ironic and serious at the same time," "mottoes of godliness and honor and flaming bigotry," "special, useless knowledge," "tones of shrill and happy outrage," "the bad taste, the heartlessness, the joy of it." Her style places the fantastic next to the ordinary with each undercutting the other in ways that simply, and effortlessly, evoke life.[1] ( As Thacker (1998) notes:

Munro's writing creates what amounts almost to an empathetic union among readers, critics most apparent among them. We are drawn to her writing by its verisimilitude—not of mimesis, so-called and... 'realism'—but rather the feeling of being itself... of just being a human being [2] (


In addition, Munro has published three "best of" volumes, collecting stories previously published in the above-noted books:

Her stories frequently appear in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Grand Street, Mademoiselle, and The Paris Review.

Awards and honours

Alice Munro is that rare Canadian whose fame abroad matches the admiration she enjoys in Canada. She is the only person to have won the Governor General's Award three times, for Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), Who Do You Think You Are? (1978) and The Progress of Love (1986). She has won the WH Smith Literary Award in the U.K.; the National Book Critics Circle Award in the U.S.; the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction; the Rea Award for the Short Story; the Trillium Book Award and the Libris Award. She has also won the Canada-Australia Literary Prize, the Canadian Booksellers Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize Regional Award for Canada and the Caribbean.

In 1986 she was awarded the Marian Engel Award for her body of work. In 1993 she was awarded the Royal Society of Canada's Lorne Pierce Medal.

On November 11, 2004, Munro won the Giller Prize for her short story collection Runaway. It is her second Giller; her first was won in 1998 for The Love of a Good Woman. Runaway was also selected as a candidate in the CBC's 2004 edition of Canada Reads.

Munro received the Medal of Honor for Literature from the U.S. National Arts Club in February 2005. The award, given annually for a body of work of literary excellence was presented to Munro was at a ceremony in New York hosted by novelist Russell Banks that included tributes by former winner Margaret Atwood and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham [3] (


  • Hoy, H. 1980. "'Dull, Simple, Amazing and Unfathomable': Paradox and Double Vision In Alice Munro's Fiction." Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne (SCL/ÉLC), Volume 5.1.
  • Thacker, R. 1998. Review of Some other reality: Alice Munro's Something I've been Meaning to Tell You, by Louis K. MacKendrick. Journal of Canadian Studies, Summer 1998.

External links

  • Munro, Alice ( The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  • Alice Munro ( A Biocritical Essay of Munro's earlier work by Thomas E. Tausky (1986) The University of Calgary Library Special Collections.
  • A Quiet Genius ( Review by Mona Simpson (2001) The Atlantic Alice Munro

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