Alice Munro has been named the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. Way back in 2006, The Cincinnati Review featured three reviews of her collection The View from Castle Rock. Did our prescient Managing Editor Nicola Mason call it early for Munro, knowing that a mere seven years later, she would win the big one?
She is claiming “yes.” In fact, she bet on it and has been gloating since yesterday. Assistant Editor Sara Watson bet big on Phillip Roth, and will be forking over part of her UC stipend to buy office pizza every other Friday. Assistant Editor Brian Brodeur thought Haruki Murakami was a shoo-in, and now has to shave his precious New England beard. Associate Editor Brian Trapp thought the day would belong to Bob Dylan, and now has to sing in a whiny, gravelly, late -Bob Dylan voice “Blowin’ in the Wind” whenever Nicola claps twice. If they’d read the reviews in CR 4.1, they would have known: Don’t ever bet against Munro. In her twelfth collection, she mines her own ancestral and personal history to create fiction that spans centuries and comes closest to her own life. Here are brief excerpts of what our astute reviewers had to say:
Dika Lam: Though Alice Munro doesn’t immediately come to mind as a spinner of costume dramas, I believe her work already carries the weight of historical record—born of another era entirely, when it was scandalous for a girl to ride a bike past the age of thirteen, when ladies didn’t smoke, when one had to burn sawdust in the furnace for heat (as the cash-strapped Laidlaws do in “The Ticket”). Though The View from Castle Rock opens and closes with images of graveyards, it is far from moribund, reminding us that fiction, no matter how closely aligned to real life, is as compelling as anything promoted with the authority of memoir.
Scott Kaukonen: Perhaps the writing of such stories is an attempt to validate that family history, that personal history, but writing it as fiction, gives us—as writers, as storytellers—the freedom to reach for something more. We seek significance, meaning, understanding—of those early settlers, of our fathers and mothers, of ourselves—and it is in stories that we work this out. It’s a refusal to leave the stories untold, the lives unacknowledged, as though those lives—our lives—had nothing to tell us.
William Pierce: But this hypothetical revue, this story-by-story lineup, would eventually reach the second half of the book. And there I’d drop to my knees. The stories of part two—those germinating from details of Munro’s life—show a major figure of world literature at work. They stand among the best Munro has written, and to comment on them, to point out a few of their strengths and shocks and techniques, feels like standing by the ocean and attempting to describe why the water calls to us and how the waves curl. They spark the writer in me, wow the editor, and shrink the critic to a healthy irrelevance—all without depressing me in the least, though they balk at nothing.