There’s something deeply satisfying about the Nobel Prize for Literature being given to short story writer Alice Munro. Munro is one of the few authors who have received acclaim on the basis of short fiction only, and the award is an affirmation of the story’s significance. She even told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.”
Personally, I think stories can be more powerful than a novel. You can’t really escape in a short story, it demands too much concentration. It demands that the reader bring as much to the story as the writer. I recall in another interview Munro said she often took more than a month to write a single story, and I think it can similarly take about that amount of time to come to an understanding of a story.
Often Munro’s stories seem, at first read, a somewhat haphazard amassing of scenes and recollections. But the second and third time through, I begin to see a pattern, an arc that builds, almost like an argument. I agree with this comment by Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize: “If you read Alice Munro, sooner or later you will stand face to face with yourself and you will go from that meeting a different person.”