A friend of mine called me at 6:48 yesterday morning, knowing full well I would be up. “Have you heard the news?”
My extreme fondness for the British Royal Family, a fact about me that everyone who knows me knows, prompted me to brace myself that something had happened to the Queen. “What news?”
“About the Nobel.”
Now I caught what he was referring to, even though I hadn’t heard the news. “It’s Alice Munro? Oh, it’s about time.”
My friend knew not only that I would be up that early in the morning but also that I would be thrilled at the choice of Alice Munro to be this year’s Nobel laureate in literature.
Knowing me brings the knowledge that Munro is my favorite contemporary fiction writer, that my adoration for her was “set in stone,” as it were, in my 2008 book The Fiction of Alice Munro (Praeger). With Munro, we talk only about “fiction,” disregarding the annoying separation of the short story from the novel, a division that falls down meaningless in the face of the strength and resonance of her fiction. With her Nobel win, the “step-sister” status of the short story persistent in the views of readers and critics has exploded and can now settle into a more accurate and natural understanding that there is just “fiction,” period. At once elegant and free from ornament, her prose eases its way into the soul of a character and—this is why readers return to her again and again—simultaneously into the heart of ourselves. With no fuss, she shows how humans comport themselves in love and in pain, in loss and in gain, and she does this with empathy, precision, and a fondness for our quirks. The Nobel committee has made tremendous sense with this year’s winner. They’ve selected someone who is avidly read.