Unless you live under a rock or simply do not care about literature at all (why are you here, by the way?), then you probably know by now that Alice Munro was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. I heard the news this morning on NPR. I gave a whoop and started to cry; I was so happy to hear the news because Alice Munro is my favorite author, and I know I’m not alone!
“This is quite a wonderful thing for me. It’s a wonderful thing for the short story.”—Alice Munro
But another reason to be happy is that this is such a significant award given to a writer dedicated to the short story form. I did not know, until I started this blog and became acquainted with other book bloggers, how many readers–even readers of ‘serious’ literature–have an aversion to the short story. I’ve often wondered why that is, but the attitude is not an uncommon one, even if the reasons are singular and unique.
“Because I work in the short story form, this is a special thing, to get this recognition.” —Alice Munro
Earlier this year, an article on Gawker took American writer George Saunders to task for never having written a novel. The premise? Real writers write novels…enough playing at all this short story business. Short stories are for MFA theses. They are for dallying and tinkering with between writing real books. They are not serious literature. That story garnered quite a bit of criticism when it was published, but hopefully now we can begin to put the debate to rest (or at least lock it in a closet where we can’t hear the muffled cries of outrage).
In honor of Ms. Munro being awarded the prize, I thought I would share a list of some of my favorite short story collections. I hope you find something you like here.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Love, Marriage, by Alice Munro (Favorite stories: “Post and Beam” and the title story, soon to be a movie starring Kristin Wiig. Candian actress, director, and activist Sarah Polley also made the film Away from Her, which was based on “The Bear Came over the Mountain,” the last story in this collection.)
Rare and Endangered Species, by Richard Bausch
Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore
Paris Stories, by Mavis Gallant
Cowboys Are My Weakness, by Pam Houston
American Salvage, by Bonnie Jo Campbell
After Rain, by William Trevor
Ship Fever, by Andrea Barrett
The Collected Stories, Flannery O’Connor
Wonders of the Invisible World, by David Gates
A Relative Stranger, by Charles Baxter
Monogamy, by Marly Swick
Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill
An Amateur’s Guide to the Night Sky, Mary Robison
Female Trouble, by Antonia Nelson
In the Garden of North American Martyrs, by Tobias Wolff
Delicate, Edible Birds, by Lauren Groff
“Well I hope [the prize brings a new readership], and I would hope this would happen not just for me but for the short story in general, because it’s often sort of brushed off you know as something people do before they write their first novel, and I would like it to come to the fore without any strings attached sort of. It doesn’t have to be a novel.” —Alice Munro
*Alice Munro quotes from her telephone interview today with Nobel member Adam Smith. You can listen to the call in its entirety here.
**Image from The New York Times
***Updated 10/14/2013 to add link for short story, “The Bear Came over the Mountain,” now available on The New Yorker site.