On 10th October, which was last Thursday, the result of the Nobel Literature Prize 2013 was announced to be Alice Munro, a Canadian author. I haven’t read anything of hers, but I hear she writes short stories, and had had several of her stories adapted to film, such as “The Bear Came Over The Mountain” which became Away From Her starring Julie Christie. I’m no short story fan myself, but I have read a few good ones in my time, and I strongly believe that an author who can write short stories to perfection has sometimes more skill than a novelist.
The recipient of last year’s award was Mo Yan, and I haven’t read anything of his either. I wondered if perhaps it was just me, so I set out to find the list of laureates over the years, from 1901 onwards, to see if there was even 1 person I know.
I picked out many familiar names, namely Rudyard Kipling (1907), William Butler Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), T S Eliot (1948), William Faulkner (1949), Winston Churchill (1953 — yes, even history and memoirs can give you prizes), Ernest Hemingway (1954), John Steinbeck (1962). However, quite unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of their books. These awards are given only to living authors, by the way, so don’t hope anymore for Enid Blyton to win the award, or something. It’s interesting that many of the later authors, from 1962 up to 2013, are people quite unknown to me. I wonder if I’m just out of the trend when it comes to reading, or that people become famous as the years go by, and in 5 decades or so they’re going to be legends as their predecessors were. Are we too absorbed with reading “classics”, which seem to invariably mean “old”, that we miss out on the young talents of our own generation?
It seems that most of Munro’s works revolve around the dilemma faced by young girls growing up and coming to terms with living in a small town. Sounds like a bit like the Babysitters’ Club to me. I mean, what can you write about girls adjusting to home in a small town? Would the town be something like in To Kill A Mockingbird? Are the girls bratty or weird like in Princess Diaries? I seem to be stuck thinking about chicklit or old American early 20th century settings. Which I guess would make sense considering her first book was published in 1950. But really, the closest approximation I have to books about the modern-day human spirit is Anne Tyler, and Anne Tyler did write in roughly that era too (her first book was in the 1960’s). I look forward to seeing what Alice Munro has to offer. I should start reading something by such a prestigious laureate, shouldn’t I? Surely it’ll add substance to my experiences.
Have you read anything by an award winner? How do you feel about their stories, as compared to books that haven’t won anything?