Nobel prizewinner Alice Munro: ‘It’s a wonderful thing for the short story’

Lisa Allardice in The Guardian:

Alice-Munro-1980s-001“In many ways I've been writing personal stories all my life,” she said in Bailey's. If you are a Munro fan, you will know about the struggling mink and fox farm of her Depression-era childhood; the family's house at the end of the road; the burden of her mother's Parkinson's disease in her early 40s; her scholarship to university; her early marriage to a bookish student, young motherhood and divorce. And you will recognise the watermarks of shame and guilt running through each collection: “I was brought up in a community where there was shame,” she says of her Scots-Irish Presbyterian rural upbringing. “We say of some things that they can't be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves,” she writes in the last line of Dear Life about her failure to visit her mother during her last illness or even to go to her funeral. “But we do,” she continues with characteristic insistence on absolute truthfulness – “we do it all the time.”

She says her feelings about her mother are “probably the deepest material of my life. I think when you are growing up you have to pull apart from what your mother wants or needs, you've got to go your own way, and that's what I did. And of course she was in a very vulnerable position, which in a way was also a position of power. So that was always a central thing in my life – that I did pull away from her when she was deeply in need. And yet I still feel I did it for salvation.” Her mother's illness meant that Munro took over the housework and care of her younger brother and sister from when she was around nine. “I wanted the house always to be clean. I would bake on Saturdays and I would iron everybody's clothes. It was a way of keeping up respectability. Superficially I was very kind to my mother, but I never allowed myself to enter into her predicament or I would have stayed and become the person who ran the family until she died and then it would have been too late for me to go.”

More here.