Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Alice Munro, Nobel Prize-winning short story author, dies at 92

Canadian author Alice Munro as she receives a Man Booker International award at Trinity College Dublin, in Dublin, Ireland, on June 25, 2009.
Peter Muhly
AFP via Getty Images
Canadian author Alice Munro as she receives a Man Booker International award at Trinity College Dublin, in Dublin, Ireland, on June 25, 2009.

The writer Alice Munro has died, at the age of 92. The news was confirmed by her publisher, Penguin Random House Canada.

Munro was a craftsman, known for her intricately paced short stories that could devastate a reader. Her characters often lived in rural Ontario, like Munro herself. In an interview after winning the Nobel Prize, she said that living in a small town gave her the freedom to write. "I don't think I could have been so brave if I had been living in a town, competing with people on what can be called a generally higher cultural level," she said. "I was the only person I knew who wrote stories, though I didn't tell them to anybody, and as far as I knew, at least for a while, I was the only person who could do this in the world."

Munro was born in 1931, outside of Wingham Ontario. After college, she moved to Victoria, British Columbia, and opened a bookstore, known as Munro's Books, with her then-husband James, known as Munro's Books. Her first story collection, Dance of the Happy Shades won Canada's prestigious Governor's General's Award. That kicked off a career that would span more than a dozen story collections, as well as the novel Lives of Girls and Women.

Throughout her long career, she was extremely consistent. She hardly ever failed to wow readers and critics with her quietly powerful language. In reviewing her last collection, 2012's Dear Life, NPR critic Alan Cheuse wrote "Munro focuses on every aspect of our ordinary existence and makes it seem as extraordinary as it actually is."

She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature the year after Dear Life was published, but she was "too frail"to attend the ceremonies. So instead of the usual lecture, she opted for an interview where she was asked "Do you want young women to be inspired by your books and feel inspired to write?" To which she replied, "I don't care what they feel as long as they enjoy reading the book."

"I want people to find not so much inspiration as great enjoyment. That's what I want; I want people to enjoy my books, to think of them as related to their own lives in ways."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.