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April 23, 2014

Nadine Gordimer: The Great Post-Mandela Disillusion

No TimeBy Michael Skafidas

Nadine Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, is the leading lady of letters in South Africa. Through her fiction and non-fiction writings she has captured the despair and the triumph of a country that went all the way from the ignominy of apartheid to the heights of Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

In this conversation, Gordimer speaks with Michael Skafidas for the WorldPost about the disillusion of post-Mandela South Africa, her distrust of the digital era and her decision to retire from writing fiction.

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October 11, 2013

Canadian Alice Munro makes history with Nobel Prize win for literature

 

By Jared Bland and Sandra Martin

munro19rv1For the first time in history, the Nobel prize in literature has been awarded to a Canadian. Alice Munro, one of the world’s most respected and admired writers, was named this morning as the winner of the prize in an especially notable year: one in which she has announced her retirement.

Earlier this year the 82-year-old author of 14 books of short stories declared her intention to stop writing, stating that her most recent book, Dear Life, would be her last.

“I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win,” Munro said by telephone when contacted by The Canadian Press in Victoria. She added that she was “just terribly surprised.”

“I’m amazed and very grateful,” she said in a statement read by her longtime editor, Douglas Gibson, Thursday morning.

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May 23, 2013

Man Booker International prize goes to (very) short-story writer Lydia Davis

Lydia DavisStories by much-acclaimed American writer, some just a sentence long, praised for vigilance ‘down to the very word’.

By Alison Flood

The impossible-to-categorise Lydia Davis, known for the shortest of short stories, has won the Man Booker International prize ahead of fellow American Marilynne Robinson and eight other contenders from around the world.

The £60,000 award is for a body of work, and is intended to celebrate “achievement in fiction on the world stage”. Cited as “innovative and influential”, Davis becomes the biennial prize’s third successive winner from North America, after fellow American Philip Roth won in 2011 – prompting a controversial walk-out from the judge Carmen Callil, partly over her disappointment in the panel’s failure to choose a writer in translation – and Canadian short story writer Alice Munro took the prize in 2009.

Best known for her short stories, most of which are less than three pages long, and some of which run to just a paragraph or a sentence, Davis has been described as “the master of a literary form largely of her own invention”.

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March 29, 2013

Bestselling Authors Help Promote Straw Paper

14430-v1-338x338By Leigh Anne Williams

Random House of Canada has published special collectors’ editions of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Alice Munro’s Dear Life printed on paper made from straw rather than trees.

The Vancouver-based environmental organization Canopy worked with Random House and its imprint McClelland & Stewart to produce the special editions as way to raise awareness of alternative papers and to encourage the development of commercial-scale development of straw-based papers.

“Now more than at any other time in our history, we need to bring our intelligence and imagination to sustain our life support systems,” Munro commented. She praised Canopy for working “with a pure passion and unwavering conviction” to protect forests and inspire innovation.

Martel said,“Using straw paper for my book demonstrates that there are elegant solutions that keep the world’s towering trees standing.”

The signed special editions are printed on paper that combines chlorine-free wheat and flax straw with post-consumer recycled content. The flax-straw came from and was processed by Canopy’s technical partners, Alberta Innovates. The paper was produced by Quebec’s Cascades. The printer for Life of Pi was Friesens in Manitboa and Toronto-based Webcom produced Munro’s Dear Life.

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February 13, 2013

Can Writers Retire? Let Us Count the Ways

570_rimbaudBy Bill Morris

While living in Durham, N.C., back in the 1980s, I met a guy who was studying creative writing at Duke University. I have come to think of him as the doomed acolyte. One day he told me that his teacher, venerable Reynolds Price, rolled into the classroom in his wheelchair and gave the class a curious assignment. Price told the students they were not to touch the short stories they were working on for the next week. Don’t change a single word. Don’t add or delete a comma. Don’t even look at your stories.

When the class reconvened the following week, Price asked how many had fulfilled the assignment.  About half of the students, including the doomed acolyte, raised a hand. Price then stunned the room by advising those who were able to follow his instructions that they should consider dropping out of the course. His reasoning was brutal and simple: Anyone who is able to stop writing for an entire week — even for a single day — does not have the right stuff to become a writer.  True writers, Price was saying, are in the grip of a compulsion. They have to write, and they are powerless to stop doing it. It is why they are alive and it is what keeps them alive.

That story came back to me — and it came into question — when I heard the news that Philip Roth has quit writing fiction. ”To his friends,” Charles McGrath wrote in The New York Times, “the notion of Mr. Roth not writing is like Mr. Roth not breathing.” I’m sure Reynolds Price’s friends felt the same way about him. Roth, author of more than 30 works of fiction over the past half century, has stuck a Post-it note to his computer that reads: “The struggle with writing is over.” Roth said he looks at that little sticker every morning and it gives him “such strength.”

I’ve been writing every day for the past 40 years or so, sometimes getting paid to do it and sometimes not, and through all those years I’ve assumed I will keep doing it until my wits leave me or I die. In other words, I’m a long-time disciple of the gospel according to Reynolds Price, a believer that writers are people who are both blessed and cursed by the compulsion to distill their experience of the world into words on a page

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November 23, 2012

On “Dear Life”: An Interview with Alice Munro

Alice Munro

By Deborah Treisman

Your new collection of stories, “Dear Life,” which came out this month, includes several narratives in which women in some way shake off the weight of their upbringing and do something unconventional—and are then, perhaps, punished for it, by men who betray them or abandon them at their most vulnerable. It happens in “Leaving Maverley,” “Amundsen,” “Corrie,” “Train,” and other stories. Even the aunt in “Haven” pays a price for a seemingly minor rebellion against her husband’s dictatorship. Does that trajectory seem inevitable to you—at least in fiction?

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November 18, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:39 am

‘Dear Life,’ Stories by Alice Munro

By CHARLES McGRATH

That Alice Munro, now 81, is one of the great short story writers not just of our time but of any time ought to go without saying by now. This new volume — her 14th, not counting a collection of selected stories that came out in 1996 — is further proof of her mastery, and also a reminder that unlike a lot of accomplished short story writers — unlike William Trevor, say, her only living rival — Munro did not hit a characteristic note early on and then stick with it. Over the years her work has deepened and enlarged. At the end of “Dear Life” is a suite of four stories that Munro says are “autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact,” and she adds: “I believe they are the first and last — and the closest — things I have to say about my own life.” They seem to me as good as anything she has ever done, but also to strike out in the direction of a new, late style — one that is not so much a departure as a compressing or summing up of her whole career.

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July 2, 2012

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2012 Book Preview

2012 has already been a rich year for books, with new novels from Toni Morrison, Richard Ford, and Hilary Mantel and essay collections from Marilynn Robinson and Jonathan Franzen, to name just a fraction of what we’ve featured, raved about, chewed on, and puzzled over so far. But the remainder of this year (and the hazy beginning of next year) is shaping up to be a jackpot of literary riches. In just a few short months, we’ll be seeing new titles from some of the most beloved and critically lauded authors working today, including Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Alice Munro, Ian McEwan, George Saunders, and David Foster Wallace. Incredibly, there’s much more than that to get excited about, but, were we to delve into it further up here, we would risk this introduction consuming the many previews that are meant to follow.

The list that follows isn’t exhaustive – no book preview could be – but, at 8,700 words strong and encompassing 76 titles, this is the only second-half 2012 book preview you will ever need. Enjoy.

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April 21, 2011

The damnable task of being a Man Booker International prize judge

The inaugural Man Booker International prize, awarded in 2005, was won by Albanian writer Ismail Kadaré. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Deciding which living literary great to honour for their body of work is overwhelming, akin to ‘sizing up the giants and arranging them in order’.

By Rick Gekoski

Since January 2010, Carmen Callil, Justin Cartwright and I have been reading for the 2011 Man Booker International prize. Never heard of it? Well, it only began in 2005, so let me fill you in. The prize is awarded every two years to a living author, is worth £60,000, the winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel, there are no submissions from publishers and the judges consider a writer’s body of work rather than a single novel.

This provides a beguilingly open-ended brief. It is up to us judges whom to read, what to read, and how to read, until one day a puff of smoke will go up (in Sydney on 18 May) and a great writer will be honoured. The three previous winners were Ismail Kadaré, Chinua Achebe, and Alice Munro.

                                                                                                                                                           …read more

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