Alice Munro won a Nobel Prize in Literature this week. Aside from being the first Canadian, and thirteenth woman to do so, this is significant because she won it, not for a novel, but for being a “master of the contemporary short story.” That’s pretty cool.
When asked why she writes short stories instead of novels, Munro told The Atlantic:
So why do I like to write short stories? Well, I certainly didn’t intend to. I was going to write a novel. And still! I still come up with ideas for novels. And I even start novels. But something happens to them. They break up. I look at what I really want to do with the material, and it never turns out to be a novel. But when I was younger, it was simply a matter of expediency. I had small children, I didn’t have any help. Some of this was before the days of automatic washing machines, if you can actually believe it. There was no way I could get that kind of time. I couldn’t look ahead and say, this is going to take me a year, because I thought every moment something might happen that would take all time away from me. So I wrote in bits and pieces with a limited time expectation. Perhaps I got used to thinking of my material in terms of things that worked that way. And then when I got a little more time, I started writing these odder stories, which branch out a lot. But I still didn’t write a novel, in spite of good intentions.
Munro, basically: “I had novel ideas and I’d start them, but…yeah, life, so short stories.”
You can go read my reflections on what that means for our short stories over at Christ and Pop Culture.