Alice Munro has won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. The short-story writer is the first-ever Canadian, and thirteenth woman, to win the prize, and a rare laureate not to work in the novel.
Here are a few things to know about Munro’s long career:
She’s retired: Coincidentally (or, more likely, not), Munro’s Nobel came the same year that she announced she had stopped writing. She had remarked in 2006, “I don’t know if I have the energy to do this anymore,” though she went on to have published “Too Much Happiness” in 2009 and “Dear Life,” her 14th collection, in 2012.
She married young: In an interview with the Paris Review, Munro described the effect that having been married at 20 and having a child at 21 had on her work habits:
I was writing desperately all the time I was pregnant because I thought I would never be able to write afterwards. Each pregnancy spurred me to get something big done before the baby was born. Actually I didn’t get anything big done. [...] The year I wrote my second book, Lives of Girls and Women, I was enormously productive. I had four kids because one of the girls’ friends was living with us, and I worked in the store two days a week. I used to work until maybe one o’clock in the morning and then get up at six. And I remember thinking, You know, maybe I’ll die, this is terrible, I’ll have a heart attack. I was only about thirty-nine or so, but I was thinking this; then I thought, Well even if I do, I’ve got that many pages written now. They can see how it’s going to come out. It was a kind of desperate, desperate race. I don’t have that kind of energy now.
Her first collection was published when she was 37; a local paper ran the headline “Local Housewife Finds Time to Write Short Stories.”
One of her signatures is altering chronology: In a review of “Dear Life,” her onetime editor at The New Yorker, Charles McGrath, remarked that Munro had kept up a career-long interest in screwy timelines: