‘A Canadian icon’: Writers and readers pay tribute to Nobel winner Alice Munro

By Sonja Puzic, The Canadian Press

Writers, bookworms and notable figures are mourning the loss of Canadian Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro, who died Monday at age 92. 

Tributes to the beloved writer of incisive short stories were shared online as word spread Tuesday, with many highlighting the influence Munro’s stories about relationships and small-town life had on generations of readers. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared a photo of himself with Munro on X, formerly known as Twitter, with the caption: “The world has lost one of its greatest storytellers. Alice Munro was captivated with everyday life in small-town Canada. Her many, many readers are, too. She will be dearly missed.”

Canadian short story writer and novelist Madeleine Thien said her “heart breaks” at the news of Munro’s death. 

In a post on X, Thien shared a passage from one of Munro’s short stories and wrote: “Thank you for everything, everything, everything.”

Ontario poet and writer Zoe Whittall said she’s been able to “map” her reading and relationship history with Munro’s work.

“I know this is corny but I always felt a little proud that she was Canadian and often one of the only literary authors Americans knew about,” Whittall wrote in a post on X. 

U.S. author and journalist Bill Buford said he was “among the privileged” who got to work with Munro when her stories were published in The New Yorker.

“What a subtle brilliant talent,” the former fiction editor at the magazine wrote in a social media post.

Former MuchMusic and CBC host George Stroumboulopoulos wrote in his own tribute to Munro: “She had that amazing (and Canadian) gift to find the extraordinary in the ordinariness of life,” 

Many others called Munro a master of the craft and praised the way her stories depicted the complex lives of women. 

“She wrote about mothers and daughters and sisters and female friendships and she made me, a writer raised on swaggering male subjects, feel I could write about women too,” U.S. author Amber Sparks wrote in a social media post.

Munro Books in Victoria, a shop Munro opened in the 1960s with her then-husband James, reflected on the legacy of a “Canadian icon.”

“Over the years, Alice’s writing would leave its mark on countless other literary greats, from Margaret Atwood to Julian Barnes to the store’s own former bookseller Deborah Willis, whose debut story collection earned a generous endorsement from Alice herself on its cover,” Munro Books wrote in a statement Tuesday.

“Despite the lofty honours bestowed upon her, she never stopped championing the ordinary lives of girls and women — or the undersung form of the short story, whose depths she plumbed again and again to astonishing effect.”

Writer and stage performer Ivan Coyote, who served as the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity at Western University in London, Ont., said Munro inspired writers and readers of all generations.

“I think she understood the mycelium that connects one human heart to another,” Coyote said in a phone interview Tuesday from Yukon. 

“Not only did she deeply understand it, she could accurately reconstruct it on the page,” Coyote said. “And that’s not an easy thing to do.”

Munro was one of Western University’s most distinguished alumni and Coyote said they will always be grateful to the writer and her family for supporting the role of the Alice Munro Chair – currently held by award-winning author Sheila Heti. 

“And I’ll forever be grateful to (Munro) … also for her literary contributions to this country and to the world and to the art of the short story,” Coyote added.

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge echoed that sentiment on X, calling Munro a “literary icon” whose short stories captivated hearts for decades. 

Meanwhile, Canadian UN ambassador Bob Rae lauded Munro’s ability to describe “the human condition in a way that captured the uniqueness of the cadence and place she knew intimately.”

Rae wrote on X that Munro never let the recognition she received take away from “her humility and dedication to her craft.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2024.

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