After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Alice Munro: A Tribute

Photo of Alice Munro. Credit: Derek Shapton.

Tonight was high Canadianism at its best. One of literature’s greatest writers, who was named by The Atlantic as the author most likely to be read in 100 years was praised tonight by a not-so-trifling line-up of international talent.

Alice Munro was unable to travel to the Writers and Readers Festival because of compromised health, but she sent an audio recording. Her warm, assured and ever-so frail voice told us she once spent hours in a Vancouver public library on West 4th only to write and write and write. “I was working at it,” she said, “even though I never published anything I wrote there.”

The crowd swooned. Aah, we seemed to say, our city a stop-over in a biography of brilliance.

The women seated around me were telling tales of the many lives of Munro’s characters. “I read all the books back to back,” one voice said. Another, “You know these people, her characters. They’re an amalgamation of all the people we know.”

Later, Elisabeth Strout said as much. In a comical and exceptionally confessional tribute to Munro, the Pulizer Prize winning novelist thanked the Canadian short story writer for having written about the naked matriarch rising out of the lake to greet the family. Thank you, said Strout, for having already introduced me to my mother-in-law. I was slightly prepared, she said, having already been in the naked company of this person.

The message Strout took from Munro was this: Have courage in your writing. Go ahead. It’s only the truth.

Joseph Boyden capped off the evening with his shamelessly playful rebuke aimed at Munro. “Some people are just effin’ gifted,” he bemoaned. “It just isn’t fair. And it pisses me off.” 

The international panel, including Amit Chaudhuri, Joan London, Alistair MacLeod as well as Boyden and Strout then sat down with the CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel – oh, I am weak under the weight of my girl crush! – to tape a discussion about Munro’s themes, the burden of being a regional writer, her ability to capture the human condition and her gifts of humour, insight and sensuality. They also discussed the evolution of her voice and the life’s experience that informs her most recent collection of short stories, Too Much Happiness.

As Boyden bitched so eloquently, “I’m pissed off. You’re only getting better with time.”

The Writers and Readers Festival began on Sunday continues through this week.

More in The Scene

Move over Van Gogh: A New York City artist has re-emerged in Vancouver

Original, illuminating, Bhaskar Krag's 6x6 foot abstract paintings will rock your world. Krag's studio, along with many others, will be open this soon, part of Eastside Culture Crawl.

A hunger for more

Emily Grainger was part of a turnaround team, and she’s not ready to stop winning.

Rachel Baitz Intracorp's River Park Place contest winner

 Rachel Baitz was the lucky winner of the 2013 Range Rover Evoque, one of the main prizes in Intracorp's recent contest promoting River Park Place, a sophisticated new condo development in...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.