In Search of Short Stories after Munro's Nobel Win? Try These Recommendations

Article excerpt

Writers follow footsteps of Alice Munro

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TORONTO - In the Canadian book world, there was no bigger news in 2013 than that of Alice Munro's Nobel Prize in literature win, an honour that had this country beaming with pride and other nations heaping praise on the humble short story master from Wingham, Ont.

At 82, Munro was too unwell to attend the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm in early December. And in an interview with The Canadian Press after the event, she seemed to stand by her recent decision to retire from her craft.

"I have stopped writing," Munro said in the living room of her daughter's Victoria home. "I think in my mind that's a very permanent thing."

Though there may be little hope for a new short story collection from Munro, who was just the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature, there are several others who are following in her footsteps in this country.

For readers who were inspired by Munro's Nobel distinction and want to further explore the genre in 2014, here are three Canadian female short story writers to consider:

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Lynn Coady, who was born and raised in Cape Breton, N.S., and now lives in Edmonton:

Less than a month after Munro's Nobel win in October, Coady nabbed the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short story collection "Hellgoing," prompting some to declare 2013 as the year of the short story in Canada.

"Hellgoing" (House of Anansi Press) has nine stories displaying Coady's flair for irreverent humour and offbeat characters who are often struggling -- from an alcoholic female journalist researching a travel story in Newfoundland, to siblings dealing with the loss of their mother, and a nun helping a girl suffering from anorexia.

Giller jury members Margaret Atwood, Esi Edugyan and Jonathan Lethem praised "Hellgoing" as having "vivid and iconoclastic language" that "brims with keen and sympathetic wit."

And actress Wendy Crewson, who gave a speech on the book at the Giller gala, says she was "really taken" with it.

"Lynn has so many fabulous characters that are in these real punchy, grabby stories that you kind of drop into and she spits you out the other end."

"Hellgoing" won the Giller two years after Coady was a finalist for the same prize for her novel "The Antagonist."

It's her second short story collection after 2000's "Play the Monster Blind" and contains some previously published tales that go as far back as 2001.

At the Giller bash, Coady said she loves the playfulness that comes with writing short stories and feels "a pulling away from the novel these days, just because it's such an undertaking and an ordeal to kind of make that decision to sit and be committed to a novel for two years."

"Short stories are wonderful and I'm publishing a collection of them because I think they're a great genre and they totally hold their own against the novel. But they just tend not to get as much media or as much PR as the novel does, for whatever reason," she said.

"It's one of my favourite genres. It's a very special genre."

Still, she's never considered herself a short story writer on Munro's level.

"I thought of myself as a novelist who occasionally wrote short stories," said Coady, whose first novel, "Strange Heaven," was nominated for a Governor General's Award in 1998.

"But with her win and then with this, it seems like, 'Wow, maybe short stories are on the ascendancy.'"

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Zsuzsi Gartner, who was born in Winnipeg, bred in Calgary and now lives in Vancouver:

Gartner was a 2011 Giller finalist for her short story collection "Better Living Through Plastic Explosives" (Hamish Hamilton Canada).

Jury members Howard Norman, Annabel Lyon and Andrew O'Hagan said it shows "the short story form at its savage best, each story capturing, with brilliant economy and grace, not only entire worlds but whole mindsets as they explode into eloquence. …