After accepting the Trillium Book Award in Toronto on Tuesday night for her story collection “Dear Life,” Canadian writer Alice Munro sat down for a quick interview with the National Post, and revealed some surprising news: Her decision to retire from writing.
"[Winning the award was] a little more special in that I’m probably not going to write anymore. And, so, it’s nice to go out with a bang,” Munro, who is 81, told interviewer Mark Medley. “I think you do get to a stage where you sort of think about your life in a different way. And perhaps, when you’re my age, you don’t wish to be alone as much as a writer has to be. It’s like, at the wrong end of life, sort of becoming very sociable.”
In awarding her the prize, the jury wrote that Munro’s stories “dig down into the very core of an individual life ... seamlessly revealing what makes all our lives both wondrous and wicked." Munro has spoken about how “Dear Life,” is one of the most autobiographical collections she’s ever written, and writes of its final section -- titled “Finale,” that these stories are “the first and last and the closest things I have to say about my own life,” suggesting a kind of culmination. Certainly the collection’s last story, and its namesake, brings a sense of closure, and some have speculated that perhaps this collection would be Munro’s last. But her intention to retire has not been explicitly stated until now.
In fact, Munro had previously expressed something like a fear about not writing. In her 1994 Paris Review interview, she said she was “panicked” by the idea of stopping, even for a moment: “What happens in old age can just be a draining away of interest in some way that you don’t foresee, because this happens with people who may have had a lot of interest and commitment to life. ... That it might is the danger. This may be the beast that’s lurking in the closet in old age -- the loss of the feeling that things are worth doing.”
Munro, who has 13 short story collections to her name, is considered one of the masters of the short form -- up there with Kafka, Chekhov, and Flannery O’Connor -- part of that small group of writers who never make the switch to writing novels (though she did write one: 1971’s “Lives of Girls and Women”).
Asked whether her fans’ disappointment at not getting new stories to read would make her reconsider her retirement, Munro replied, “Well, tell them to go read the old ones over again. There’s lots of them.”