Posted by: kimberlysullivan | July 26, 2013

Happy retirement, Alice Munro!

Alice MunroI know that many admirers – like me – of Canadian short story writer Alice Munro were saddened to know that the talented author has announced her retirement from writing.

I love Ms Munro’s stories, always based in the same Canadian regions and following the lives of every day men and women. Although the stories may seem deceptively simple, they are actually multi-layered, digging deep into the thoughts, desires and limitations of their characters, switching back and forth between past and present, and sometimes working chronologically backwards through a life.

Many short stories I read fade from my memory the moment I read the last word, but Ms Munro’s characters stay with me long afterwards, and I recall scenes or feelings from her stories.

Still, as much as I’ll miss her new stories, I can’t help being pleased for Ms Munro, too. Why should writing be different from other professions? If an author wishes to lay down his or her pen and enjoy some of the pursuits that have been difficult to follow up until that moment, why shouldn’t she?

Earlier this month, I read Munro’s fantastic interview with The New York Times . I learned some interesting details that many writers might find of interest, too:

  • Ms Munro didn’t publish her first collection until the age of 37, in 1968. She wasn’t well-known outside of Canada until her stories began appearing in The New Yorker in the 1970s, and only in the mid-1980s did she enjoy international fame.
  • For those who believe authors need their own office space, Alice Munro never had one. Her husband, recently deceased, was the editor of The National Atlas of Canada, and had a home office. But Munro always wrote from a tiny desk in the corner of the dining room.
  • From someone who has so expertly mastered the craft of writing short stories, I was surprised to read that it used to trouble her that she didn’t write novels, and therefore, believed she wouldn’t be taken as seriously.
  • Growing old, a topic she writes about in many of her stories, no longer worries her. “There’s nothing you can do about it, and it’s better than being dead.”

A very happy retirement to Canadian writer Alice Munro!



  1. I wonder what it feels like to decide not to write anymore – a liberation? a void? I can’t imagine leaving off from it, especially after such a long successful career. Interesting comments – I was struck by the one about her feeling less ‘serious’ because she didn’t produce novels. How many times have I been told, Write a Novel, Then we’ll talk about your Short Stories.. !

    • Hi Catherine. True. It used to be that authors started with a short story collection, then wrote a novel. Now it seems it’s almost impossible to publish a short story collection until you have a (well-performing) novel under your belt. Ughhh… Look forward to your, BTW!

  2. What a great view on aging, and very true. Yes, it’s hard for me to imagine ever retiring from writing, but why should we be different from other professions? Admittedly we rarely have to stop due to infirmity, but taking a break and trying other passions is a good thing too, right?

    • I agree, Grace. Alice Munro is known as being a very private person. In the interview, she mentioned that her husband died recently and she realized how much time she spent sending people away in the past because she needed to write. Now that she’s alone, she said she wants to accept the invitations she turned down earlier and embrace new experiences. Certainly admirable. I love writing, too, but I don’t think it should get in the way of really living.

  3. Have you read her final collection Dear Life? The entire time I was reading it I was thinking to myself that this felt like a final book. I wasn’t surprised, but was very sad, when I found out that I was right and she wouldn’t be publishing anymore.

    • Hi Alison! No, I haven’t read ‘Dear Life’ yet, but I like your thoughts on it seeming like a last book. Like you, I’m sad she won’t be publishing anymore, but it’s been such a pleasure to read her stories.

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