We were thrilled to learn this morning that Canadian author Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Word on the street inhabited by the world’s literati (a crumbling back alley, perhaps, but one paved with centuries’ old cobblestones and smelling wonderfully of musky first editions) had for weeks been buzzing about Japanese author Haruki Murakami, who was widely favored to win. In the press release announcing Munro as the award’s recipient, however, a single line proclaimed what fans of the writer have known for decades: Munro is simply the
“master of the contemporary short story.”
(Spaces included in the original announcement; we assume for maximum aesthetic/dramatic effect.)
Filmmakers, too, have long known of Munro’s cinematic potential. Directors have been adapting her short stories and novels for the silver screen and its competitive younger brother, TV, since the ‘70s. Like all enduring authors with a definite sense of their art, the kind you can identify by their opening sentences alone, Munro has certain themes to which time and again she returns. Broadly and simplistically speaking, these include the complicated nature of family relationships – frequently mother/daughter pairings – aging, and that subject a professor of mine once told me every story, no matter how dark or silly or cynical, is really about (and if yours isn’t, you’re writing wrong and probably shouldn’t be writing at all): the various manifestations of love.
All of which may make Munro sound as if she’s an especially girly and sentimental authoress. The wonderful thing about Munro as a writer, however, is her ability to turn an unsentimental eye on those situations which, in lazier hands, could easily lend themselves to the Nicholas Sparks treatment: A man who must admit his aging wife, suffering from Alzheimer’s, into a rest home. An abused wife who snaps. Lives of Girls and Women.
Her inclination toward and incisive handling of universal themes makes her work ripe for dramatic interpretation. It’s no wonder her output has inspired several screen adaptations. Below, we’ve included the trailers or other related media (where available) to most of these projects, as well as the original Munro titles on which they’re based, for your viewing - and hopefully supplemental reading - pleasure:
Film: Hateship Loveship (TBA. Stars Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, and Hailee Steinfeld)
Based On: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (collection of short stories)
Film: Away From Her (2006. Julie Christie was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award; director Sarah Polley was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award.)
Based On: “The Bear Came Over The Mountain” (short story)
Film: Edge of Madness (2002)
Based On: “A Wilderness Station” (short story)
TV Movie: Lives of Girls and Women (1996)
Based On: Lives of Girls and Women (novel)
TV Series: “The Newcomers” (1977)
Based On: Actually, nothing – she wrote it!