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Today, we bring to you excerpts from an interview of Alice Munro, the Canadian short story writer, who has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. This interview was published in ‘The Paris Review’, No. 137, 1994 under the heading ‘ Alice Munro, The Art of Fiction’. Interviewed by Jeanne McCulloch and  Mona Simpson, it is a fairly comprehensive interview with the author beginning with her childhood and then covering her art of fiction, her views on life and times etc. In the following excerpts, we cover her views on her childhood, and her reflections on her father, mother and aunts in the form of a compilation as these questions were not posed to her in continuity-AKSCENTRE

INTERVIEWER

We went back to the house where you grew up this morning: did you live there your entire childhood?

ALICE MUNRO

Yes. When my father died, he was still living in that house on the farm, which was a fox and mink farm. It’s changed a lot though. Now it’s a beauty parlor called Total Indulgence. I think they have the beauty parlor in the back wing, and they’ve knocked down the kitchen entirely.

INTERVIEWER

Have you been inside it since then?

MUNRO

No I haven’t, but I though if I did I’d ask to see the living room. There’s the fireplace my father built and I’d like to see that. I’ve sometimes thought I should go in and ask for a manicure.

INTERVIEWER

We noticed a plane on the field across the road and thought of your stories “White Dump” and “How I Met My Husband.”

MUNRO

Yes, that was an airport for a while. The man who owned that farm had a hobby of flying planes, and he had a little plane of his own. He never liked farming so he got out of it and became a flight instructor. He’s still alive. In perfect health and one of the handsomest men I’ve ever known. He retired from flight instruction when he was seventy-five. Within maybe three months of retirement he went on a trip and got some odd disease you get from bats in caves.

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Photo Courtesy: http://www.oprah.com

INTERVIEWER

The stories in your first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades, are very resonant of that area, the world of your childhood. At what point in your life were those stories written?

MUNRO

The writing of those stories stretched over fifteen years. “The Day of the Butterfly” was the earliest one. That was probably written when I was about twenty-one. And I can remember very well writing “Thanks for the Ride” because my first baby was lying in the crib beside me. So I was twenty-two. The really late stories were written in my thirties. “Dance of the Happy Shades” is one; “The Peace of Utrecht” is another. “Images” is the very latest. “Walker Brothers Cowboy” was also written after I was thirty. So there’s a really great range.

INTERVIEWER

How do they seem to hold up now? Do you reread them?

MUNRO

There’s an early one in that collection called “The Shining Houses,” which I had to read at Harborfront in Toronto two or three years ago for a special event celebrating the history of Tamarack Review. Since it was originally published in one of the early issues of that magazine, I had to get up and read it, and it was very hard. I think I wrote that story when I was twenty-two. I kept editing as I read, catching all the tricks I used at that time, which now seemed very dated. I was trying to fix it up fast, with my eyes darting ahead to the next paragraph as I read, because I hadn’t read it ahead of time. I never do read things ahead of time. When I read an early story I can see things I wouldn’t do now, things people were doing in the fifties.

……………………..

INTERVIEWER

What about those aunts, the wonderful aunts who appear.

MUNRO

My great aunt and my grandmother were very important in our lives. After all, my family lived on this collapsing enterprise of a fox and mink farm, just beyond the most disreputable part of town, and they lived in real town, in a nice house, and they kept up civilization. So there was always tension between their house and ours, but it was very important that I had that. I loved it when I was a little girl. Then, when I was an adolescent, I felt rather burdened by it. My mother was not in the role of the lead female in my life by that time, though she was an enormously important person; she wasn’t there as the person who set the standards anymore. So these older women moved into that role, and though they didn’t set any standards that I was at all interested in, there was a constant tension there that was important to me.

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Photo Courtesy: articles.latimes.com

INTERVIEWER

Then you didn’t actually move into town as the mother and daughter do in “Lives of Girls and Women”?

MUNRO

We did for one winter. My mother decided she wanted to rent a house in town for one winter, and she did. And she gave the ladies’ luncheon party, she tried to break into society, which was totally impenetrable to her. She couldn’t do it. There was just no understanding there. I do remember coming back to the farmhouse that had been occupied by men, my father and my brother, and you couldn’t see the pattern on the linoleum anymore. It seemed as if mud had flowed into the house.

……………..

INTERVIEWER

Was the community you grew up in pleased about your career?

MUNRO

It was known there had been stories published here and there, but my writing wasn’t fancy. It didn’t go over well in my hometown. The sex, the bad language, the incomprehensibility . . . The local newspaper printed an editorial about me: A soured introspective view of life . . . And, A warped personality projected on . . . My dad was already dead when they did that. They wouldn’t do it while Dad was alive, because everyone really liked him. He was so liked and respected that everybody muted it a bit. But after he died, it was different.

INTERVIEWER

But he liked your work?

MUNRO

But he liked my work, yes, and he was very proud of it. He read a lot, but he always felt a bit embarrassed about reading. And then he wrote a book just before he died that was published posthumously. It was a novel about pioneer families in the southwest interior, set in a period just before his life, ending when he was a child. He had real gifts as a writer.

INTERVIEWER

Can you quote us a passage?

MUNRO

In one chapter he describes what the school was like for a boy who lived a little earlier than he did: “On other walls were some faded brown maps. Interesting places like Mongolia were shown, where scattered residents rode in sheepskin coats on small ponies. The center of Africa was a blank space marked only by crocodiles with mouths agape and lions who held dark people down with huge paws. In the very center Mr. Stanley was greeting Mr. Livingston, both wearing old hats.”

INTERVIEWER

Did you recognize anything of your own life in his novel?

MUNRO

Not of my life, but I recognized a great deal of my style. The angle of vision, which didn’t surprise me because I knew we had that in common.

INTERVIEWER

Had your mother read any of your work before she died?

MUNRO

My mother would not have liked it. I don’t think so—the sex and the bad words. If she had been well, I would have had to have a big fight and break with the family in order to publish anything.

You can read the full interview at http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1791/the-art-of-fiction-no-137-alice-munro