Alice Munro – a connoisseur of ordinary life

Alice Munro, the Canadian Nobel Literature Prize-winner, renowned as the master of the modern short story and compared to Chekhov, has died at 92. She drew on the lives of her neighbours for stories which became parables about the tests of character faced by people everywhere and managed to invest the humdrum events and parochial dramas of daily small-town life with a haunting significance. “She offered subtle, quiet and often moving observations about sex, desire, work, discontent and ageing; yet her writing was peopled by types whose claustrophobic lives might not have seemed, on the surface, to promise much.”

The novelist John Updike wrote “she moves gimlet-eyed and rabbit-eared through a world of romantic possibilities, marital fury, poignant offspring (daughters, as a rule), and un-ignorable signs of ageing.”

 She was born 10 July 1931 9pm Wingham, Ontario, with a teacher mother and failed fox and mink farmer father. She wrote of her father’s independence, self-sufficiency, forbearance and appreciated his love of history books. Her mother was difficult, distant and ill with Parkinson’s during Alice’s solitary and poor childhood. Yet her death in Alice’s late twenties, brought anguish, anxiety and ulcers which interfered with her writing.

  She starting writing early, excelled at school and college and her first collected short stories won a major award with many others following. Her dream was to write an all-embracing novel but short stories were where she excelled.

 She was of the Shirley Conran generation with the tough Saturn in Capricorn opposition Pluto square an inventive Uranus. In Alice’s case her talent for pushing back the boundaries in her chosen field was aided by a confident Jupiter Pluto conjunct her Cancer Sun in her hard-working 6th house.

  She evidently regarded herself as ‘a plodder’ which may have had something to do with a heavy 6th house (Virgo) element plus an 8th house Mars in Virgo as well as Neptune, and a Taurus Moon. Her Mercury in Leo was conjunct Jupiter but was otherwise unaspected, perhaps allowing giving her a single-tracked ability to concentrate on what interested her.

  What is of note psychologically is her 8th house Mars – she came from a large family who had intermarried over generations with one great grandmother committing suicide. The other is her Chiron exactly conjunct her Taurus Moon hinting at her unmothered childhood where she had to take over the caring role as her mother’s condition deteriorated. Her mother was her wound which threatened to overwhelm her when she died even though they were not emotionally close.

 Her creative 5th and 7th harmonics were strong as was her writer’s 21st; as well as her leaving-a-legacy 17H and her global reputation 22H.

7 thoughts on “Alice Munro – a connoisseur of ordinary life

  1. Wow Andre and all. Now I want to visit Canada. I have Moon and Mercury in Gemini. I am in the USA, and my sensibilty is East Coast if that means anything to you. Canada sounds like a dream, and I did study Munro and Atwood in college.

  2. I’ve read Alice Munro’s books for four decades. My favorite writer. I sometimes wondered if she paid attention to astrology.
    In a biography, her daughter Sheila Munro wrote about the parties held by her family in the ‘60s and ‘70s. “Margaret Atwood came to the house once with her husband and charted my horoscope.”

  3. Munro Books, which is a few blocks away here in Victoria, BC, was co-founded by Alice Munro. It is a gem of a bookstore and always busy! What a terrific writer she was.

    When I see the list of Canadian writers, actors, singers, directors…as Andre has posted… from our many cultural sources… I delight again in Canada’s natal chart with Moon in Gemini!

    And don’t forget all the Canadian inventions!
    There’s actually a multi episode series on Crave TV about all the Canadian inventions.
    My husband (from the USA) and I have an ongoing joke….
    “Canadians invented air” he’ll say….. or something silly like that.

    Moon in Gemini… lovely!

  4. Neil Young is a touchstone of my life as are the Band. The Scorsese movie the Last Waltz is a masterpiece if you haven’t seen it.

  5. We have three cultural solitudes in Canada: English Canada, Québec and First peoples. Each one now produces great literature. The problem is they are known to different international audiences but hardly to each other. Great Canadian writers using the English language, such as Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, achieve prominence in the dominant Anglo-American world. Québec writers win major literary prizes in Paris. Québec theatre, one of the world’s best, is studied as far away as India. Aboriginal writers, some of whom write in French, are translated and read throughout the decolonizing world. Munro and Atwood are some of the few English Canadian writers I have read although I am a Canadian citizen who has been a huge fan of quality literature all his life and who spends his leisure time reading as much as I can. I spend much more time with Québec, aboriginal or foreign literature. The same is true of cinema. Québec directors are now world-class, including Denis Villeneuve, a current Hollywood darling. Québec has produced Celine Dion, the most popular female pop star before Taylor Swift came along, and Yannick Nezet-Seguin, orchestra conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. But my all-time favoirte singer remains Leonard Cohen, also from Montreal. That is the story of Canada, rich, diverse, and very much weakened by disunity and lack of internal reconciliation.

    • Andre, don’t forget Joni Mitchell! Her lyrics & music—her songwriting is right up there with the best. Unusual personality-not much humility, but a fantastic artist.

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