As Alice Munro’s daughter is in Stockholm today collecting her mother’s Nobel Prize for Literature — there won’t be a speech; the frail Munro recorded a podcast instead — we thought we’d offer some of quotes from our favorite Laureates of years past. Here’s a thing I noticed in compiling this list, however: a lot of Nobel lectures are pompous bores! There’s a lot of theory in them sometimes! No good, old-fashioned storytelling about storytelling. Well, except for these people, who spoke with more eloquence and fewer references to French post-structuralists.
He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.