“The short story has always been seen as the poor relation,” explained Dr Cox, Reader in Creative Writing and English, “We are constantly fighting battles because publishers take less interest in this form. They are seen to be harder to market and short story writers are generally expected to write novels too. Often a collection will only be considered once they’ve proved themselves with the novel. When I heard that Alice Munro had won the Nobel Prize, I felt that the time had come to stop apologising and celebrate short fiction in its own right.
“Last year Bloomsbury called 2012 the year of the short story, bringing out collections by, amongst others, Lucy Wood and Jon McGregor. That’s a sign that more publishers are seeing the benefits of the form, where you’ll find so much of the most innovative and exciting fiction. So let’s make every year short story year from this point on.”
Dr Cox co-ordinates the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story, which is awarded annually to the author of a published short story collection, and is also the editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Short Fiction in Theory and Practice.
As one of the first UK specialists to research Munro, she continues to publish articles and book chapters on Canada’s greatest short story writer, concentrating on her most recent collections.
She has been invited to speak about the author to Italian specialists in Canadian literature at the Università degli Studi Roma next month where she will discuss her playful use of autobiography.
“What I like about her writing is that she has such a beautiful style and uses language so that not one word is wasted,” said Dr Cox. “She loves reading, and has learnt her craft from other writers. One of the reasons I admire her so much is because she has always stuck to her guns and carried on writing short stories rather than conforming to expectations. She has slowly built up a global reputation and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a Nobel Prize.
“The influence she has had on other writers – including myself – has been enormous. As the American Cynthia Ozick said some time ago, ‘She is our Chekhov, and is going to outlast most of her contemporaries.’”
Dr Cox is preparing to speak at a symposium in Ottawa in 2014 alongside Munro’s biographer, her agent and other champions of her work. She said: “I’m delighted that the Canadians think so highly of my work on Munro. She is an inspiration to our future short story writers.”