If there's a sentimental favourite among this year's crop of candidates for the $1-million Nobel Prize in literature, it's probably Alice Munro – "our Alice," as Canadians might be wont to describe her.
She's 82. She says she's retiring from writing the brilliant short fiction that's made her famous. She's battled heart disease and cancer, and her husband of almost 40 years died earlier this year.
If the Nobel is at once a recognition of merit and a sort of valediction, Munro's a slam dunk, and we'll be toasting her when the 2013 laureate is named Thursday. Trouble is, 112 years after its creation, nobody's really figured out what the Swedish Academy's preferred combination of ingredients is for a Nobel author.
It's possible our Alice isn't even on the short list of five that the secretive Academy supposedly determined in May. All we have is this declaration from the president of the Academy's literature committee: "Be sure we read a select group of American, Canadian and Australian writers continuously!"
As of Tuesday afternoon, the bookies at Ladbrokes in London were giving Munro 4:1 odds of winning, just below its 5:2 rating for favourite Haruki Murakami.
Ladbrokes is worth watching, having decided to make online bookings on the Nobel only in 2005, tipping correctly four times since.