On so many levels, Alice Munro is my new favourite author. She has a clear gift with the subtleties of language and she can carve a story out of experiences as still as rocks. Her collection ‘Too Much Happiness’ is in every way perfect. It resonates, it shocks, it reveals and exposes. It is raw and sensitive, immense and austere. As Leah Hagar Cohen from the NYT Sunday Book Review writes: “Here the nominally momentous event is little more than an anteroom to an echo chamber filled with subtle and far-reaching thematic reverberations.”
The only thing not going for Munro is that she writes short stories and here I have to confess again my own bias. Reading this collection I was so sad that Munro hadn’t written a novel, a gigantic overwhelming epic tome with characters who existed beyond the 30 pages of a short story. I confess I was sad. Sad that everything ended, sometimes in the midst of things; sad that I had taken a journey that was consistently cut short and perhaps it is this that is at the core of my dislike for the short story as a genre.
Nonetheless, I persevered. I read this collection and there were many moments which reminded me of what literary brilliance actually is and should be. Munro is a wizard and now that I have seen her interviewed on YouTube this has only been confirmed. I shuddered through some of her stories, shuddered at the way she could tell them without sounding too attached to the tragedy and the drama and the overwhelming emotion. And, I marvelled (still do) at how too much happiness can amount to so little …
If you like the short story as a genre then Munro is a must. If you are like me and can’t bring yourself to love this genre then you should read Munro anyway, just to bask in her glow.
The Time Literary Supplement Review
The Globe and The Mail Review (Anne Enright)