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Too Much Happiness   [TOO MUCH HAPPINESS] [Paperback]

3.7 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA, (November 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008NXRFOK
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

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By Gio on December 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The characters in Alice Munro's newest book, some anyway, are more extreme than I've been used to encountering in her earlier books. There are two triple-murderers, a woman whose childhood friend helped her kill another girl, a beloved son who chooses to be a derelict, the male narrator (rare for Alice) whose port-wine birthmark thwarts his whole life, and there are a statistiacally improbable number of "specials", people with disabilities of intelligence. The dysfunctional relationships, Munro's perennial subject, are more extreme, or perhaps just more quirky, than in previous portrayals. Munro's stories have always stayed close to home - southern Ontario - and close to plain folk, to herself, her family, her ordinary `others'. That's been the great strength of her work, really -- her honesty, her close-to-bone reality. Now in her seventies, in this book and in her 2006 "The View from Castle Rock", Munro seems to be stretching her range both in time and space, writing about emigrants of the previous generation, about people who weren't and couldn't have been neighbors ... and in the title story of this collection, "Too Much Happiness", she's written a long story/novella about a Russian woman mathematical prodigy of the 19th Century. It's easy to understand why she wants to stretch, to establish her claim to some universality and some ability to get beyond her own identity as a subject. No one who has read all of her previous work, as I have, could deny that she has "written the same story again and again." She has. Or rather, she has written her several stories again and again, like Leitmotives, in her eleven books. That is NOT, believe me, a weakness in her art.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is an honor to review 'Too Much Happiness' by Alice Munro, who I consider the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language. Ms. Munro is Canadian and lives in Clinton, Ontario. During her writing career she has garnered many awards including the Lannan Literary Award, the United States National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Man Booker International Prize. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, the Atlantic Monthly, as well as many other literary publications. I consider her an icon.

With each book of hers that I have read (and I have read them all!) I think that she has reached her zenith. Yet, with each new publication, I find her newest work better than her previous publications. Her work is glorious. At the rate she's going now, her zenith may be light years away.

I find the metaphor of looking into a tide pool an apt one for describing the stories of Ms. Munro. A tide pool is a microcosm of the ocean, yet it has a certain stasis and life of its own. It is a living organism, relating to the macrocosm of life in many ways. The tide pool contains living species of fish, reptiles and crustaceans, all delineated by their own life cycle which can change with the tides or with the events of weather. Ms. Munro's stories are like this. She will take a small microcosm of life and show how it has enduring and lifelong effects - effects which may be immediately observable or which may not be obvious for decades.

'Too Much Happiness' is a collection of ten short stories, each wonderful in their own right and each one as rich and nuanced as a novel. Many of them deal with similar themes - paradox, movement through time, repercussions of impulse, regret, acts of horror and relationships.
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Format: Hardcover
The thing about Alice Munro is, she makes it seem so EASY. Of course, it's never easy translating the core of human emotions with a few deft strokes. Or to capture universal truisms in a couple of beautiful words. Unless, of course, you're Alice Munro!

Take, for example, the haunting story "Child's Play", about two young girls and a special needs child. Munro writes: "Children of course are monstrously conventional, repelled at whatever is off-center, out of whack, unmanageable." In a brief sentence, she dispels the notion of childhood innocence and flexibility and reveals children for what they are: afraid of what is strange.

Or take a quote from the signature story, Too Much Happiness: "When a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind. When a woman goes out, she carries everything that happened in the room along with her." Does this writer understand the human condition or WHAT?

Munro draws her readers deftly into a sort of alternative world, where the people ring true, the situations, even when bizarre, seem real, and the recognitions are surprisingly of oneself. There is much pain in these stories; in Dimensions, a woman who must soldier on after her husband murders her three children. In Wenlock Edge -- in my mind, one of the best in the collection -- a college student feels compelled to read to a benefactor stark naked, and endure a humiliation that will likely always affect the way she views literature and learning. In Deep-Holes, a mother must cope with a flipped-out adult son who condemns her for not being "useful in life." And in Face, a boy with a deformed face connects and separates with a childhood friend who performs self-mutilation.
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