Come scrivere un romanzo in 100 giorni

Conoscere l'editing

Corso online di editing

Corso SEC

“Too Much Happiness” by Alice Munro

Too Much Happiness, Alice MunroIn spite of the title — Too Much Happiness (Chatto & Windus, 2009) — the last story collection by the Canadian Alice Munro deals with decidedly unhappy events: its ten stories (all but one set in contemporary Canada) tell about murder, death and disease, (sexual) abuse, unrequited love and separation. Yet it seems that — if not too much of it — a modicum of happiness is available even in the most difficult situations. The characters of these long-span narratives prove to be resilient to all misfortunes and able to work their way up into a new life.
This is what the first surprising story, Dimensions, show.
Doree, the protagonist, has to come to terms with an unbearable past: her three children were murdered by their father, her husband Lloyd. Now, two years after the fact, Lloyd is in prison and Doree lives in a new town. She has got a new name, a job and even a new hairstyle. She also sees a psychologist every week. Nothing of it helps her to keep the pain at bay, though. So she decides to start visiting her husband in prison more often and stop seeing the psychologist altogether. It is only with their father — and murderer — that she can talk about the children. Only his insane theories and visions on the «dimension» where the children now live can bring «a light feeling to her, not pain». At the end of the story, Doree is given yet another chance relief, of feeling some kind of power over death.

Fiction is divided into two parts. The first is the story of a separation. Joyce and Jon — a couple of young, brilliant “late hippies” living in a house in the forest — split up when Jon, who works as a carpenter, falls for his apprentice Edie. Joyce cannot understand how the heavy-witted and unattractive woman, an ex-alcoholic who works to support her teenage daughter, might have eclipsed her «with her wit and her music and the second-highest IQ». Yet she has to accept defeat. The second part of the story opens on a different scene. Many years have passed and Joyce, who used to teach music in schools, is now a successful cellist. She lives in North Vancouver with her equally successful husband, a neuropsychologist in his sixties. At a party in their house a young woman catches her attention. Joyce later finds out that she is a writer and — for no reason at all — she decides to buy her first book, a collection of short stories. One of the short stories is a surprise: it brings Joyce back to her own past, to the drama of her separation from Jon and a part of her own life that she had forgotten and not fully understood. How come the young writer knows all about it? It does not matter so much in the end. What matters is that her story has moved Joyce, made her think that «in the emotional housekeeping of the world […] the great happiness — however temporary, however flimsy — of one person could come out of the great unhappiness of another». Such is the power of fiction, even of a short story, though Joyce is at first skeptical towards the genre, whose authors seem just to be «hanging on to the gates of Literature, rather than safely settled inside».

Deep-Holes is another long-span narrative. The story opens with the scene of a family picnic on Osler Bluff, a promontory overlooking the Niagara escarpment: the 8-year-old Kent, much loved by his mother Sally and a constant source of irritation for his father, falls into a «deep-hole» in the terrain breaking both of his legs. Later, as a young man, perhaps resenting his father’s lack of love, or rather because his «near-death experience» as a child has given him a desire «to explore the whole world of inner and outer reality», Kent abandons his university studies as well as his family. It is only many years later, after his father’s death, that he finally gets in touch with his mother. However, what he wants from her is only his share of his father’s inheritance. He now lives with immigrants, beggars and squatters in a run-down building of Toronto and needs the money to help his people. Sally, who had hoped all her life to see him once again, is hurt by his distance, his ascetic coldness. Nevertheless, she imagines that she can perhaps become a different person, now that she is in her old age, and so get closer to her long-lost son. She might be able to invent a new life for herself, working with Kent to help those people - in saris and dashikis – that she is still somewhat afraid of.
Deep-Holes is told from Sally’s point of view, and women are in the foreground also in the remaining stories. Men, on the other hand, mainly feature as secondary figures, whether they be patient, silent woodworkers or chauvinistic family dictators. Some stories, as recollections of childhood’s memories, put children centre stage. Children who can be «monstrously conventional» and cruel towards their different or disabled peers, and yet capable of «such deep feelings». In Child’s Play, two angelic young girls drown a mentally disabled girl at a summer camp, keeping their secret all their lives. In her late years, one of them seeks refuge in religion; the other, who has become an anthropologist, knows that nothing can be undone but still feels compelled to study the role of «Idiots and Idols» (that is “idiots” as people with special powers) in different cultures.

In Face, a retired actor in radio dramas remembers his isolated childhood with his mother: as he had a huge purple birthmark covering half his face, his father spitefully avoided his company. The boy had only one playmate, a little girl called Nancy. Reading of their games together in an empty house, the reader by now may be prepared for the worst. Yet it is shocking to read how little Nancy, who had unwittingly offended her disfigured friend, tried to make amends for it by making herself more similar to him.
Face is largely set in1940s Canada and its female characters are either submissive wives or «dolls» readily available to men. Even when they work, their life seems to depend entirely on male support. This is not the case in Too Much Happiness, the title story, which takes place one century earlier. The story is based on the life of Sophia Kovalevsky, a Russian mathematician (as well as a novelist, a feminist and a socialist) who lived between Russia, Sweden and France in the last decades of the 19th century. Munro focuses on the last month of Sophia’s life, on her last days of love, intense travelling and teaching, intoxicated by the happy expectation of her imminent marriage (at forty-one, with a fellow Russian exile) and by a fatal form of pneumonia.
Sophia Kovalevsky was unconventional and courageous: as a young woman, she contracted a fake marriage only to be able to emigrate from Russia and study mathematics in Germany.
Though adventurous, (she lived and travelled alone with her daughter and even participated in the Paris Commune), she devoted her youth to the study of mathematics, which gained her the Bordin Prize and a chair at Stockholm University (as the first woman).
In Munro’s story, she is vivacious and passionate, while the men around her are often portrayed as vain and mean, jealous of her success.
This last story, with its Russian characters, may bring to mind the fact that Munro has often been compared to Chekhov or Tolstoy. Her numerous short story collections — always about girls and women struggling with family, marriage, parenthood, death and disease — have gained her the reputation as the best living narrator in North America. The short stories in Too Much Happiness are , like her others, packed with action and memorable characters, capable of change to adapt to the mutable circumstances of their lives.

Nessun voto finora

Il Blog

Il blog Sul Romanzo nasce nell’aprile del 2009 e nell’ottobre del medesimo anno diventa collettivo. Decine i collaboratori da tutta Italia. Numerose le iniziative e le partecipazioni a eventi culturali. Un progetto che crede nella forza delle parole e della letteratura. Uno sguardo continuo sul mondo contemporaneo dell’editoria e sulla qualità letteraria, la convinzione che la lettura sia un modo per sentirsi anzitutto cittadini liberi di scegliere con maggior consapevolezza.

La Webzine

La webzine Sul Romanzo nasce all’inizio del 2010, fra tante telefonate, mail e folli progetti, solo in parte finora realizzati. Scrivono oggi nella rivista alcune delle migliori penne del blog, donando una vista ampia e profonda a temi di letteratura, editoria e scrittura. Sono affrontati anche altri aspetti della cultura in generale, con un occhio critico verso la società contemporanea. Per ora la webzine rimane nei bit informatici, l’obiettivo è migliorarla prima di ulteriori sviluppi.

L’agenzia letteraria

L’agenzia letteraria Sul Romanzo nasce nel dicembre del 2010 per fornire a privati e aziende numerosi servizi, divisi in tre sezioni: editoria, web ed eventi. Un team di professionisti del settore che affianca studi ed esperienze strutturate nel tempo, in grado di garantire qualità e prezzi vantaggiosi nel mercato. Un ponte fra autori, case editrici e lettori, perché la strada del successo d’un libro si scrive in primo luogo con una strategia di percorso, come la scelta di affidarsi agli addetti ai lavori.