Evoking the Epic in Miniature

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					one whose patience is tried by Gwyn’s
avoidance of the phrase “making love”
                                                 the aged Born purveys a Mr. Rochester-
                                                 like invitation to marriage, which she has          Evoking the
in favor of “older, more hilarious locu-
tions, such as rumpty-rumpty, quaffing,
                                                 no difficulty declining. The scene, with
                                                 the monster reduced to the reptilian fate             Epic in
and bonker bang.” Love and the blame-
lessness of its objects may be worth in-
                                                 he surely deserves, does not do much to
                                                 improve the probability of the proceed-              Miniature
terrogating, but reduced to language like        ings.
that it is hard to keep one’s mind on the            In one of the alternate versions of his           Too Much Happiness
question.                                        adventures, Adam quotes the poet George                      By Alice Munro
    Silliness aside, after Adam’s death Jim      Oppen, about whom he is writing an ap-                           Knopf.
speaks with Gwyn to verify her brother’s         preciative essay. “Impossible to doubt the                  304 pp. $25.95.
description of their affair, or rumpty-          world: it can be seen / And because it is                     Reviewed by
rumpty or incest. She denies it utterly. “I      irrevocable // It cannot be understood,                   Michelle Orange
loved my brother . . . but I never slept with    and I believe that fact is lethal.”                   Author, “The Sicily Papers”;
him. . . . What Adam wrote was pure                  Perhaps as an example of what is                 editor, “From the Notebook”;
make-believe.” And this is what Auster           lethal, the following paragraph erupts              contributor, New York “Times”
is good at: Invisible is composed of many        without much preamble in the midst of
such dissonant reports of events, and the        Adam’s personal angst: “Dread has be-             T TURNS OUT that retirement, or even
passing back and forth of responsibility
for things that may merely exist in the in-
                                                 come fact. Innocence has turned into
                                                 guilt, and hope is a word that rhymes with
                                                                                                 I  the vague and apparently instantly re-
                                                                                                 gretted suggestion of it, suits Alice Mun-
flamed imaginations of his characters. If        despair. In every part of Paris, people are     ro. Since the publication of The View from
that is confusing, it is meant to be. Auster     jumping out of windows. The metro is            Castle Rock (2006), which she hinted
excels at fogging an endless set of mir-         flooded with human excrement. The               would be her last book, the 78-year-old
rors.                                            dead are crawling from their graves.”           author has been at work as usual crafting
        E ADVANCE to Part III. Jim is still          That typifies what, for me, is lacking      short stories. Several have appeared in
W       hanging in there, reading another
sheaf of manuscript and tracking down
                                                 in Invisible: The horror of that “dread”
                                                 does not emerge from a rich sense of time
                                                                                                 her old haunts, the New Yorker and Harp-
                                                                                                 er’s. All 10 make up Too Much Happi-
the principals in his friend’s account.          or place, from a setting as patiently de-       ness, her 14th volume.
Adam himself, fast approaching death,            tailed as Adam’s inner demons. What                 Fellow Canadians will recognize the
only has strength to refer to himself as W,      could have been a genuine confrontation         title as a warning, not an expression of
but he has one more moral crisis to relate:      with the threat of violence that shadows        rapture. Known for her rigorous emotion-
Junior year abroad, in Paris, he sees Mar-       the city (and the world) feels like an op-      al economy, and yet pegged as the stan-
got again and hears her forgive Born             portunistic plot turn that proves Born to       dard-bearer of a microgenre that author
everything, knife episode included, be-          be the Satan he alleges himself to be.          Timothy Findley (somewhat laughably,
cause “I take people as they are . . . I don’t   Or—if we believe his defense—just a             to those of us from the region) dubbed
ask a lot of questions.” Perhaps, she im-        posturer, not a demon at all. A most un-        “Southern Ontario Gothic,” Munro has
plies, Adam is overreacting.                     likely professor, Born never convinces;         made a project of inquiring into Canadi-
    Born is now engaged to Hélène, a rath-       he is a concoction of horrifying slogans        an notions of social and self-identity. The
er plain but earnest French woman whose          and 
				
DOCUMENT INFO
Description: Inamajority of the stories someone looks back on life and homes in on long dormant episodes that are now emerging as the key to a critical moment in the formation of their character. [...] time itself is the most prominent player in a collection that foregrounds female experience (although two stories follow men) in the realm of limited or gravely disappointed expectations.
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