Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro – Selection 2 of #DealMeIn2020

The Card: ♦King♦ of Diamonds. (image from Pinterest)

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♦♦♦Diamonds♦♦♦ is my Suit for “Favorite Female Authors,” and I’m reading from three collections – Margaret Atwood’s “Dancing Girls,” Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds and Other Stories,” and Alice Munro’s “Too Much Happiness”

The Author: Alice Munro (one of the world’s most acclaimed short story writers). I’ve blogged about a few stories of hers before, some as part of prior years’ Deal Me In: “Amundsen“, “Some Women“, “Axis“, and “Menesetung.” I liked all of them but Axis may have been my favorite. Picture from nobelprize.org. Yeah, she won one of those for literature. 🙂

The Story: “Too Much Happiness” from her short story collection of the same name. I own a kindle version, er, “license” of this book. I had originally intended to read 4 novella-length “short stories” for Deal Me In this year, assigning them to the nines in my short story deck (‘it’s “Nine for Novella” this week at Deal Me In’ blah blah blah) , but in the end I only included two.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020.

Too Much Happiness

“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind,” her friend Marie Mendelson has told her. “When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Witty quotations like the above point out that there may be, of course, differences between men and women in the way they view the world or think or act. But, where there shouldn’t be differences is in regards to the amount of opportunity available to either sex. This nearly novella length story led me down a rabbit hole of discovery, learning about “the most famous woman scientist before the 20th century,” Sophia Kovalevskaya (pictured below), who struggled against the prejudices of her time, yet achieved much in her too-short life.

I’ve been a fan of Alice Munro for a long time and haven’t read a bad story by her yet. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of Sophia Kovalevsky before this year (See the Wikipedia page about Kovalevskaya at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofya_Kovalevskaya). I also wish I had known the historical background for story before I started reading, since by hopping around and using flashbacks I was left a little confused. What still shone through, however,  was the story of an exceptional woman who, through her determination, began to blaze a trail that many others would follow – and are still following today (Even now, I am often reading or hearing about the under-representation of women in the STEM fields). Her resolve in the face of the obstacles of her time should be inspiring to all, women and men.

Another quotation from the story which I found interesting was the following (and my kindle tells me it has been highlighted by a great many of the book’s readers):

“She was learning, quite late, what many people around her appeared to have known since childhood – that life can be perfectly satisfying without major achievements. It could be brimful of occupations which did not weary you to the bone. Acquiring what you needed for a comfortably furnished life, and then to take on a social and public life of entertainment, would keep you from even being bored or idle, and would make you feel at the end of the day that you had done exactly what pleased everybody. There need be no agonizing.

For my part, however, I almost feel that those born with a special talent cannot find solace in this approach, since that very talent almost demands of them that they “see it through.” I think that Sophia is driven in this way.

Here’s a copy of Munro’s acknowledgements page about this story, screenshotted from my kindle app. I always enjoy reading about the genesis of stories…

munro

I couldn’t find this story available online anywhere, but if you’re a Munro fan, the book is worth picking up. I was also inspired by this reading to update my donation via amazon.smile for 2020 to the Association of Women in Mathematics. Why not do the same? See this link to point you where to go https://awm-math.org/

What about you? Had you heard of this woman before? (Be honest)  This week’s “Deal Me In Coincidence?” (almost) – Kovalevsky’s birthday is January 15th. Just missed it by a few days. 🙂

Next up for Deal Me In 2020: Ray Boomhower’s “A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sweall and the Ford Peace Ship)”

You know when you’ve made it onto a Soviet stamp, you’re a pretty big deal in the C.C.C.P!

Below: A serene final resting place for a brilliant mind…