Ghost Texts, Patterns of Entrapment, and Lines of Flight: Reading Stories from Too Much Happiness and Dear Life in Connection with Earlier Stories
In her last two collections Alice Munro has managed to both reassure and surprise her readers. “Dimensions” (Munro 2009) and its violent husband reads as another version of “Runaway” (Munro 2004); a mother loses contact with her son in “Deep-Holes” (2009), which echoes the plight of the mother in “Silence” (Munro 2004); the main protagonist of “Train” (2012) is said to deal with the traumatic memory of his abuse by “locking” it away, which eerily echoes the end of “Vandals” (Munro 1994). A child drowns in “Gravel” (2012); children are murdered by their father in “Dimensions,” and the narrator of “Child’s Play” (2009) confesses to having killed a child. Violent deaths are nothing new in Munro’s fiction. Yet Munro used to resort to indirect strategies, or propose multiple accounts, generating frictions, and, as Crouse argued, enabling Munro to choose what he called “open-ended closure” (Crouse 1995: 58–59). Are the new stories a repetition of the same, yet written with a more classic form of closure? Reading a few stories from Munro’s last two collections with the earlier stories they clearly evoke, I will examine the complex role played by intertextual echoes, including those within Munro’s own fiction, using Michel Charles’ concept of “ghost texts” (Charles 1995), to contend that they explain and ensure the haunting quality of Munro’s stories such as “Child’s Play” and “Gravel.” I will examine patterns of entrapment and lines of flights in “Train,” or “Dimensions,” and loss and recovery in...
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