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This All Happened

by Michael Winter

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483411,848 (3.89)11
The commodity a fiction writer sells is his own life, his spirit. This is especially true in fiction that draws from autobiography. In Michael Winter's journal-à-clef, This All Happened, we are exposed to the kernel of truth that exists in each day. Told from the viewpoint of Gabriel English, the work opens windows onto a richly textured, fast-paced filmic compilation of daily vignettes over one calendar year (if Fellini were a Newfoundlander...). Gabriel's promises and actions early in the year have their repercussions by the end. Gabriel's passion for Lydia Murphy leads him into paroxysms of jealousy--but he never abandons his shrewdly witty perspective on the vagaries of modern love. Concrete and delicately rendered, This All Happened depicts a man's descent from love to fury.… (more)
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Gabriel English was also the protagonist of Michael Winter's short story collection One Last Good Look. I realized this after I had finished this novel and felt a little badly. As though I'd arrived significantly late for an event, only to discover that I'd under-dressed as well. Which isn't to say that This All Happened wasn't complete as a reading experience, but I like to know my characters from the moment they arrive in the literary world.But readers do get to know Gabe well throughout the year chronicled in This All Happened. It's not an easy year in his life; in fact, the novel begins with a moment of unhappiness. On January 1st, at very-nearly-the-moment-of-the-New-Year, "Lydia leans back to laugh at something Wilf Jardine says". Gabe is unhappy about this, about Lydia's laughter, about Wilf's wolf-like interest in Lydia. He records his unhappiness in the first entry of this year's chronicles (one vignette for each day of each year following) and muses on the unhappy portions of his relationship with Lydia throughout the year, as he works on his novel, which he has vowed to finish before year-end. It's a deliberate plan and the structure of the novel is similarly deliberate.The craft of novel-writing overtly considered by Gabe and, also, Maisie, who writes as well. "A novel should be told by the voice of an authority, yet a voice that is still discovering the meaning of what the story is. There should be wonder. And all traces of the technical problem a novel delivers (that is, how do you keep the story afloat for three hundred pages?) should be erased or masked."And perhaps because Gabe has appeared in fiction before, it's significant that the subtitle of this novel is A Fictional Memoir. So Gabe is the reader's voice of authority, but the reader can't help but wonder about Michael Winter, who is Gabe's voice of authority. How does Michael Winter keep This All Happened afloat for nearly 300 pages? The vignettes do mask the passage of time and attend to the flow of the story. Each day feels distinct, which sometimes makes for awkward reading (and, likely, awkward living for Gabe and company, so this contributes to the novel's credibility), the transitions often abrupt, as 28 to 31 snippets depict a month in Gabe's experience. In August, he writes: "I have my weight on one leg. I often rest on one leg to given an ankle some relief. The body does things the mind is oblivious to. Lydia is firmly planted on two legs. She's slightly back on her heels, feet apart, ready to go. I am more floaty, balanced, ready to bend with whatever comes. Lydia anchored, resists any oncoming." Gabe and Lydia are standing very differently in the world: they realize it and the reader realizes it. The growing sense of unease between these two characters, throughout this paged year, alternates with moments of reconnection and refreshed commitment, and entangles the reader along the way. (If you're interested, there is a somewhat longer review of this book on BIP here.) ( )
  buriedinprint | Sep 15, 2011 |
Gabriel English was also the protagonist of Michael Winter's short story collection One Last Good Look. I realized this after I had finished this novel and felt a little badly. As though I'd arrived significantly late for an event, only to discover that I'd under-dressed as well. Which isn't to say that This All Happened wasn't complete as a reading experience, but I like to know my characters from the moment they arrive in the literary world.

But readers do get to know Gabe well throughout the year chronicled in This All Happened. It's not an easy year in his life; in fact, the novel begins with a moment of unhappiness. On January 1st, at very-nearly-the-moment-of-the-New-Year, "Lydia leans back to laugh at something Wilf Jardine says". Gabe is unhappy about this, about Lydia's laughter, about Wilf's wolf-like interest in Lydia.

He records his unhappiness in the first entry of this year's chronicles (one vignette for each day of each year following) and muses on the unhappy portions of his relationship with Lydia throughout the year, as he works on his novel, which he has vowed to finish before year-end. It's a deliberate plan and the structure of the novel is similarly deliberate.

The craft of novel-writing overtly considered by Gabe and, also, Maisie, who writes as well.

"A novel should be told by the voice of an authority, yet a voice that is still discovering the meaning of what the story is. There should be wonder. And all traces of the technical problem a novel delivers (that is, how do you keep the story afloat for three hundred pages?) should be erased or masked."

And perhaps because Gabe has appeared in fiction before, it's significant that the subtitle of this novel is A Fictional Memoir. So Gabe is the reader's voice of authority, but the reader can't help but wonder about Michael Winter, who is Gabe's voice of authority.

How does Michael Winter keep This All Happened afloat for nearly 300 pages? The vignettes do mask the passage of time and attend to the flow of the story. Each day feels distinct, which sometimes makes for awkward reading (and, likely, awkward living for Gabe and company, so this contributes to the novel's credibility), the transitions often abrupt, as 28 to 31 snippets depict a month in Gabe's experience.

In August, he writes: "I have my weight on one leg. I often rest on one leg to given an ankle some relief. The body does things the mind is oblivious to. Lydia is firmly planted on two legs. She's slightly back on her heels, feet apart, ready to go. I am more floaty, balanced, ready to bend with whatever comes. Lydia anchored, resists any oncoming."

Gabe and Lydia are standing very differently in the world: they realize it and the reader realizes it. The growing sense of unease between these two characters, throughout this paged year, alternates with moments of reconnection and refreshed commitment, and entangles the reader along the way.

(If you're interested, there is a somewhat longer review of this book on Buried In Print http://www.buriedinprint.com/?p=2279) ( )
  buriedinprint | Nov 10, 2010 |
This book is written like a journal...one entry for every day of a year. With this simple, but highly structured form, the author has done wonders. He's told a story about Gabe English, his passion for Lydia Murphy, and about their friends. The characters are richly developed, and through this series of daily vignettes, you come to know them very well.

Some of my favourite quotes:

"That's what love songs are all about, I say. The before and after. But we are both absorbed in the here and now."

A description of Gabe's friend Oliver: "I left him still pacing the snooker table. Bewildered that Maisie has left him. And then, almost in the same breath, he's perplexed that the Canadiens can't seem to score goals in March. There is no variation in the weight he puts on problems."

"He says, you know how they say there's a fork in the woods or you walk down the road less travelled or you can't see the woods for the trees. Well, I'm saying I just went bombing down the road and never saw the woods at all." ( )
  LynnB | Jul 18, 2008 |
Showing 3 of 3
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The commodity a fiction writer sells is his own life, his spirit. This is especially true in fiction that draws from autobiography. In Michael Winter's journal-à-clef, This All Happened, we are exposed to the kernel of truth that exists in each day. Told from the viewpoint of Gabriel English, the work opens windows onto a richly textured, fast-paced filmic compilation of daily vignettes over one calendar year (if Fellini were a Newfoundlander...). Gabriel's promises and actions early in the year have their repercussions by the end. Gabriel's passion for Lydia Murphy leads him into paroxysms of jealousy--but he never abandons his shrewdly witty perspective on the vagaries of modern love. Concrete and delicately rendered, This All Happened depicts a man's descent from love to fury.

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