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When life imitates art

Alice Munro’s short story, “Dimensions,” which appears in her recent collection Too Much Happiness, is one that the author herself cannot reread.  In the story, a blue-collar B.C. father suffocates his three young children with a pillow while his wife is away. 

What makes this story even more unsettling is its resemblance to the 2008 criminal murder trial of B.C. father Allan Schoenborn, who was charged with first-degree murder for killing his three children after the story was published in The New Yorker in 2006.

Maclean’s writer Bill Richardson points out the striking similarities between the murder trial and Munro’s short story:

There are other examples of life imitating art. The 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic was foretold in the novella Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, in which a luxury ocean liner called Titan smashes into an iceberg and capsizes in the North Atlantic. A 2004 Hubble space telescope image of dust and gas swirling around stars in the dark has the distinct look of Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night. As for Munro’s short story, it ran in The New Yorker in 2006.

At the centre of Dimensions and the B.C. murders is the father. Both are blue-collar (the fictional father, Lloyd, works at an ice cream factory, Schoenborn was a roofer), and seemingly threatened by the possibility of their wives leaving them. Insanity figures prominently. Schoenborn has testified about hearing voices, and that he’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia and paranoia.