Monday, September 27, 2010

As Solid as a Punch

Over at the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Mary Jo Anderson weighs in about Light Lifting:

‘I’M OBVIOUSLY thrilled and surprised and almost stupefied that this little book made it through everything to get on the Giller (long) list," said Alexander MacLeod about his debut short story collection Light Lifting.

There is nothing little about this book, except perhaps the small, independent press Biblioasis, which published the book.

Though this is MacLeod’s first book and he is up against some veteran writers for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, including Douglas Coupland and Jane Urquhart, he has been writing for almost as many years as them.

"The first story was completed in 1997 so it took me 13 years to get to this point. I’ve been writing since I was in high school and I published my first story when I was 21 years old, a long, long road to this destination" said Macleod during an email interview.

Miracle Mile, the first story in this superb collection, opens with the conjuring of a moment in history. "This was the day after Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear."

Mikey and his lifelong friend Burner are in limbo waiting for the start of a track meet where they are to compete in the 1,500-metre race. Television stations endlessly air the grisly visuals of Tyson’s "rawest impulse;" the channels "churn it around and around, the same thirty-second clip of the fight. It was like watching the dryer roll clothes."

Before every race, Burner will always "zone out and go way down into himself and stay there perfectly silent for long stretches, staring off to the side"

Mikey accepts Burner’s behaviour: "When you get right down to it, even the craziest ritual and the wildest superstition are based on somebody’s version of real solid logic."

There is a moment mid-stride when a runner has both feet off the ground. In each of the seven stories in this collection, the lives of the main characters are illuminated to reveal those pivotal moments where nothing is solid beneath their feet.

Mid-air can mean either falling or flying — and the stories have characters experiencing both as the action spirals through the past, present and towards implied future.

What is true in this story is true in all the stories — MacLeod’s subtle structuring embodies both the themes and the emotions of the narrative. The oscillating time frames bring us to and away from the threshold again and again. And the worlds in which we are immersed are so concretely and completely realized and so visceral.

For the compete review, please visit here.

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