Top Canadian Fiction
- Secret Daughter
- The Book of Negroes
- Player One
- The Bishop's Man
- The Year of the Flood
- Water for Elephants
- Light Lifting
- The Matter with Morris
Critics, authors and scholars still routinely attempt to define the parameters of a distinctly Canadian literature by discussing issues of regionalism, multiculturalism and rural versus urban living. But it takes a book like Alexander MacLeod’s Giller-nominated debut story collection, Light Lifting, to remind you what’s missing from so much sanctioned CanLit: the daily grind of work and its impact on the lives of ordinary people.
Reading the output of so many of our celebrated authors, you’d think that nine out of 10 Canadians of the last two centuries were explorers, cartographers, sea captains, archivists, artists, intellectuals, journalists and convention-defying rural doctors, teachers and midwives. A reader from away might well ask: Who built the houses and vehicles for this nation of solitary types brooding over questions of personal and national identity? Who delivers their pizzas?
MacLeod’s characters do those things and even dirtier jobs. Few authors in this country have delved so deeply into the workplaces of working-class Canadians as MacLeod, and the characters he finds there are as rich and complex as any of the cerebral exotics that populate the work of Ondaatje, Urquhart and Atwood.
Yet none of the seven stories in Light Lifting can be reduced to mere kitchen-sink realism. Though all are technically of the naturalist school, MacLeod’s stories employ multiple narratives and stylistic techniques to capture the particular tone and texture of the dramatic situation unfolding.
For the rest, please go here.
And we'll see you around these parts post Giller soon.
Over at Good Reports, Alex good reviews Combat Camera. A taste:
The artist, as Amis lectures, is a warrior against cliché. What makes Zane a truly burned out case is his sense that this is all life has left to offer. Like Justin in Russell Smith's Girl Crazy, he can be described (I am borrowing from Jeet Heer's review of Girl Crazy in Canadian Notes & Queries) as a "chivalric pornographer." Unlike Justin, however, he is not transformed by his relationship with a fallen woman. In fact, one of his last lines is the fatalistic "None of us can change anything." This is the voice of wisdom, which is not the same as saying he is right. With age comes passivity. Justin is, in the end, living a naive player's fantasy - the drugs, the baggy clothes, the ho's - whereas Zane is crippled by self-awareness and trapped inside a story he is no longer the author of. Justin and Zane, who are both fringe cultural workers, represent a tragic response to a fundamental part of the modern cultural environment.
Girl Crazy and Combat Camera are first-rate novels that come, I think, to the same grim conclusion about how to cope with our own personal hearts of darkness. Though the "incidents of the surface" involve sleazy, underworld happenings, both books are finally concerned with a more insidious form of corruption: the seductive power of illusions.For the full review please go here.