Thursday, May 19, 2011

31 Days of Short Stories: Steven Beattie on MacLeod's The Loop

Over at That Shakespearean Rag, Steven Beattie continues his 31 Days of short stories by focusing on one of Alexander MacLeod's, from his Giller nominated (Danuta Gleed-nominated; Commonwealth-nominated; doubly Atlantic Book Award nominated) Light Lifting:

Alexander MacLeod’s story The Loop is about borders: between young and old, between safety and danger. It is narrated by Allan, a 12-year-old boy who makes bicycle deliveries for a local pharmacy. The title of the story refers to the boy’s delivery route, which usually begins with Barney, a shut-in who “had everything wrong with him. Diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney problems, a liver thing and some kind of circulation issue that made his feet swell up so badly that he couldn’t wear shoes and could barely walk.” Rumours swirl around town that Barney “had a thing for kids and couldn’t keep his hands off little boys.” MacLeod’s descriptions of Barney are grotesque in their detail: he is “horrible, fat, nearly naked,” usually clad only in “a pair of nylon track shorts that almost disappeared when they got sucked between the folds of his rolling gut and his wide, hairy thighs,” and in the humid summers his “whole body would get this greasy sheen.” But Barney is renowned for one thing in particular:

He was famous mostly for his hernia. It was this red pulsating growth about the size of a misshapen grapefruit and it bulged way out of the lower left side of his stomach. It seemed like something impossible, like one of those gross, special effects from an alien movie that was supposed to make you think there was a smaller creature in there. Just the shape of it, and the way it stuck out of him, and how it seemed to come right at you, could make a person squirm if they weren’t used to it. But he refused to get it fixed and he was always making a big deal about how tough he was and how it didn’t bother him at all. He thought it was funny to pull back his shirt and scare the little kids as they walked by.

It is perhaps natural that a 12-year-old boy should fixate upon the hideous physical deformities of an older man: this is, after all, exactly the kind of thing that captures a pre-adolescent male’s attention and imagination. Still less comfortable is the boy’s admission that he is charged with taking new issues of various skin magazines with him on his rounds, magazines that Barney has no compunction about sharing with his young visitor: “‘Look at that one,’ he’d say and he’d hold up some crazed picture of an orgy that was supposed to be taking place in a working garage with five or six people, men and women, all tangled up around each other and bent over the hoods of cars.” The fact that Barney devours heterosexual porn tends to suggest that the rumours about him are exaggerated; nevertheless, there is something creepily disconcerting about his willingness to engage the 12-year-old delivery boy in discussions of sexual subject matter (one of many borders that get crossed in MacLeod’s story).

For his full analysis please go here.

1 comment:

contactos barcelona said...

In my opinion one and all should browse on this.