Monday, February 14, 2011

BOOK: Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod

Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod, 219 pages

4th Canadian Book Challenge

Short Stories. I have a theory as to why I like short stories. I grew up in school with the readers - short selections with questions afterward designed to test your comprehension and inference ability. I read novels at home and from the library, but at school, we read A Duck is a Duck, Helicopters and Gingerbread, or How it is Nowadays. Fiction, and nonfiction selections were all present. But this theory only really works if a whole generation of readers from the 1970s in Canada also like short stories, and I doubt that.  (As an aside, how smart was it to have a grade one book called A Duck is a Duck, and then teach rhyming words? )

Some of my favorite writers have supplied me with many collections - Stephen King, Maeve Binchy and LM Montgomery, in my quest to read all I can find by them. In university, I read a wonderful collection, Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod, and now this book, Light Lifting is a collection by Alistair's son, Alexander, which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2010.

Each of the seven stories is strong and evokes a place from somewhere in Canada, mostly Ontario. Small towns, and big cities. A few of these stories take a turn at the end and are a bit surprising, in the violence and the open-endedness.  "Miracle Mile" has two runners competing, going through the rituals before their meet, and reminded me of The Bone Cage. A brother wonders what ever happened to the boy who lived across the street from them in "Good Kids," which turns into a characterization of a neighbourhood on the edge. They were the 'good' family, and the neighbour was the riff-raff, but he teaches them a bit about loyalty and toughness. I liked this story a lot.Another one I liked was "Light Lifting" which reminded me of all those summer jobs I had while working through university. Students pop in for a few months of grudge work, then back to school, often leaving the regular workers who would stay there forever.

I'm just recapping these stories, I'm not giving a sense of why I liked the book. I'm going to go with a quote from the back cover from the Giller citation:
His stories are a careful marriage of the lyric, and the narrative: each unfolds around a resonant, ineffable moment, replete with history and emotion, a Gordian knot comprised of all the strands that lead up to and away from it.

also reviewed: kate at kate's bookcase; kevin at kevinfromcanada; melanie at the indextrious reader;

ETA  here's a wonderful article about Light Lifting, where the author shares his playlist choices that go with each story. Two songs per story, with his reasons why he picked them.