Sunday, August 28, 2011

BOOK: As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories by Alistair MacLeod

As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories by Alistair MacLeod, 174 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5

It seemed hard to believe that people only twenty miles away would write letters to one another and only visit once a year. But at that time the distance was hard to negotiate and there were no telephones. from "Vision"

The connection to the past, and how times have, and have not, changed is the major theme of Alistair MacLeod's writing. Oral history and stories passed down through generations have shaped the Maritimes. Our history is not that far removed from the Highlands of Scotland or the fields of Ireland. Each of the seven short stories in this collection relates to the past somehow. Here's a brief outline, which does nothing to tell how powerful each story is.

"The Closing Down of Summer" - Miners who travel the world spend their last day of vacation on Cape Breton. Dangerous work for large men, leaving their womenfolk. Relevant today? How many Maritimers are working in Alberta, sending money back to their families?

"Winter Dog" - a man remembers the dog of his childhood who saved his life out on the ice

"To Every Thing There Is a Season" - Yet when I speak on this Christmas 1977, I am not sure how much I speak with the voice of that time or how much in the voice of what I have since become. Very touching, my favorite in the collection.

"Second Spring" - A young boy wants to breed a cow for a young farmers group

"The Tuning of Perfection" - Producers from the big city of Halifax come to Cape Breton looking for Gaelic singers, causing rival families to compete. Gaelic is considered a dying language but one of the local high schools here offers a course on beginner Gaelic, trying to revive it

"As Birds Bring Forth the Sun" - a family is haunted by a wild dog that comes to them as they die

" Vision" - A fisherman tells his son a story from his youth visiting his grandparents for a week.