Monday, October 25, 2010

LIGHT LIFTING by Alexander MacLeod (2010) Biblioasis

Yesterday afternoon I heard the IFOA panel hosted by Antanas Sileika and featuring Alexander MacLeod, Paolo Giordano and Karl Marlantes: word/sentence/book. Each of these writers is a little startled by the remarkable successes of their first books. I'd already dipped into LIGHT LIFTING, but after this incredibly engaging round table discussion was buoyed to finish it.

In their very public conversation, MacLeod referred to the opening paragraph of "Miracle Mile," the first story in this exquisite, elegiac collection. He wanted to write a piece that "whittles down, the focus becoming so precise that all other social context is irrelevant." He does just that in the moment just before Mike Tyson bites off Evander Holyfield's ear when "the tendons in his neck bulge out and his eyes pop wide open and his teeth come grinding down." That moment is pure instinct and rage.

MacLeod went on to say that "everyone has material, but you admire the way that they do it. You lust after style." As I was reading each of these stories that contemplates the ordinariness of daily lives, I couldn't help but compare their rhythm and pacing to Richard Ford's A MULTITUDE OF SINS. Each sentence is measured without being overwrought. And, it's interesting to know that both fiction writers read their work aloud to be sure that it sounds just right.

What especially impresses me about each story is the resonant final sentence that folds in on itself and gestures to both personal and shared experiences. Take a look for yourself at the final image in "Wonder About Parents": "Like a discotheque, maybe, or the reflection of ancient fire in a cave;" or in "Light Lifting:" "It wasn't right and I kept wishing for it to be darker so I didn't have to see it all so clearly;" or in "Adult Beginner 1:" "It rises out of the dark, advances over the water and swallows everything in its path." Do you see what I mean?

LIGHT LIFTING is the product of 15 years of hard work. I sure hope we won't have to wait another 15 for Alexander MacLeod's next book. Lucky for you, if you live in Toronto, he will be reading from this luminous collection on Saturday October 30th at the Scotiabank Giller Shortlist night at IFOA. 8pm Fleck Dance Theatre.

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