Alexander MacLeod’s Toronto launch tonight

September 21, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Put it this way: if you ever wanted to cross over that gap, if you ever wanted to see what it was like on the other side, you would need to change your entire life and get rid of almost everything else. You have to make choices: you can’t run and be an astronaut. Can’t run and have a full-time job. Can’t run and have a girlfriend who doesn’t run. When I stopped going to church or coming home for holidays, my mother used to worry that I was losing my balance, but I never met a balanced guy who ever got anything done. There’s nothing new about this stuff. You have to sign the same deal if you want to be good – I mean truly good – at anything. Burner and I, and all those other guys, we understood this. We knew all about it. Every pure specialist is the same way so either you know what I’m talking about of you do not.

“Miracle Mile,” Alexander MacLeod

Sometimes a debut collection appears that’s so assured, so confident, so poised that it’s hard to believe it’s the author’s first time out of the gate. This was true of Rebecca Rosenblum’s 2008 debut, Once, and it also applies to Alexander MacLeod’s newly Giller-longlisted collection Light Lifting. (Like Rosenblum’s book, Light Lifting is published by Biblioasis, a press which seems to have some kind of alchemical formula for discovering talent in the short fiction arena.)

Not that MacLeod’s book appeared fully formed as if out of Zeus’s head. The author published his first story when he was 21 years old. He’s now on the cusp of 40, so the seven stories in his collection have clearly been percolating for quite some time. Such patience and dedication is apparent on every page of MacLeod’s staggering debut, which collects a group of tough-minded urban tales about people at defining moments in their lives – moments that often involve a recourse to violence or harm.

Each story is a small stylistic marvel. “Adult Beginner I” features a potent, vertiginous scene – one of the most visceral in recent memory – of a swimmer attempting a daredevil dive off a hotel roof into the Detroit River. “Wonder About Parents” employs staccato, declarative sentences to trace the trajectory of a relationship through the prism of a head lice infestation at an elementary school. The title story, about the macho dynamics of a bricklaying crew, opens with a scalding description of a sunburn: “You could see it right through his shirt. Like grease coming through waxed paper. Wet and thick like that, sticking to him. Purple.”

The standout is the opener, “Miracle Mile,” about a pair of competitive runners who spend their free time outrunning locomotives in a grimy tunnel. It begins with a moment of violence – Mike Tyson biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear – and ends with a very different act of violence that opens the implications of the story and its characters outward in a manner both bruising and vaguely mysterious.

Unsparing and crystalline, each of these superbly crafted stories contains a fully realized glimpse into a corner of the world that is unique and coruscating. Comparisons with Alice Munro are not unwarranted.

The Toronto launch for Light Lifting happens tonight at the Gladstone Hotel, featuring an onstage interview with the author, conducted by yr. humble correspondent, and music by the MacLeod family in support of their newly released CD, For Sale As Is. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and there is a $5.00 cover charge.

Comments

2 Responses to “Alexander MacLeod’s Toronto launch tonight”
  1. Robert J. Wiersema says:

    It really is a stone motherfucker of a book. It blew me away.

  2. Mark Medley says:

    I’m reading it right now. He doesn’t write like his father, that’s for sure. Not that one should expect a son to write like his father. You know what I mean. The most recent collection it reminds me of is Craig Davidson’s Rust and Bone. Not in subject matter, but in theme and tone. And, just like that collection reminded me of Thom Jones (whom I worship at the alter of) so too does Light Lifting.