Spain Remembers

Spain Remembers

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Alistair Macleod Last Work Reissued

For Remembrance Day, McClelland and Steward have re-issued a small book, only 47 pages, the last work of Alistair MacLeod. It is called Remembrance. When Alistair MacLeod came to the Sleeping Giant Literary Festival a few years back, I fell in love with his gentle personality, his soft voice and the way he made short story writing seem easy. In his workshop, he discussed plot. You start with a character,he said, and then think about her and just work out various things that could happen. It seemed so simple as he outlined his method but I knew it took him years to write a story. MacLeod died last April, a loss indeed.

In his recent CBC Sunday essay  Michael Enright remembers "Alistair with a red moon face, twinkling eyes and the smile of a young boy.

"He was not a prolific writer. He published only one novel and 20 short stories. It took him ten years to write his masterpiece, No Great Mischief. He wrote in longhand on yellow legal pads. His great friend and editor, Douglas Gibson, called him "a stone carver, chipping out each perfect word with loving care." His work is unique, unlike any other writer I can think of. It has the clarity of dialogue of Flannery O'Connor and the diagnostic precision and descriptive powers of Alice Munro.

The story deals with three characters all called David MacDonald (only in Cape Breton!). Enright calls it " a story that makes you sit up straight and take notice; it's not maudlin or sentimental. And although Alistair says none of the MacDonald characters is based on his father, there are similarities. "My father went to war when he was 17," he told a reporter, "and he wasn't full of patriotic zeal, he was just kind of starving."

To read all of Michael Enright's review

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