The short stories of Alistair MacLeod, and the difficulty of communication

Having read a handful of Alistair MacLeod short stories on the plane: he describes a hard life of the people of Atlantic Canada’s fisheries, mines and farms.

Some of these stories hit you right in the feels.

Literature is wonder.

On the way to Canada, I read the very meta novel The Hour of the Star, by Brazilian modernist Clarice Lispector. That book also describes a hard life of limited possibilities, but the authorial voice couldn’t be more different. Someone summed up Lispector’s writing as “a deep distrust of the possibilities of the novel.” A wry, ironic, acerbic commentator on the writing of the story you’re reading, Lispector never tells a story from A to Z. Recommended for the adventure.

This makes me recall a failed exchange of book excitement I had this week.

In Charlottetown, during the lunch break, as I was making my way to 84 Fitzroy, after a very good cashew stir-fry with Peter at Mad Wok, I saw a bookseller’s, and was lured in by the double stacks of books in the shelves. After asking for some impossible things, I pored over the Literature section. It had several shelves – also packed, double rows. There was a copy of McTeague, the novel silent-film director Erich von Stroheim adapted into his very long Greed. Having seen this, I turned to the long-suffering bookseller, and tried to communicate the awesomeness of that cinematographic achievement (a very, very long director’s cut is said to have existed), but failed. Booksellers have to put up with a lot of customers like me, I guess: overflowing with inspiration from the presence of books. He was gracious about it all. A pro.

See Von Stroheim on Wikipedia for more gushing about that film.

I just thought about the fact that I know nothing about MacLeod. I should read all the short stories before learning more about the MacLeod biography.

Update: the notes on the Letterists and their insistence on their own radical originality, they made me laugh out loud. Good at naming, though!

Published by olleolleolle

Olle is a programmer, enjoying sunny Malmö in Sweden.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.