- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393341186
- ISBN-13: 978-0393341188
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 363 g
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #94,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Island: The Complete Stories Paperback – 2011
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Island collects into a single volume the superbly crafted stories of Alistair MacLeod. In addition to their original appearances in North America's finest literary journals (and various reprints in Best American Stories and other prestigious anthologies), all but two of the attentive, meditative stories filled the previous books The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun (1986). These two books were enough to gain MacLeod the admiration of readers in numerous languages and writers as diverse as Michael Ondaatje, Joyce Carol Oates, and Colm Tóibín.
With unseen, magician's fingers, MacLeod makes the craggy rocks and wave-slapped bays of rugged Cape Breton Island speak for themselves. As in "The Boat," in which the very walls of a house and the fixtures of a boat find voice and carry the story, the stories in Island sing in a choir of voices not exclusively human. Dogs, the lamps of isolated lighthouses, winding roads, and slabs of winter ice sing together in voices both regional and universal. The sternness of the landscape and the livelihoods of MacLeod's people inflect both the actions of his characters and the voice of their narration. In the tragic "As Birds Bring Forth the Sun," a "man with a Highland name who lived beside the sea" nurses an injured dog despite the protests of "the more practical members of his family, who had seen run-over dogs before, [who] suggested that her neck be broken by his strong hands or that he grasp her by the hind legs and swing her head against a rock." These are timeless, ageless stories not only because they will last alongside the similarly dense and striking stories of Chekhov or Carver, but also because in reading them we are ageless, simultaneously child, young lover, and aged hand. --Darryl Whetter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Alistair MacLeod’s stories are as regional and universal as the work of Faulkner or Chekhov. And they are, I think, as permanent.”
“Stunning.… The quality of the writing matches the very best in the world.… The stories are about us and here is that rare voice, a unique voice, to illuminate our experience.”
“The book is a treasure.… These are stories well worth returning to, with layers to uncover gradually.… It doesn’t get any better than this.”
“If you buy one book this year, let it be Island.… You will have in your possession not only some of the best short stories written in the twentieth century, but some of the best short stories ever written in the English language…These are universal stories for all time.”
“Every story is touched with the beauty and truth of genius”
“One of the finest masters of prose in the world…these short stories have established MacLeod as a writer whose every word is set in place with clean and enduring perfections.”
“These stories have slowly become famous for their control of tone and cadence and for MacLeod’s ability to handle pure, raw emotion…Neither contemporary trend nor modern ironies interest him. The genius of his stories is to render his fictional world as timeless.”
“MacLeod’s lyricism succeeds in leaving a reader both harrowed by and envious of all the sorrow, violence and ravenous love.”
-New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
MacLeod's characters are a dying breed, people we don't see many of these days: coal miners, fishermen, farmers, lighthouse keepers. They are a people held together by a strong Gaelic thread; they speak Gaelic, sing Gaelic songs and live lives upheld and reinforced by strong Gaelic traditions. They are a rural people and they very much prefer things to stay the way they have been.
But, as we all know, things never stay the way they have been. MacLeod's rural characters are the older ones. The younger ones have left the lonely farms of Cape Breton to work and study in the cities. The tourists are moving in, and, finding the Cape Breton landscape "unspoiled," and, therefore, very much to their liking, they are spoiling and defiling it, taking the first steps toward turning it into the very thing from which they wish to escape.
In "Island," MacLeod, writes mainly of the modern, city-wise, young people who come home to visit the dying world from which they wanted to escape. What they find is a world and a culture that will not die, that refuses to be obliterated. "The Closing Down of Summer" is a story that illustrates this persistence of the past perfectly.
MacLeod is at his best in this collection of stories. His prose is emotional but never maudlin, precise but never terse and it possesses a rhythm so Gaelic it can't fail to strike a chord of recognition in anyone who is in the least bit familiar with Cape Breton and its inhabitants. MacLeod is not a "rural" writer, yet his love for the rural is one thread that wends its way through all of these disparate tales.
To the uninitiated, MacLeod may seem a bit artificial in his dialogue. He's not. He's just being "Cape Breton" to the core. The dialogue of Nova Scotia is a dramatic one, full of artifice and beautifully cadenced. MacLeod captures all of this perfectly.
The stories in "Island" are simple, honest, earnest stories about simple, honest, earnest folk. They may, at times, sound a bit naive, but that's just the total honesty of them. And, it is the very thing that makes them so beautiful and unforgettable.
Some of these stories are older stories, so they may have a bit of an old-fashioned ring to them. Don't let that put you off. MacLeod isn't old-fashioned, he's timeless, and this book proves it. These stories, revolving around a vanishing people and a disappearing way of life, are marvelous, contemplative creations and it would certainly be a shame to miss them.
There were some stories I liked more than others -- but for the most part, I found them to be uninvolving. His descriptive talents are immense, and his feeling for his subjects and their setting -- Canada's beautiful but harsh Cape Breton Island, for the most part -- is obviously deep and heartfelt. Perhaps his characters and his storylines are just a little too rough-hewn for me, I can't really put my finger on it.
I'm glad I read this book -- I had heard a lot about MacLeod's work in the last year or so -- and I won't go so far as to recommend that others NOT read him. As I said, his talents are genuine and obvious, and others might enjoy these stories more than I did. By all means, if you enjoy reading the work of a craftsman, don't ignore this man's writing.
I've read collections of short stories in the past year that I enjoyed more -- by Russell Banks, John Biguenet, Adria Bernardi, and (my favorite) William Trevor.