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Light Lifting Paperback – Apr 21 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Biblioasis; 1 edition (April 21 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897231946
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897231944
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.4 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #106,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Quill & Quire

Light Lifting is one of those rare debuts: a breathtakingly good collection of short fiction that heralds the arrival of a significant new talent. It’s also the sort of book one worries won’t get the attention it deserves.

The seven stories each encompass a keenly observed, immersive world, and each carries the weight and impact of a novel. They are reminiscent of the work of Alice Munro at her best: rich and deep, merciless and utterly unflinching.

MacLeod’s stories are shorn of sentimentality but drenched in an amorphous yearning, an omnipresent sense of loss and peril that seeps into even the happiest moments. “Good Kids,” about a family of four boys and their relationship with the boy who lived briefly in the rental house across the street, exemplifies a sense of sharp nostalgia: “Our sticks were Koho and Sherwood shafts with plastic blades that had been wickedly curved over the front burner of the stove and we usually played with tennis balls that were too small and kept falling down through the grates of the sewer.” These reminiscences are balanced with keen insight into the casual, almost inevitable brutality that even “good” kids are capable of. 

Despite that underlying sense of sadness, the characters in Light Lifting aren’t adrift. They’re rooted firmly in the real world of work and family. In “Wonder About Parents,” a head-lice infestation serves as the springboard for the history of a relationship and a family, from a drunken dorm-room night to checking each other’s hair for nits, from fertility problems to a child in danger. It’s surprisingly suspenseful – the perilousness of life and love is laid out almost clinically – yet also deeply resonant.

Light Lifting is a brilliant collection without a weak link. Steeped in the guts and sadness of life, it provides moments of pure literary transcendence. Don’t let it get overlooked.


"A thoughtful, beautifully crafted, big-hearted work" -- Anne Enright "Alexander MacLeod's control of cadence and rhythm is so complete that it seems effortless. These stories offer a real pleasure which comes from the sense of life and emotional honesty in them. The pleasure also comes from their beautiful tone and something in the voice which is both relaxed and perfect. They contain a rare kind of truthfulness." -- Colm Toibin "Every so often a new writer comes along with a true gift for language...an elegant, conversational simplicity" LA Times "Outstanding" -- Suzi Feay Independent "Brilliant...engrossing, thrilling and ultimately satisfying: each story has the weight of a novel" The Economist --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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In these seven stories by Canadian author Alexander MacLeod, we meet for the most part people in ordinary lives: young parents, bricklayers, swimming-pool lifeguards, a drugstore delivery boy, an auto worker. The only really extraordinary ones are the principal characters in the opening story, "Miracle Mile," two middle-distance runners with a chance at making the Olympic team. MacLeod has an amazing ability to present their lives with the utmost intensity. Sometimes he does this with intense self-absorption, sometimes by evoking the jargon of the sport or trade, sometimes unleashing a blizzard of short phrases, as this harassed father driving his wife and baby on a Christmas visit: "Everybody on their way. Express and collector. Keep your distance. A two-car-length minimum. Exit for the 404. Exit for the 407. Don't get trapped by the QEW. Don't go to Hamilton. My right blinker. My right blinker again. The polite wave. Adjust to the pace. Small openings where someone will let you in. Tight margins. Sweat on the steering wheel."

This comes from the second story, "Wonder About Parents," a magnificent evocation of life with a young baby, interwoven with flashbacks of meeting and courtship, and a history of the human head louse. There is very little story as such, only a series of minor crises and perhaps less minor ones, which may or may not be overcome. The open-endedness is characteristic of all these stories, which are not so much resolved as set in motion, often by some act of unexpected violence, leaving the reader to do the work. In this story, for instance, we may not know how things will work out with the baby, but we do end up very close to the parents, with the feeling that they will get through it, whatever happens.
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The world that Alexander MacLeod's protagonists inhabit is not an easygoing or a comfortable one, it is - a realistic one. Set in different urban milieus, many of his characters are young, struggling to get ahead in life. Some confront personal adversity, hoping for companionship or friendship, others attempt to find solace and even redemption. With his debut story collection MacLeod exhibits an exquisite writing talent that succeeds in capturing, with precision and depth, both the inner workings of the individual's psyche and their social and physical circumstances. The back cover of the book describes the author - very aptly I find - as a writer of "ferocious physicality".

The majority of the seven stories are written in first person voices, drawing the reader intimately into each of the narrators' points of view on concrete experiences in their lives. In 'Miracle Mile', Michael, while preparing for an important international running meet, reflects back on his long friendship with his closest competitor. As children they already raced together, and sometimes, at night, they risked their lives by running through a cross-border train tunnel beneath the Detroit river. One dangerous run is so vividly depicted, that I felt myself holding my breath until I knew that the kids were both safely on the other side. In this and other stories the author describes in detail the material details that underpin any of his protagonists' physical activities: be it running, swimming, holing bricks, or manoeuvring a bicycle on the icy roads in winter.

While most central characters are young men and only very few women hold an important place in a story, the story of Stace in 'Adult Beginner I' stands out.
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Great short stories. all the stories end with a meaningful action that the story builds up to and I loved that. Its like after its done there is just no more to say. The best part is the connections and associations you make to people you know and they are people who are not extraordinary in any way and its great. I found myself laughing through entire stories and for the last one i even shed a tear. altogether, buy it.
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A book that came to my attention as a result of being on the Giller Prize shortlist and having a newfound interest for reading short stories, I also found myself close to this book as the author is from my home province and his father, Alistair MacLeod, is a legend of a Canadian author.

When I had the opportunity to hear Alexander MacLeod read in River John, Nova Scotia, I was very impressed by his dark telling of a portion of The Loop which told the tale of a young delivery man and his glimpses of life before death. I knew I was buying it before hearing this tale, I craved reading it after listening to such a brief portion of the book.

Each story weaved darkness and hope so wonderfully and simply for me that, as a writer, I appreciated, longed for and knew I could strive for. Although it captured the attention of Canadians like a rainy, mild day in winter, it was subtle enough to offer emerging authors hope of breaking into the short story readership.

Light Lifting concluded with heavy machinery which wasn't extremely well received by Globe and Mail's reviewer Jim Bartley, he too couldn't forget that that The Number Three was heavy hitting.

Each story was left in a way that the reader remained thinking and I for one enjoyed this as I still care and wonder about each stories characters. Now I just want Alexander MacLeod to come out with a new collection or his first full length novel.

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Butland
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