Light Lifting

Light Lifting

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by Alexander MacLeod
     
 

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A suite of dark, unflinching elegies for a working-class city and community driven to the brink.See more details below

Overview

A suite of dark, unflinching elegies for a working-class city and community driven to the brink.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781897231944
Publisher:
Biblioasis
Publication date:
04/05/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
949,255
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

This was the day after Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear. You remember that. It was a moment in history - not like Kennedy or the planes flying into the World Trade Center – not up at that level. This was something lower, more like Ben Johnson, back when his eyes were that thick, yellow colour and he tested positive in Seoul after breaking the world-record in the hundred. You might not know exactly where you were standing or exactly what you were doing when you first heard about Tyson or about Ben, but when the news came down, I bet it stuck with you. When Tyson bit off Holyfield’s ear, that cut right through the everyday clutter. All the papers and the television news shows ran the same pictures of Tyson standing there in his black trunks with the blood in his mouth. It seemed like everything else that happened that day had to be related back to this, back to Mike and what he had done. You have to remember, this was before Tyson got the tattoo on his face and the rematch with Holyfield was supposed to be his big comeback, a chance to go straight and be legitimate again. Nobody thinks that now. Now, the only thing you see when you look back to that day is Mike moving in for the kill, the way his cheek brushes up almost intimately against Evander’s face before he breaks down completely and gives in to his rawest impulse. Then the tendons in his neck bulge out and his teeth come grinding down.

Burner and I were stuck in another hotel room, watching the sports highlights churn it around and around, the same thirty-second clip of the fight. It was like watching the dryer roll clothes. Cameras showed it from different angles and at different speeds and there were lots of close-ups of Evander’s mangled head and the chunk of flesh lying there in the middle of the ring. Commentators took turns explaining what was happening and what it all meant.

The cleaning lady had already come and gone and now we had two perfectly made double beds, a fresh set of towels and seven empty hours before it would be time for us to go. We just sat there, side by side, beds three feet apart, perched on top of our tight blankets like a pair of castaways on matching rafts drifting in the same current. Mike kept coming at us through the screen. You know how it gets. If you look at the same pictures long enough even the worst things start to feel too familiar, even boring. I turned the TV off but the left-over buzz hanging in the air still hurt my eyes.

“Enough?” I asked, though I knew there’d be no response.

Burner didn’t say anything. His eyes were kind of glossed over and he just sat there staring straight into the same dark place where the picture used to be. He’d been fading in and out for the last few hours.

If I have learned one thing through all this, it’s that you have to let people do what they’re going to do. Everybody gets ready in their own way. Some guys play their music loud, some say their prayers and some can’t keep anything down and are always running to the toilet. Burner wasn’t like that. He preferred to keep things quiet in the morning, to just sit around and watch mindless TV so he could wander off in his mind and come back anytime he liked. One minute, he could be sitting there, running his mouth off about nothing, and then for no reason, he’d zone out and go way down into himself and stay there perfectly silent for long stretches, staring off to the side like he was trying to remember the name of someone he should really know.

It didn’t bother me. Over the years, Burner and I had been in plenty of hotel rooms together and by now we had our act down. I didn’t mind the way he folded his clothes into perfect squares and put them into the hotel dresser drawers even when we were staying a single night, and I don’t think he cared about the way I dumped my bag into a pile in the corner and pulled out the things I needed. You have to let people do what they do. When you get right down to it, even the craziest ritual and the wildest superstition are based on somebody’s version of real solid logic.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"His brilliant debut collection, Light Lifting, is engrossing, thrilling and ultimately satisfying: each story has the weight of a novel. The young Canadian writer is already winning plaudits in his own country. He can expect acclaim far beyond ... The choice of words is spare, simple and unaffected, and the rhythm is perfect ... stunning work. Mr. MacLeod's next contribution will be eagerly anticipated."—The Economist

"MacLeod's compassion and gift for a telling detail go a long way...[he] has recently been shortlisted for four literary prizes. On this evidence, he deserves it."—The Guardian

"Across seven wide-ranging tales, lives are saved, others are lost, and redemption, both physical and spiritual, is occasionally found. Nevertheless, the world harnessed by MacLeod is also one that bursts with wonder and nostalgia, and the author lets his subjects shine with both raw power and supple beauty throughout. Each story in Light Lifting is a true marvel—there are no fillers here—and with every passing page MacLeod firmly establishes himself as a bright new talent in literary fiction." Benjamin Woodard, Rain Taxi

"MacLeod's Light Lifting arrives across the Atlantic laden with praise."—Irish Times

"Alexander MacLeod demonstrates a strapping writerly prowess. If literature were an athletic competition he'd certainly deserve a silver medal, and I suspect he'll soon be vying for gold." —The National Post

"Alexander MacLeod looks like a heavyweight in the making."—Irish TImes

"create[s] ripples in the mind of the reader"—The Independent

"Alexander MacLeod's control of cadence and rhythm is so complete that it seems effortless.... [These stories] contain a rare kind of truthfulness." —Colm Toibin

"Light Lifting shows MacLeod is a honed storyteller. What will surprise, and surely impress, is the fresh, imaginative subject matter. And the integral prose: MacLeod has the ability to wave his wand and paint a picture in milliseconds, carving images out of dust."—THIS Magazine

"Taut to a point of richness, deft in the dark, with an understanding of narrative suspense that's somehow actually beautiful, Light Lifting is a powerful collection and the debut of a writer clearly a master of the form." —Ali Smith

"To read each story in this gorgeous collection is to live a series of rich and dangerous lives along the Canadian-Michigan border. The forces threatening Alexander MacLeod’s characters include speeding trains, rip tides, lice, old age, automobile assembly lines, the exuberant despair of vacationing in Nova Scotia, and everything that lurks in the Detroit River. MacLeod is a literary rock star, and his prose is wise and rowdy music. I will recommend this book to everyone."—Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage

"Rarely does fiction inhabit the body—the moving, athletic body—as fully as in Alexander MacLeod’s debut story collection. Whether describing what it is to run track, to swim against a current, to build cars or to haul bricks, MacLeod brings into vivid concrete language the physical experiences that mark us as profoundly as any thought. His stories are a careful marriage of the lyric and the narrative: each unfolds around a resonant, ineffable moment, replete with history and emotion, a Gordian knot comprised of all the strands that lead up to and away from it. Sensitive and subtle, MacLeod is a writer through whose deliberately partial and quotidian pieces shimmers life’s unspoken complexity." —Giller Prize jury citation

"[MacLeod’s] capacity to encapsulate entire lives in the span of a few pages rivals Alice Munro. This is one of the finest collections of short fiction to appear . . . in a long, long time." —Quill & Quire (Best Books of the Year citation)

"MacLeod’s straight-up themes of endurance and frailty, boyish transgression or gnawing mid-life regret, unfold without a trace of cliché or sentiment. Muscular and uniquely voiced, these stories swim entirely in their own waters." —Globe and Mail (Best Books of the Year citation)

"Few authors . . . have delved so deeply into the workplaces of [the] working-class as MacLeod, and the characters he finds there are as rich and complex as any of the cerebral exotics that populate the work of Ondaatje, Urquhart and Atwood." —Toronto Star

"MacLeod’s prose is reminiscent of Annie Proulx’s: It carries much weight in its sparse, straightforward style." —Hamilton Spectator

"An impressive collection . . . The diversity of characters is matched by the variety of tones." —National Post

"The stories in Alexander MacLeod's Light Lifting are dense with the tragic poetry of the everyday. His narrators speak in a deceptively relaxed vernacular that reflects a fierce emotional intensity just beneath the surface of the words, the stoic heroism of the common man and woman, and MacLeod's commitment to realistic story-telling." —Danuta Gleed Jury Citation

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