Alistair MacLeod has been hailed internationally as a master of the short story. Now MacLeod’s collected stories, including two never before published, are gathered together for the first time in Island. These sixteen superbly crafted stories, most of them firmly based in Cape Breton even if its people stray elsewhere, depict men and women living out their lives against the haunting landscape that surrounds them. Focusing on the complexities and abiding mysteries at the heart of human relationships, MacLeod maps the close bonds and impassable chasms that lie between man and woman, parent and child, and invokes memory and myth to celebrate the continuity of the generations, even in the midst of unremitting change. Eloquent, humane, powerful, and told in a voice at once elegiac and life-affirming, the stories in this astonishing collection seize us from the outset and remain with us long after the final page.
Alistair MacLeod was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1936 and raised among an extended family in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He still spends his summers in Inverness County, writing in a clifftop cabin looking west towards Prince Edward Island. In his early years, to finance his education he worked as a logger, a miner, and a fisherman, and writes vividly and sympathetically about such work.
His early studies were at the Nova Scotia Teachers College, St. Francis Xavier, the University of New Brunswick and Notre Dame, where he took his Ph.D. He has also taught creative writing at the University of Indiana. Working alongside W.O. Mitchell, he was an inspiring teacher to generations of writers at the Banff Centre. In the spring of 2000, MacLeod retired from the University of Windsor, Ontario, where he was a professor of English.
He has published two internationally acclaimed collections of short stories: The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun (1986). In 2000, these two books, accompanied by two new stories, were published in a single-volume edition entitled Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod. In 1999, MacLeod’s first novel, No Great Mischief, was published to great critical acclaim, and was on national bestseller lists for more than a year. The novel won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction, the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, The Trillium Award for Fiction, the CAA-MOSAID Technologies Inc. Award for Fiction, and at the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Awards, MacLeod won for Fiction Book of the Year and Author of the Year. No Great Mischief was also a finalist for the Pearson Canada Reader’s Choice Award at The Word on the Street.
Alistair MacLeod and his wife, Anita, have six children. They live in Windsor.
“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