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All I said was that he stole my stories. He being Alexander MacLeod, one of Canada’s rising literary personalities, a Giller short-lister for his story collection Light Lifting (Biblioasis) and the son of Alistair Macleod (but he doesn’t much care to talk about that – the whole dad thing). He recently visited the Vancouver Public Library to read and talk about his book and when it came time for Q and A, my implication that he had done some light lifting of my stories was enough to choke him up a bit, flush his skin and react to my statement as: “the nicest and most genuine thing anyone as ever said about his book”. But I’m pretty sure he’s been interviewed and reviewed by all kinds of people who surely must have said more insightful things to the short story star than, “You stole my stories.”
Of course I wasn’t actually accusing him of copyright infringement, (theft of the highest order) but was rather referencing the fact that when I read his book, I recognized so many of my own experiences and way-better versions of half-started stories that I had saved on my desktop, that I felt he must surely have either been a) following me, b) hacking into my computer or c) such a damn good writer that he has tapped into the collective reader consciousness and nailed my feelings with uncanny perfection. The answer was, of course, that he is an amazing writer, which is why he did not take offence to my charges, but rather, was pleased to know that his hard work had paid off.
There is this resistance to the celebrity of authorship from MacLeod. He does not talk about writing as some kind of high art that trumps any other pursuit. My favourite line of his came when he was asked about ‘his craft’ and his writing habits at home. He said, “I have young children and a wife and it’s not like I go, ‘excuse me children, father is going to do his writing now’ and throw my writing scarf around my neck and lock myself in the study.” After everyone laughed he continued, “First off, none of them would care, and secondly I don’t have that free time.” Rather, he says he finds ways to steal little slivers of time to sit and write one sentence, or fix up an old one, making it a more organic process. It’s for this reason that his stories feel so real because they are conceived and written within the realm of distractions, and responsibilities and fears etc… and he never steps out of ‘real life’ and into some alternate ‘writing universe’.
Alexander MacLeod is a humble and generous writer who is still amazed at how well-received Light Lifting has been. I’m sure he would be proud to know that his writing is accomplished despite his famous father, however I would be remiss not to mention that Alexander revealed a bit of his father's wisdom (a tip of the iceberg I’m sure) who advised Alexander about his book to “make it to stand the rain.” Well, I think Light Lifting has been made to stand the rain and it will be a beloved collection in my bookshelf for years. I just still can’t figure out how he knew about that time I was landscaping at a little old ladies house with a bunch of grown men and she invited us in for little triangle sandwiches and glasses of Coca-Cola. (see pg. 91)