Alistair MacLeod Criticism - Essay

Colin Nicholson (essay date 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nicholson, Colin. “‘The Tuning of Memory’: Alistair MacLeod's Short Stories.” Recherches Anglaises et Nord-Americaines 20 (1987): 85-93.

[In the following essay, Nicholson analyzes the intertextual relationship between past and present, self and other, and memory and self-identity in the protagonists of The Lost Salt Gift of Blood.]

On February 25th, 1986, in Edinburgh, Paul Ricoeur delivered as the fifth of his Gifford Lectures On Selfhood: The Question of Personal Identity, a paper which he called “Narrative Identity.” The lecture considered the temporal dimensions of the self, and although my own antennae were attuned in particular ways by...

(The entire section is 4427 words.)

John Ditsky (essay date February 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ditsky, John. “‘Such Meticulous Brightness’: The Fiction of Alistair MacLeod.” Hollins Critic 25, no. 1 (February 1988): 1-9.

[In the following essay, Ditsky examines The Lost Salt Gift of Blood and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories, assessing their themes, style, and narrative techniques.]

Alistair MacLeod (b. 1935) is a writer of fiction who is also a Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor (Ontario). Much of his early life was spent in Canada's Maritime provinces, specifically Nova Scotia, to which he returns as often as possible to devote the attention to his writing that his...

(The entire section is 5449 words.)

Alistair MacLeod and Laurie Kruk (interview date 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: MacLeod, Alistair, and Laurie Kruk. “Alistair MacLeod: The World Is Full of Exiles.” Studies in Canadian Literature 20, no. 1 (1995): 150-59.

[In the following interview, MacLeod discusses the appeal of the short story genre, his literary influences, and various aspects of particular stories.]

[Kruk]: I had planned to ask you about the appeal of the short story, and if you think you'll want to write in any other form, but I believe you are starting to do so.

[MacLeod]: That's what I'm doing right now: trying to write a novel. It's called No Great Mischief If They Fall.

Do you find writing it...

(The entire section is 3876 words.)

David Creelman (essay date 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Creelman, David. “‘Hoping to Strike Some Sort of Solidity’: The Shifting Fictions of Alistair MacLeod.” Studies in Canadian Literature 24, no. 2 (1999): 79-99.

[In the following essay, Creelman contrasts the style and themes of The Lost Salt Gift of Blood with As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories, examining the ideological basis of each collection.]

In the last thirty years, short story writers from the Maritimes have been winning increasingly wide recognition for their work. Collections of short fiction by Elizabeth Brewster, Carol Bruneau, Sheldon Currie, Leo McKay, Alden Nowlan, David Adams Richards, and Budge Wilson—to name...

(The entire section is 9546 words.)

Susan Knutson (review date winter 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Knutson, Susan. Review of No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod. University of Toronto Quarterly 70, no. 1 (winter 2000): 190-92.

[In the following excerpt, Knutson highlights the historical significance of the rivalry between Scotch- and French-Canadians in No Great Mischief.]

Alistair MacLeod is by no means the first Canadian author to interest himself in the historical play between the Highlanders and the French in Canada. From Philippe Aubert de Gaspé to Margaret Laurence to Catharine Parr Traill, Canadian authors have given us fictional Highlanders and French Canadians whose union—or whose failure to unite—prefigures the birth of the Canadian...

(The entire section is 1142 words.)

Kathleen Venema (review date February 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Venema, Kathleen. “MacLeod's Repetition Is Numbing, Not Haunting.” Canadian Forum (February 2000): 42-3.

[In the following review, Venema offers a negative assessment of No Great Mischief, faulting its weak characterization and repetitious structure.]

Alistair MacLeod's two collections of short stories, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun (1986), have earned him much-deserved praise as one of Canada's great, if largely unknown, writers. Traditional in both style and subject matter, MacLeod's thematically complex stories explore familial relationships as they are shaped by numinous Celtic myth and the...

(The entire section is 959 words.)

Alistair MacLeod and Leah Eichler (interview date 24 April 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: MacLeod, Alistair, and Leah Eichler. “Alistair MacLeod: Of Scotsmen in Canada.” Publishers Weekly 247, no. 17 (24 April 2000): 54-5.

[In the following interview, Eichler focuses on No Great Mischief, situating the novel within the context of MacLeod's life and career, with commentary from the author.]

Even before Alistair MacLeod's first novel, No Great Mischief, was released in Canada last year, the story of its origins had made its way into the annals of publishing folklore.

According to legend, McClelland & Stewart's publisher, Douglas Gibson—impatient after waiting 13 years for a first novel by MacLeod, an...

(The entire section is 2147 words.)

Ron Charles (review date 15 June 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Charles, Ron. “The Strong Branches of a Scottish Family.” Christian Science Monitor (15 June 2000): 17.

[In the following review, Charles applauds MacLeod's achievement in No Great Mischief, outlining the novel's narrative structure.]

Modern life is a careless archivist. The ways we used to record ourselves have been replaced by convenient cheats. Flimsy videotape has superseded the more secure photo album. Ephemeral e-mail threatens to erase letters that survived for centuries. To complicate matters, education and employment constantly split even the most cohesive families.

Against such ravages, Alistair MacLeod's new novel, No...

(The entire section is 627 words.)

Hal Jensen (review date 11 August 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Jensen, Hal. “Red Calum's Clan.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5080 (11 August 2000): 22.

[In the following review, Jensen explores the imagery and storytelling techniques of No Great Mischief, summarizing the plot and characters of the novel.]

No Great Mischief is a lesson in the art of storytelling. Not only does it show by example (which it does magnificently), but its subject is the way stories work, the sources of their power and the means by which they are kept alive. The novel's theme is blood ties. Alexander MacDonald, an orthodontist in Ontario, is provoked by a visit to his brother Calum (bruiser, ex-con, penniless alcoholic) into...

(The entire section is 982 words.)

Andrew Hiscock (essay date fall 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hiscock, Andrew. “‘This Inherited Life’: Alistair MacLeod and the Ends of History.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 35, no. 2 (fall 2000): 51-70.

[In the following essay, Hiscock examines how MacLeod subverts the tenets of literary postmodernism in his fiction with respect to the significance of personal and communal metanarratives and their relation to self-identity.]

I was interested [in “The Boat”] in the idea of choice, of the price we all have to pay for the choices that we make; in the idea that sometimes people choose to do things that they don't want to do at all, somewhat like the father in that story. This is a man...

(The entire section is 9210 words.)

James Wood (review date 18 June 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wood, James. “Clearances.” New Republic 224, no. 4509 (18 June 2001): 31-5.

[In the following review, Wood discusses the principal characteristics of MacLeod's fiction in Island: The Complete Stories, contrasting them to the prevailing modes of American short story writing.]

A mystery, a glow of unrecognizability, hangs over the work of Alistair MacLeod. A Canadian in his mid-sixties from Cape Breton, the nakedest finger of the Nova Scotia peninsula, he has been writing stories since at least 1968, with patient intermittence; only sixteen are collected in this book [Island: The Complete Stories]. That he is still widely unknown in the United...

(The entire section is 4507 words.)