Published by the University of Chichester, Thresholds is the leading forum for short fiction theory and criticism in the UK. The ‘We Recommend’ series includes pieces by K J Orr and Tania Hershman. MacLeod is my favourite short story writer because he shows us how place shapes a person’s life experience. Read the review in full on their website.
There’s a moment in Alistair MacLeod’s ‘The Vastness of the Dark’ when the young narrator, driving through a down-at-heel mining town, in a car with out of state licence plates, stares at the people on the street, who briefly look back at him, and he realises: ‘Their glances have summed me up and dismissed me as casually as that … “What can he know of our near-deaths and pain and who lies buried in our graves?”’ In Island: Collected Stories, MacLeod gives a voice to forgotten towns like this one, so that we can begin to understand their lives and struggles. The car, idling on a side street while passers-by look in, could also be an analogy for the reading of short stories. The narrator tells us:
‘For it is as if I am not part of their lives at all but am here only in a sort of movable red and glass showcase that has come for a while to their private anguish-ridden streets and will soon roll on and leave them the same as before my coming…’
The story is here to alter our perspectives for a while, to make us think, but will soon disappear around a bend, tail lights fading in the dusk […]