Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod

Kobo eBook available

read instantly on your Kobo or tablet.

buy the ebook now

Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod

by Alistair Macleod

McClelland & Stewart | April 17, 2001 | Trade Paperback

Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod is rated 4 out of 5 by 2.
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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 448 pages, 8.41 × 5.38 × 1.21 in

Published: April 17, 2001

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771055714

ISBN - 13: 9780771055713

Found in: Short Stories

save 24%

  • In stock online

$18.17  ea

Online Price

$22.99 List Price

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Check store inventory (prices may vary)

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Alistair is Awesome! Alistair Macleod is undeniably a very talented writer. I enjoyed this collection of stories. I was amused, saddened, and intrigued all to varying degrees. However, you can't read this book all at once. A lot of the stories begin to sound like each other if you devour it too much at once. A story here, a story there, and you can really appreciate his genius. "Winter Dog" is the best story in the book, but deeply sad at the same time. I feel I have enriched my life by finally getting around to reading A. Macleod. I think I'll read his novel next...
Date published: 2006-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from MacLeod's Island: Hearts and Homes This complete collection of Alistair MacLeod's stories in the beautiful edition, Island, is truly a national treasure. His stories are unflinching in their honesty, unfathomable in the depths to which they take us. They tell of the men and their families whose primal experiences in settling Canada ring out strong and true even now, as their livelihood and lifestyles are fated to disappear. Fishermen, foresters, farmers and miners: These are noble, tough, lovingly restrained people who live with the land, the air and sea amongst mythic animals, blood oaths, shadowy dreams and clear visions. We should all have this book by our bedsides for the year! Thanks for sharing Mr. MacLeod. (P.S. This country is truly great for having two writers of the stature of Alistair MacLeod and Alice Munro!)
Date published: 2000-04-21

– More About This Product –

Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod

Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod

by Alistair Macleod

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 448 pages, 8.41 × 5.38 × 1.21 in

Published: April 17, 2001

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771055714

ISBN - 13: 9780771055713

Read from the Book

The Boat(1968)There are times even now, when I awake at four o'clock in the morning with the terrible fear that I have overslept; when I imagine that my father is waiting for me in the room below the darkened stairs or that the shorebound men are tossing pebbles against my window while blowing their hands and stomping their feet impatiently on the frozen steadfast earth. There are times when I am half out of bed and fumbling for socks and mumbling for words before I realize that I am foolishly alone, that no one waits at the base of the stairs and no boat rides restlessly in the waters by the pier.At such times only the grey corpses on the overflowing ashtray beside my bed bear witness to the extinction of the latest spark and silently await the crushing out of the most recent of their fellows. And then because I am afraid to be alone with death, I dress rapidly, make a great to-do about clearing my throat, turn on both faucets in the sink and proceed to make loud splashing ineffectual noises. Later I go out and walk the mile to the all-night restaurant.In the winter it is a very cold walk, and there are often tears in my eyes when I arrive. The waitress usually gives a sympathetic little shiver and says, "Boy, it must be really cold out there; you got tears in your eyes.""Yes," I say, "it sure is; it really is."And then the three or four of us who are always in such places at such times make uninteresting little protective chit-chat until the dawn reluctantly arrives. Then I
read more read less

From the Publisher

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.

About the Author

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-MOSA
read more read less

From Our Editors

This anthology of short stories by Banff creative writing teacher Alistair MacLeod includes 14 works from his previous two collections The Lost Salt Gift of Blood and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun. Also included is the title story Island and a brand new short story entitled “Clearances.” This unique collection features dramas acted out between men and women in a haunting Cape Breton landscape.

Editorial Reviews

“Alistair MacLeod’s stories are as regional and universal as the work of Faulkner or Chekhov. And they are, I think, as permanent.”
–Michael Ondaatje

“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.”
Edmonton Journal

“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.”
Toronto Star

“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.”
Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“Every story is touched with the beauty and truth of genius”
Irish Times

“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.”
Scotsman

“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.”
–Colm Tóibín

“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

Bookclub Guide

A. For discussion of "The Boat"

1.By the end of the story, does the narrator still feel that "it was very much braver to spend a life doing what you really do not want rather than selfishly following forever your own dreams and inclinations" [p. 21]?

B. For discussion of "The Vastness of the Dark"

1.What does the "dark" of the title symbolize?
2.How might one define the "awfulness" in James' offense of "oversimplification" [p. 55]? How has this oversimplification prevented him from understanding himself?

C. For discussion of "The Golden Gift of Grey"

1.What is the meaning of the title?
2.One of the differences between the older and younger generations reflected in this story as well as in "The Lost Salt Gift of Blood" and "The Boat" is that the new generation is formally educated. What is the significance of education in the lives of the characters of Island ? How does having an education accentuate the generation gap, and what other factors contribute to it?

D. For discussion of "The Return"

1.How do the inhabitants of the city compare to the inhabitants of Cape Breton? Why is it significant that the country kids, unlike the city kids, like their teachers [p. 89], a point that is reiterated in "The Lost Salt Gift of Blood" [p. 122]?
2.What does the narrator learn during his visit home? How does this son's journey away from home compare to his return in "The Vastness of the Dark"? How do both of these journeys compare to the grandfather's trip to Scotland after World War II in "Clearances"?

E. For discussion of "In the Fall"

1.What is a harsher element for the family to contend with--the weather or MacRae?
2.What family dynamics are reflected in this story? How does this marriage compare to other marriages portrayed in Island ? What binds families together in Island --love, obligation, or something else? How does familial love manifest itself?

F. For discussion of "The Lost Salt Gift of Blood"

1.How do the following images convey the themes of this story: the harbor outside [pp. 118-121], the home inside [p. 126-127], and the man running into the arms of his waiting sons in the airport terminal [p. 142]?
2.When the narrator muses, "Perhaps for me no place at all" [p. 123], where is he trying to fit in--the home, the family? What does it mean to "belong"?

G. For discussion of "The Road to Rankin's Point"

1.How does the description of nature [p. 154] reflect the imminent death of Calum and his grandmother?
2.What does the recurring image of the window [pp. 155, 164, 170] symbolize?
3.Why does Calum's grandmother die that night?

H. For discussion of "The Closing Down of Summer"

1.Why is it so important that the narrator's children die "gentler deaths"? Is this more important than the lives they lead [pp. 198-9]? Why is the transportation of the dead so significant? Is this anticipation of and adjustment to death their only means of gaining control over their destiny?
2.How is the tone of this story different from the others? How does it read both as an introspective testimony and a postmortem missive to his family? Could this story be interpreted as the father's response to James, the son in "The Vastness of the Dark?"
3.What is the significance of the miners' use of Gaelic?

I. For discussion of "To Every Thing There Is a Season"

1.How does the coming-of-age experience in this story compare with those in "The Boat," "The Vastness of the Dark," and "The Golden Gift of Grey"?
2.The story closes with the statement "Every man moves on, but there is no need to grieve. He leaves good things behind" [p. 217]. Is this ending happy or tragic? Is it in any way ironic?

J. For discussion of "Second Spring"

1.What similarities and differences are there between the humans' life cycles and those of the animals? Do the animals dictate the humans' lifestyle as much as the humans dictate the animals'?
2.What is the significance of the ending of this story, which is similar to the ending of "The Golden Gift of Grey," where the boys turn their thoughts to their school sports [p. 248]?

K. For discussion of "Winter Dog"

1.How does the power of memory affect the narrator, and how does it influence his perception of time and place?
2.How do the men's relationships with animals--particularly their dogs--in this and the other stories in Island compare to their relationships with humans? What characteristics of the animals are valued and why?

L. For discussion of "The Tuning of Perfection"

1.How does MacLeod's choice to use the third-person narrative style for this story affect the reader's ability to relate to the characters?
2.What is the role of traditional Gaelic music in this story? How does it compare to the role of the hillbilly music in "The Golden Gift of Grey" and to the sea shanties in "The Boat"?
3.Why did Carver buy Archibald the liquor? Should Archibald have taken it as the high tribute he did [p. 309]?
4.How might this story be described as a medley of love stories? How are they each dominated by loss?

M. For discussion of "As Birds Bring Forth the Sun"

1.This story's opening sentence imitates the style of fables and fairy tales. In what way does this story resemble a fable or contain elements of a fable? Does it teach a moral lesson?

N. For discussion of "Vision"

1.How many different stories does MacLeod weave together in this one, and how do they prove that, in fact, "no story ever really stands alone" [p. 366]?
2.What is the difference between sight and vision? How do the characters without sight "see" differently than those with sight?
3.What does the curious relationship between the grandmother and her blind sister indicate about the nature of kinship in the world of Scottish Canadians and for the characters in Island overall?

O. For discussion of "Island"

1.Who is the red-haired man that appears to the woman at the end?
2.How does the window in this story compare to the window in "The Road to Rankin's Point"?
3.What is the image of the woman that emerges from this story? Is she a prototype for the other women in Island ? Does MacLeod give an authentic voice to the woman, amidst the predominantly male narrators of Island ?

4.How is the woman like Archibald in "The Tuning of Perfection?"

P. For discussion of "Clearances"

1.How does MacLeod's last story (written thirty-one years after "The Boat") serve as a continuation of that story and an epilogue for the whole collection?

Q. For discussion of Island: The Complete Stories

1.The characters in Island share a great degree of pride in their heritage and their homeland. How do the stories convey their pride in their lives, their professions, their heritage, their landscape, and their families? Do they also experience joy and happiness?
2.The stories are characterized by thematic and stylistic paradoxes such as myth vs. reality, remoteness vs. nearness, destiny vs. free will, reality vs. romance, and the strange vs. the familiar. How is each of these paradoxes manifested in the stories? Does MacLeod reconcile these paradoxes? Do you detect other thematic or stylistic paradoxes in the stories?
3.In "The Return" the grandmother tells her grandson, "It is not that easy to change what is a part of you" [p. 92]; in "As Birds Bring Forth the Sun" the son realizes, "You cannot not know what you do know" [p. 320]; and in "Clearances" the old man muses to his dog about the life that each of them is currently leading, "Neither of us was born for this" [p. 430]. How do each of these statements convey the theme of fate in Island ? How do the characters cope with their sense of destiny?
4.What is the significance of MacLeod's frequent use of relationships to identify his characters (e.g., fathers, sons, mothers, grandfathers, etc.) and his spare use of his characters' given names?
5.The majority of the stories are told in the first person by a male narrator. What is the effect of this style on the reader's perception of the events? How is the narrator both an active participant and an outside observer of these events? Does the "narrator" ever judge? Is it MacLeod's voice that the reader hears?
6.Does the description "entombed feelings" ["The Closing Down of Summer," p. 197] describe the feelings of many characters in Island ? How are emotions expressed in Island ? Does the physical landscape reflect the emotional isolation of the characters, or does it cause their isolation? Why might have MacLeod selected the word island for the title?
7.MacLeod compares "ivory white gulls" to "overconditioned he-men" in "The Lost Salt Gift of Blood" [p. 119], a ship that can save a drowning man to Santa Claus in "To Every Thing There Is a Season" [p. 210], and a memory to a scar in "Vision" [pp. 321-2]. How do these and other examples of MacLeod's original and often elaborate metaphors reinforce the themes of the stories in which they appear?
8.How do the earlier stories differ from the later stories in theme, tone, and style? Have the characters evolved?
9.The descriptions of the animals' life cycles in "Second Spring" conveys most directly the notion running through Island that the path of life is not linear but cyclical, and, moreover, that existence is not constrained to one person's lifetime but rather follows a continuum from one generation to the next. The narrator in "The Closing Down of Summer" muses, "Perhaps we are but becoming our previous generation" [p. 193]. Does this view of life give comfort, or is it stifling? Can one break out of this cycle? How does MacLeod's narrative style and method, particularly in "Winter Dog" and "Clearances," reinforce the theme of the intertwining of lives?
10.How is religion distinguished from superstition in the lives of the characters in Island ? What role does each play? Is it religion or something else that provides a moral code of behavior for the inhabitants of Cape Breton?
11.Despite their portrayal of a way of life probably foreign to many readers, on what level are the stories universally familiar? To which elements can the reader most readily relate?

Discussion questions provided courtesy of Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.