Our Autumn 2014 issue pays tribute to Alistair MacLeod, the author of two acclaimed collections of short stories and the IMPAC Dublic award-winning novel No Great Mischief. Fiddlehead editor Ross Leckie, fiction co-editor Mark Anthony Jarman, and long-time friends Douglas Gibson and D.R. MacDonald have written testimonials about MacLeod's remarkable career, and all mention his unfailing kindness and generosity. The Fiddlehead is proud to reprint MacLeod's second ever published story "The Vastness of the Dark," a story that we accepted back in 1971, and that appeared in Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod. We thank Penguin Random House Canada for allowing us to reprint the story. The cover image of our autumn issue is from MacLeod's 2001 reading at UNB.

We're also very happy to present an incredible selection of writing that opens up a whole world of experiences to us, from Brian Bartlett's powerful poem about a mother reading to her two children on the sinking Titantic to Matthew Leslie's story about a teeth-clenching roadtrip on India's highways.

Below we offer selections to invite you in, and to encourage you to stay by becoming a subscriber.

If you'd rather find this issue of The Fiddlehead on a newsstand near you, please check out our Retailers page under the Resources tab. Here you'll find a list of local magazine retailers that stock The Fiddlehead!


Contents, No. 261 Autumn 2014

Editorials

6         Ross Leckie: Remembering Alistair MacLeod
7         Mark Anthony Jarman: A Master in the Heart of Cork
8         Douglas Gibson: A Great Writer and a Great Man
10       D.R. MacDonald: Alistair MacLeod Tribute

Fiction

12       Alistair MacLeod: The Vastness of the Dark
45       Matthew Leslie: Malarone Dreams
68       Richard Cumyn: The Household Gods
76       Charlie Fiset: Maggie's Farm

Poetry

32       Stephanie Yorke: Two Poems
34       Brian Bartlett: Two Poems
38       Susan Buis: south window
39       Jocko Benoit: The Mutable Yardstick
40       Rocco de Giacomo: Three Poems
43       Michael Prior: Camera
44       Catherine Graham: The Pigeon Fancier
56       Roger Nash: Two Poems
58       John Wall Barger: Three Poems
61       Kerry-Lee Powell: Three Poems
65       Erin Noteboom & Seánan Forbes: Three Poems

Reviews

100      Rebecca Geleyn: A spinning reel of metaphor
           Placeholder, Charmaine Cadeau
102      Michael Greenstein: Oblique Glockenspiel
           Complicity, Adam Sol
106      Mark Sampson: Archive Fever
           The Strangers' Gallery, Paul Bowdring
108      Susan Haley: A Poet's Eye
           In Antarctica An Amundson Pilgramage, Jay Ruzesky
110      M. Travis Lane: Album of Serenity
           Rain; road; an open boat, Roo Borson
112      Shane Neilson: Too many sonnets? Not enough critics
           The Exile's Papers, Part Three, Wayne Clifford

Notes on Contributors 120

Cover

Rob Blanchard
Alistair MacLeod at UNB
Digital photograph


Remembering Alistair MacLeod by Ross Leckie

When I was a university student, my best friend gave me a copy of The Lost Salt Gift of Blood, and I felt that I was holding a tangible piece of the past as if it were the present and the present as if it were the past. It was pure magic. I felt my own name stamped with loss, Scotland written in it in invisible ink, evanescent, a single photo of me in a kilt at five years of age. The following summer, I drove with friends in a 1955 Cortina to Cape Breton. When we came to Inverness, we found a track on the cliff and we jounced along it until the car stalled, so we set up camp. As I watched the sun collapse into the ocean, I sipped hot chocolate and thought, “Alistair MacLeod must live somewhere near here.”

Years later, I told Alistair that story, and he chuckled in that wry manner of his, and said, “Yes, somewhere near there.” I first met him in 2001 at the University of New Brunswick, and he invited immediate intimacy, spoke with me as if we were unravelling a story only he and I knew. He was a remarkably generous man. Last year, a letter arrived at The Fiddlehead office out of the blue. It was Alistair MacLeod just writing to say how much he had enjoyed the previous issue, and what a great job he thought we were doing. It was pure magic.

Alistair remembered at one point publishing his first story in The Fiddlehead. “The Vastness of the Dark.” He had, of course, published “The Boat” two years earlier in The Best American Short Stories 1969, where his name is on the cover with Bernard Malamud, Joyce Carol Oates, Sylvia Plath, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and others. It is an honour to reprint “The Vastness of the Dark” in The Fiddlehead once more forty-three years later.

Alistair MacLeod received his MA from UNB in 1961, and he was back in 2002 to receive an honorary doctorate. Later, I would run into him here and there, and he would cup his hand to wave me over, to tell a story, to laugh. I hear his voice now, as if he were bringing the past into the present, and, as if present, telling a story of the past.

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Ross Leckie is the editor of The Fiddlehead.

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Bathroom Attendant in Tai Po Megamall by John Wall Barger

Urinals are imbeciles, drooling, spitting.
A toilet coughs, backwashing like a ferry
pulling in. The attendant resembles
a wrinkled school kid in his lime-green
tunic, black pants, black shoes
— leaning on his red broom,
bracing against an unseen opposition,
peering into the glaucomatic blaze
of the pharmacy. He keeps his left
paralytic hand tucked in his pocket,
wiping piss drops with his right.
Men breeze past zipping flies,
drying fingers, like landed gentry.
Some drop coins at his feet. Of men,
his father said there are three kinds:
1. Those who do not finish a job;
2. Those who finish; 3. Those who finish
beautifully. The Great Proletarian
Cultural Revolution did away
with the last two. So the attendant
leans on his red broom, watching
the Halloween parade of faces, girl-dolls
licking ice cream off their fingers;
boy-men chuckling at smartphones.
Nobody watches but he watches
like a kid in a car, head on the window.

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John Wall Barger’s poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, The Malahat Review, and The Montreal Prize’s Global Poetry Anthology, and are forthcoming in Subtropics, Arc, and others. His second collection (Hummingbird, Palimpsest Press) was a finalist for the 2013 Raymond Souster Award.

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Excerpt from Maggie's Farm by Charlie Fiset

The girl and the boy speed further and further away from Piacenza, where they should have detrained. The girl’s perched on the edge of her seat, rocking back and forth slightly as she looks out the window at the blurred landscape painted with the burnt umber sunrise. The boy is completely silent, clutching his stomach as if his chronic, anxiety-induced cramps are gnawing away at him. He’s never worked on a farm before. On top of that, they both dread being late to meet Margaret. She hired them on faith, without even meeting them. They’ve also put a lot of faith in her by buying the ticket to Alessandro with the last of their money. But Margaret doesn’t know it counts for anything because she doesn’t know how desperate they are.

“Do you think there’ll be another train?” the girl asks.

“Yes, of course,” says the boy.

“What if it doesn’t leave until tonight? Or tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” the boy says. He’s looking at the floor, as if the view through the window is making him nauseous. “Maybe there’s a bus.”

“How are we going to contact Margaret? She won’t know where we are — she’ll think we decided not to show up at all.”

“We’ll find a phone at the next station,” the boy says. “We’ll call her.”

“But she’ll already be waiting for us.”

“Don’t worry.”

“I am worried,” says the girl. “How are you not worried?”

The boy licks his lips, but makes no reply.

“We need this job,” the girl says. “You know how much we need it.”

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Charlie Fiset recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick where she received the David H. Walker Prize for prose. She is currently obtaining a PhD in English at UNB.

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