Tag Archives: Fiction

Melancholic Maritime Fiction

I’m reading Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief again. Last summer I read his collected short stories, some of them while sitting in an Adirondack  chair on the west coast of Vancouver Island overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The weather wasn’t great those couple of days on the ocean, but it was perfect for the melancholic nostalgia of MacLeod’s short stories set on Cape Breton Island (even though it’s on Canada’s opposite coast).  Memory is connected with action and activity, as well as the senses, and MacLeod’s fiction will always be connected with our family vacation on a beach just south of Tofino.

Today is wet and windy, kind of like it was on the island last summer–a perfect day for reading, especially MacLeod.  My daily routine since finishing the school year has been to take an afternoon nap on the living room couch, which sits underneath a window.  On cool days like today, I will open the window so that the cool air flows in and down over my face as a read and then lay the book open on my chest and drift into sleep.  There are few things as enjoyable as a nap in a fresh breeze. And so I took one.

I wish there was a website somewhere that would give me suggestions for books similar to MacLeod’s.  I would enter “Island” or perhaps “The Shipping News” (not by MacLeod, but in the same category) into a search field and up would pop a number of appropriate suggestions.  Or maybe they’d have a Melancholic Maritime Fiction category.  I can’t enough of this stuff.

And not just a site that generates suggestions based on what other users have read.  If they used my fiction reading habits to recommend books to someone else who is searching for something to read akin to, say, Kurt Vonnegut’s The Slaughterhouse-Five, would turn up not only Catch-22, which is in the same vein, but also The Lord of the Rings, Right Ho, Jeeves, and, perhaps Who Has Seen the Wind, none of which would be helpful.  No–there would have to be a direct link in feel not just an algorithm or some such based on other people’s reading habits.

It would probably be a magical website.

Alas, I suspect one lands on these books by sheer accident.  There is no way of predicting which book will satiate that melancholic maritime fiction desire. As it is, I think I originally bought No Great Mischief at Costco some 10 years ago based mostly on its cover photograph in combination with the blurb on the back.  Had the cover been designed differently, I may never have read the book.  So much for the old saying.

First lines

He awoke with the realization that he had brewed a pot of tea some hours before but had forgotten to pour himself a cup; the pot had gone to waste.  This startling thought hung about him, solid against the cool air drifting in one window, across the bed, and out the other. A gust of wind rushed through the trees outside;  “This is your life,” they whispered.