Saturday, September 05, 2009

Breathmoss and Other Exhalations - Ian R Macleod

buy - author site

Another book from the heatwave, another book I've taken far too long to write about. A travesty doubly so because this book is just...amazing.

As with most collections, reading from cover to cover is a touch foolish. You become familiar with the writer's various methodologies, and in doing so sabotage the stories for yourself. You know what to expect, what to look for, and predict the shape of the narrative to come. This occurred when reading this collection, as there is a focus on transformation and loss running through each tale, and yet, it did not happen. Each treatment of the theme is so markedly different, the flavour and texture of the stories so contrasting, they are not the same even as they are easily recognisable as bearing Macleod's signature.

A particular strength of his lies in the depiction of the physical world through which his stories wend. My goodness. I was overwhelmed. A sensory overload. Beauty, beauty, beauty. I was in love.

When was the last time I was in love with prose? Truly in love, not just recognising skill and power, but giddy and delighted and excited? Reading this book made me excited about reading, which made me realise how out of touch with it, as a pass time, I had become. And how much I missed it.

The title story, 'Breathmoss' is extravagant and soft, and took my breath away. 'Verglas' following on its heels, is a different sort of extravagant, and a different sort of soft, with different joys and losses, and took my breath away. And so on, and so forth, with each story to follow.

I remember thinking 'The Summer Isles' stood apart from the rest. But, fool I am, it has been too long since I read it, and now I cannot remember why. It was a different creature, like a tortoise among turtles.

Macleod strikes that perfect balance between the art of writing and storytelling.

In fact, there should be no differentiating between the two, and when he writes, there isn't.

Verdict: Magnificent. Just touching this book again after all these months makes me want to read it over, and I do not reread. It's a sign of just how beautiful a collection it is, and how sumptuous a writer he is, and oh, I'm still in love.

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