Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mark Jarman Remembers Alistair MacLeod

Alistair MacLeod, flanked by Fiddlehead fiction editors Gerry Beirne (left)
and Mark Jarman (right)
This photo is taken at the Cork World Book Festival in 2011 where Alistair MacLeod and Gerard Beirne and I shared a stage to read at an ancient cathedral in the heart of Cork. Alistair MacLeod was very popular, a master of writing and performing, but the three of us were even more popular after the event because it was Good Friday: all the pubs in Cork were closed, but we could sneak festival-goers into our hotel bar, open to hotel guests only. Some writers were thirsty and the bar served until dawn.

Alistair MacLeod, who won the Dublin IMPAC Prize in 2001, was often in Fredericton; he attended UNB for his MA, and his first story was published by The Fiddlehead back when Alden Nowlan was alive. He read at UNB in Fredericton in the mid-2000s and I took him to my favourite bar, The Taproom, to buy him my favourite beer, Propeller Bitter. He tipped up the bottle in a mug, it foamed violently, and I suggested he not pour it so fast. He glowered at me with those eyebrows, as if to say he’d been pouring beer before I was in diapers. I think he forgave me eventually. We had good craic in Cork, as the Irish say, and in 2013 he wrote Ross Leckie, Fiddlehead editor, to say that he had finished reading the most recent issues of The Fiddlehead: “They are excellent! You are to be congratulated.” Alistair MacLeod seemed to be always reading and heaping praise on others; he was a warm generous man, a funny, smart man, and a great writer of fiction. He will be missed by those of us at The Fiddlehead
— Mark Anthony Jarman