Jeff Maser of bookselling fame recommended that I read Alistair MacLeod's short story "The Boat" during my trip. Well, I found a copy of The Lost Salt Gift of Blood, MacLeod's slim first collection of short stories published in 1976, which includes The Boat and six other stories.
MacLeod is a craftsman, each story like a wooden boat meticulously made by hand. Seaworthy to be sure and as uncompromising and devastating as the sea itself. Like The Odyssey, that first story of the sea, MacLeod's stories deal with home and homecomings, journeys away, father/sons and family.
I read The Boat at The Ship Pub, which is located in an alley between Water and Duckworth Streets in St. John's. This is one of the great literary pubs in St. John's, which might possibly have more bars per capita than any city in North America. I settled into a chair at the bar ordered a Black Horse pint and jumped into the story. The writing was a crisp, clear, and clean as the waters of around St. John's Harbour and it pulled me out in its riptides. About a half hour later my pint was gone and the story finished and my head was swimming a little, eyes a bit wet as I stepped out into the bracing grey mist and fog. Maser must have known that this story would give me a taste of Newfoundland, more full of salt and sea than a bite of fish and chips at Cres's just up the street. What he might not have know is that the story would also take my thoughts home to my own father who now rests mingled in the fresh waters of Maine overlooked by Blue Hill.
Thanks Jeff for a great recommendation and for introducing me to a writer I had never heard of and a reading experience I will not forget.