Author Tags: Fiction
Mark Macdonald's work has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, including Quickies 2: Short Short Fiction on Gay Male Desire and Carnal Nation: Brave New Sex Fictions. He is also the book buyer for Little Sister's, Vancouver's legendary gay and lesbian bookstore. Flat is his first novel.
DATE OF BIRTH: 04/07/70
PLACE OF BIRTH: Vancouver
EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Bookseller
Flat, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000
Home, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2001
[BCBW 2004] "Fiction"
Flat (Arsenal $13.95)
I’ve always thought Vancouver’s West End had the cohesion and the personality to become one of the great story-places of the world. I lived there, at six separate addresses, on and off over a ten year period, in the Forties and Fifties. It was a time when the West End’s initial culture was centred around middle-class and upper class family homes (Ethel Wilson territory), and was just beginning to be replaced (some would say destroyed) by a new high-rise society. This dense and contained neighbourhood has always been at our cutting edge and surely it now needs as many Boswells and Sam Spades as possible to imprint it on the consciousness of those who haven’t had the pleasure, or the pain, of living there.
Flat (Arsenal $13.95) by first-time author Mark Macdonald is firmly tied to the physical West End. Its architecture is the vehicle and the soul of this very slim book—called a novel, but perhaps it’s a short story of the length that, say, James or Conrad often preferred. Those two authors are not out of place here because Macdonald’s book has its roots in the 1800s, and is a modern version of the popular 19th century story of obsession that becomes possession: the story about someone sucked into the vortex of another’s life, often after the other has died.
In Flat, the nameless narrator is called on to clean out the apartment, and disperse the belongings of, a mild acquaintance, known to us only as J, who has committed suicide. J has no family or other connections, so the narrator comes into possession of everything left behind in the apartment and gradually is possessed by what he has acquired.
It is an intricately told story where the first-person voice of the narrator is most often heard. Three other points of view are heard from, and the story is framed by omniscient present tense descriptions. The first of these shows us the dead J in his apartment, whose walls are covered with postcards and clippings which, we learn as we go along, are the 12,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of J’s life. The final sequence shows us the results of the narrator’s attempt to put the puzzle together. Surely this is an oversimplification, but the thirteen short chapters–each headed by prose poetry from J’s notebooks– serve the basic and-then-and-then-and-then narrative clearly and well.
Most beginning writers today have been brought up on film and often their writing reads as if it might be a more-than-usually detailed film script. Flat yearns for a camera, half a dozen actors and a good old-fashioned wind-and-rain storm. May the money to buy the rights to Flat be enough to support Macdonald through his next opus. 1-55152-090-7
[Robert Harlow / BCBW 2000]