Nova Scotia

N.S. writer wins international short story prize

Alexander MacLeod’s story explores the complexities of love, affection, and change — through a tale about a pet rabbit.

Alexander MacLeod among three Canadian writers to win an O. Henry Prize

Alexander MacLeod's short story, Lagomorph, is one of 20 O. Henry Prize winners. (Heather Crosby/Biblioasis)

On the surface, Alexander MacLeod's award-winning short story tells a tale about a pet rabbit.

But the Nova Scotia writer said Lagomorph is much more than that.

"I guess it's about a family, and about a family pet — a pet that was maybe not seen as the best choice of a pet in the beginning," MacLeod told CBC's Information Morning.

"We take things in, and we grow to love them with whatever challenges that poses. So the story is kind of a meditation, or reflection on how we put our love out in the world."

The story, originally published in the U.K.-based literary magazine Granta, was recently announced as one of the winners of the 100th O. Henry Prize.

MacLeod was one of three Canadian authors to win the American prize, which recognizes excellence in short fiction by publishing the year's 20 best short stories in an anthology.

"I don't know if it's insecurity or something, but there's something different when the Americans get a hold of something," he said. "I'm very proud of Canadian literature and the way Canadian literature operates, but it's nice when you get some international recognition."

The O. Henry Prize began in 1919. Previous winners include William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Alice Munro.

Lagomorph — the name of the taxonomic family to which rabbits belong — is told from the point of view of a father who decided to bring a rabbit into the family when all other options for a family pet weren't feasible.

The nearly 8,000-word story was partially inspired by MacLeod's own "complicated" experience bringing a rabbit into the family.

"When you make a decision about that, you're making a decision about how your care, and how your affection, and how your love will be parcelled out," said MacLeod, who teaches at Saint Mary's University.

Granta nominated his story for the prize without his knowledge.

MacLeod said he's glad that the O. Henry Prize recognizes short stories, saying that that short fiction typically doesn't get as much recognition as novels.

"There are tons and tons of prizes out there for novels, but it's really nice that there's a prize that focuses on short fiction as a genre, and that it's been around for 100 years," he said.

"People think that short stories are always the lesser cousin of the great novel form, but if you were to read those O. Henry Prize stories, there's some masterpiece work in there."

Lagomorph will be published in an anthology along with the other prizewinning stories this fall.

Cape Breton-born MacLeod is the son of the late novelist and short story writer Alistair MacLeod, whose works largely focused on life in Cape Breton.

With files from Information Morning Nova Scotia

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