The Dead Are More Visible by Steven Heighton
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Category: Fiction, Short Stories
Author: Steven Heighton
Format: Trade Paperback, 260 pages
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Pub Date: May 1, 2012
The Dead Are More Visible by Steven Heighton is a collection of short stories by an author who has received three gold National Magazine Awards and has been anthologized in two editions of Best English Stories and six editions of Best Canadian Stories. Heighton has also been nominated for the Trillium Award, the Journey Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and Britain’s W.H. Smith Award.
Whew! That’s a lot of acclaim for one person, but after reading his collection of short stories, The Dead Are More Visible, I can understand why.
Each story, though different in plot, are all written in a direct and honest narrative where the essence of the story is hidden beneath the surface of point-blank facts.
Heighton will never raise a white flag and holler, “This is what the story means!”
He will, instead, place his characters in almost absurd situations, ones that pose a raw tension and an environment in which his characters’ vulnerabilities are squeezed out of them—just not with a jarring hand or reading.
It is almost as if the characters are placed in strange, tense, and almost absurd situations so that the question of their true natures found in their needs and visceral responses can be honestly tested and tried—to be revealed for our sake, the reader, if not for their own.
And yet, the absurdity of each story’s plot or setting somehow resonates into a vivid visualization and ultimate believability. The ease of Steven Heighton’s writing style ensures this.
The reader forgets to ask, “Could this really happen?,” but instead finds him or herself supporting the stories’ claims by stating in an exhilarated breath: “This could really happen!”—and we, as readers, question ourselves and the character of human nature and ask of it, “And so… what then?”
The narrative invites the reader to active participation and full witness to the predicaments of Heighton’s characters. And what is revealed there is a natural and easy dialogue that perfectly mimics the nuances of conversational language, coupled with a subtle eerie feeling that puts the delicacy of the human condition at the forefront.
Heighton reveals the duality held between the inner and outer lives of his characters (and in doing so, reflects us and who we are) and the choices they make in order to maintain appearances.
He writes with a tone of unquestioning reserve that almost feels indifferent and yet the subtle tenderness that is revealed through his characters’ actions clearly tells us that his stories are anything but that.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading any work by Steven Heighton, a good taste of it would be in this collection of short stories.
Oh, yeah, by the way: Those awards penned to Mr. Steven Heighton? He truly deserves them.
A special thank you to Knopf Canada of Random House of Canada for providing me with a media review copy in exchange for an unpaid and honest review.
What’s your favourite short story?