Book Review: The Dead Are More Visible by Steven Heighton

Book Review:

The Dead Are More Visible by Steven Heighton

06.17.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

THE DEAD ARE MORE VISIBLE by Steven Heighton

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Category: Fiction, Short Stories

Author: Steven Heighton

Format: Trade Paperback, 260 pages

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Canada

ISBN: 978-0-307-39741-6

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

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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.

Steven Heighton

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Zara’s Rating

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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.

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What’s your favourite short story?

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One thought on “Book Review: The Dead Are More Visible by Steven Heighton”

  1. So many things I would say. Firstly, aren’t the folks at Random House terrific? Secondly, your review confirms what I would have imagined, that this is a book I would love to read. I started out in HeightonWorld by reading his wonderful Afterlands which became my favorite book I read in that entire year of reading. Shadow Boxer was also good, and then his last one Every Lost Country… I guess you could say that I loved all these books, but in that order. Nothing can beat Afterlands for me.
    I’ve since corresponded with the author several times via email and he is SO gracious and neat of a guy — truly one of our many Canadian treasures.
    Thank you for your review, Zara. I will watch for this one.

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