Missing Fred Astaire

by P. Scott Lawrence, Linda Leith,
208 pages,
ISBN: 1550650335

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Donna Dunlop

IN Missing Fred Astaire (Vehicule, 208 pages, $ 13.95 paper), a collection of short fiction, P. Scott Lawrence gives an often philosophical, occasionally overstated voice to the great as well as the routine griefs of ordinary but tenacious lives. It is an assured voice that anatomizes middle-class, middle-aged life, where clock-watching takes place in minutes and years. There is a great deal said about connections between past and present; there is also much said about those moments in which experience gains special significance because a transient perception or apprehension places it in the brief, shimmering realm of the truly encountered. As Lawrence writes in the title story: "The question, then, is not: what is certain? The question is, it seems to me: is it meaningful to want to be certain of anything?"

With one exception, these are either first- or third-person narratives about a man's relationships with his family and friends, including beloved canines, and they are as sensitive as they are direct. Many are notable for their gentle humour and warmth. Set in the English enclaves of Quebec, all cast a determined and balanced eye on personal and social upheavals.

The real and symbolic threat of heart attack is a recurrent theme. There is also a kind of intangible notion of fate that is reinforced by subtle repetitions or echoes within individual stories. In "Famous," Lawrence explores fate and fame through the figure of a bit-playing, unheroic Hollywood movie actor from Quebec, whose final and tragic leading role occurs bizarrely, but not surprisingly, in his own life.


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