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Keath Fraser.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1982.
138pp, paper, $17.95 (cloth), $8.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-88750-455-8 (cloth), 0-88750-456-6 (paper).

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Steven Wells.

Volume 11 Number 2.
1983 March.

In 1980, Keath Eraser, an English instructor at the University of Calgary, returned to his west coast home to write fiction. His work began to appear in literary magazines, and now he has published his first collection of short stories.

Like Jack Hodgins, Eraser writes primarily about British Columbia; unlike Hodgins, he does not invent a world with mythic characters. Most of these stories are realistic and contemporary.

Though not a west coast story, "Roget's Thesaurus" introduces us to Eraser's style. Peter Roget, the narrator, remembers his lifelong devotion to language: "I fiddled with sounds and significations. No words could exist. . .until I made them objects on paper."

Eraser, too, admires words. I sense, though, that they may have taken precedence over plot in his fiction. Ironically, his refined style may alienate readers who should take time to appreciate his skills.

The best story in this collection, "Healing," examines a character who copes with his wife's death. He escapes to work as a "vagabond fruit-picker" in the Okanagan orchards. In this taut piece, with its vivid characters and subtle conclusion, Eraser creates good fiction. Although he depicts some memorable characters, Eraser's narratives are weakened by static figures. The neurotic wife in "Le Mal de 1'Air," for example, lacks credibility. Also, the reader sometimes encounters abrupt, ineffectual conclusions. One story, "This Is What You Were Bom For," is undermined by its final line.

Eraser does write with confidence. He deserves recognition as a new, promising author.

Steven Wells, Elliot Lake S. S., Elliot Lake, ON.
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