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George Bowering.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1983.
127pp, paper, $19.95 (cloth), $9.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-88750476-0 (cloth), 0-88750-477-6 (paper).

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Boh Kinczyk.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

Life is a mystery; death is a puzzle. And since "people are not much interested in a mystery, because it can't be solved," writers write about death. So says the narrator-writer in the collection's last story, "Four California Deaths." Guess what A Place to Die is about? Yup. Death. In fact, death in this collection is trotted out so frequently and so shamelessly that it becomes rather tiresome. Frankly, I share the lady's skepticism in "Four California Deaths":

         Really, don't you think that's kind of juvenile.
         I mean, isn't that what teenage authors do, throw
         in some blood and some suicide or a little insanity
         to make it seem all so significant?

The nine stories in A Place to Die do not work as a collection, but there is so much variety in style and structure and tone that everyone will find something that appeals. Personally, I like "The Clam-Digger," a dreamy little beast fable, and "A Short Story," a clever experimental piece that satirizes the conventions of short story criticism. "Old Bottles," with its poignant ending reminds me gently that Bowering's sardonic smile is not a permanent fixture.

Vanderhaeghe, Kinsella, Hood, and Rooke have recently published collections much better than A Place to Die, but Bowering undoubtedly is a gifted craftsman in this popular genre.

Unfortunately, Bowering's explicit language will keep him off the shelves of some secondary school libraries.

Boh Kinczyk, Central Elgin C. I., St. Thomas, ON.
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