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Lawrence Garber.

Toronto, Stoddart, c1983.
Distributed by General.
314pp, cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 0-7737-2017-0.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by James Kingstone.

Volume 12 Number 2
1984 March

Invention of situation and imaginative creation of character are the keynotes in Lawrence Garber's new novel Sirens & Graces. While the novel seems to have little shape—it is just a series of amusing scenes—the reader's sympathies are engaged immediately by unconventional situations and characters strongly supported by a lively poetic style. There are moments of ironic humour a la Roth, which may not be for everyone but which were certainly bracing for this reader.

The protagonist is a sometime scholar who makes his living relying on the generosity of universities, corporations, and charitable foundations who wish the horizons of obscure knowledge pushed back. He is really a fraud but is able to persuade his patrons that he is honestly engaged in the pursuit of knowledge. The grant money that comes his way allows him to travel cheaply about Europe and seduce young women.

The novel seems to hang together because of the author's capacity to create delightful characters. Describing Emanuela we see,

         Her legs were of a slim, coordinate length and her waist
         fetching; her torso was of a neat, constituent elegance
         with small breasts, the slender neck of a diminutive chatelaine
         and an upright, splendid and virginal carriage.

Emanuela is also engaged in academic work; she is doing her thesis on Charles Dickens, though, being Italian, one marvels at her ambition to write it in English, while laughing at her difficulty with the language.

The protagonist seems to be a master of disguise. As he travels through Europe, he changes his name several times. While trying to seduce the young virgin Emanuela, he becomes Lars Gunnar, having been Leland Garland, Lyle Gerringer, Lance Gatwick and Lome Granger. The quick pace of the novel is sustained, and one turns the page wondering what new creation or inventive stylistic gem Garber is going to spring on us.

Though there are passages that might seem pretentious, even precious, they are harmless, and one feels encouraged to participate sympathetically in Garber's crazy universe. It is possible that some readers may find the author's treatment of sex occasionally clinical, and so self-indulgent, but Sirens & Graces should not offend. The novel is most entertaining, and we look forward eagerly to Garber's next effort.

James Kingstone, Ridley College, St. Catharines, ON.
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