My Career with the Leafs & Other Stories

Description

190 pages
$7.95
ISBN 0-88922-199-5

Publisher

Year

1982

Contributor

Reviewed by Gerald Noonan

Gerald Noonan was Associate Professor of English at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, and co-editor of A Public and Private Voice.

Review

According to the back cover, Brian Fawcett, author of these 22 sketches, is chiefly known for his seven books of poetry. The lineage becomes evident after one peruses a few of these memoirs of childhood and boyhood encounters with backyard games, gang warfare, tennis, wooden-sword-fighting, and cultural introductions to pool halls, soccer, baseball, booze, and so on. The pattern of the brief stories, and the patter, is similar to that of poems, not poems terse and rich in diction, but poems that are casual, chatty, with a dominant narrator whose seemingly artless monologue culminates in brief metaphor and insight.

Almost any of the sketches make for pleasant undemanding reading; the tone is nostalgic, the resolutions good-humoured. Eventually, the consistency of the author-speaking anecdotes and reflective accounts wears bare a problem of craft. The adult knowingness of the narrator who is at large in a childhood world can become tedious and obtrusive — one wonders what it was really like for the child. Later, in the stories of first pool halls and girls who kiss and wear bathing suits, it is the lack of knowingness in the narrator that is forced to justify the superficial framework that engenders the tale — and that lack becomes a touch contrived.

Fawcett does achieve some culminating metaphors that provide a flash of insight from the experiencing self. At the end of “Wild Horses” the narrator, who has been the butt of his sisters’ let’s-play-horse games, observes how they, ultimately, went away with their stallions and “how, because of them, no one will ever ride me.” On the way to that culmination, however, there is some wheel-spinning with the point-of-view: “Before I got to any of that, though, there were some other things I figured out.”

In the later stories, the wheel-spinning can become the final point of the sketch: “... suddenly I could see the trap we were all in. The town, the drinking contests, the games, the cars covered with scrapes and dents .... the silence that would be the only thing that would last forever” (“Slug,” p. 153). In “Snotbox,” the bored young movie-goer “began to develop a sort of perspective about what human life really is ... There was something at the core of those remote, incompetent movie fictions that informed my sense of what my own life was.... Real seriousness, I decided, would always come disguised” (p. 163).

Personally, I would like to see Fawcett convey the sub-teen consciousness from the raw inside, without benefit of the ever-present retrospective commentator. The art of real fiction, I’ve about decided, always comes disguised.

Citation

Fawcett, Brian, “My Career with the Leafs & Other Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38598.