Taking Cover


138 pages
ISBN 0-88750-455-8






Reviewed by Patrick Van Mil

Patrick Van Mil was a freelance writer in Banff, Alberta.


In the opening story of this volume Keath Fraser writes, “Death is a poet’s idiom to take the mind off complacency.” This is the general tone of the whole book. All major characters have been scarred by death and are thus taking cover.

Except for two, this is a collection of very well written, but morose, stories. The characters, convincingly presented, range from graduate students roaming the world in “Mal de l’Air” to businessmen in “This is What You Were Born For.” Unfortunately, an equal range in tone is not prevalent. Most of the characters are in retreat. Life can be bad at times but not as consistently bad as presented here.

Experimental fiction does not seem to be Fraser’s forte. Those two stories in which he attempts it, fail. The title story, “Taking Cover,” is a collection of sad rules which the inhabitants of a post-nuclear war age must live with. Freedom does not exist. Big Brother is rampant. Like a church sermon, the story’s intent is very good but the effect is boring, boring, boring. The other story, “Mother and Father Talk of Going South,” is a dialogue between two aged parents, one of whom is slowly dying of cancer. Loneliness, boredom, and frustration are here, as elsewhere in Fraser’s fiction, very evident but again the reader tends to be bored by the story’s end. Nothing happens. But then, nothing is supposed to.

Do not despair. Although the same general tone permeates the other stories they are very well written. After starting to read “Mal de l’Air” or “Healing” one will not be able to put it down until it is finished. Like brandy, each story surrounds the reader with a glow to be savoured. The imagery, rhythm, and patterns of Fraser’s writing are very good. If one reads his stories too quickly, they will be missed.


Fraser, Keath, “Taking Cover,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38599.