Hockey fiction? LaSalle ventures onto relatively virgin ice with this second collection (The Graves of Famous Writers, 1980, not reviewed). The seven stories and four poems here are united by their concern—sometimes rather oblique—with the sport of ice hockey, not previously associated with great literature. Most of the pieces are about young men striving to escape from the working-class New England of their fathers, the New England of dying milltowns and fading Catholic boys' schools. A Providence-based educational institution serves as a common background in several of the tales, recalled by three generations of hockey-loving kids. The best of them—``Le Rocket Nägre,'' about a black hockey phenom whose career is cut short by a combination of racism and bad timing; ``Hockey Angels,'' a fragile concoction uniting a dimly remembered newspaper clipping and an adolescent epiphany; and ``Hockey,'' a tale of middle-aged craziness—manage to convey the pangs of outgrowing one's dreams and of surrendering to the loss of physical powers. Indeed, dreams figure prominently throughout the collection, both the sleeping and waking variety, and LaSalle is never more eloquent than when wrapping his elegantly poetic prose around them. (At the same time, the four poems included suggest that his poetic effects work best in his prose.) Several of the stories, particularly ``Additional Consideration,'' a rumination on the difficulties of expressing deep feeling, couched too coyly in the form of an academic paper on hockey, and ``The Injury,'' a breathless stream-of-consciousness monologue, read like creative-writing class assignments. LaSalle has found a subject and setting worth further exploration, and he clearly has the potential to do something substantial with it in the future.
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