GENTLEMAN DEATH by Graeme Gibson

GENTLEMAN DEATH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Two failed novels and a writer's angst are the material for this largely unsuccessful experiment by Gibson (Perpetual Motion, 1983, etc.) The novel begins with Simpson, a Canadian invited to England by an old acquaintance to donate his sperm to impregnate a worthy, but unknown, young woman. Whether or not interesting in itself, Simpson's story becomes deadened by its fictional author's insistence on imposing himself on his unsuspecting reader. It soon becomes clear, however, that the author--Robert Fraser--is actually his own subject. Simpson is abandoned as Fraser discusses his inability to write since the death of his brother; his unconsummated affair with a woman who appears, disguised, in his unfinished work; his confused and confusing adult children; and unresolved issues with his deceased military father. Fraser begins another novel about Dunbar, a Canadian tourist in Germany around the time of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but this second effort also remains incomplete because Fraser is unable to remove himself from his writing, being unnaturally consumed with thoughts of death and dwelling especially on his own mortality. In an epilogue, which has the book's most memorable and tender scenes, Fraser and his family, the dead as well as the living, are reunited and reconciled in the lakeside home where Fraser feels his childhood is focused. After all his obsessing, Fraser finally accepts his fate, and the reader has high hopes for his future literary production. Gibson's writing, on the other hand, despite occasional moments of brilliance, is mostly description and simile. He will spend paragraphs detailing every inch of a phone booth, but when his character finally makes a call, the conversation is terse to the point of incomprehensibility. Some creative writing about the creative process but, for the most part, uncompelling.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-7710-3312-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995