My favourite Montreal book...

Missing Fred Astaire

By Denise Roig

A review of Missing Fred Astaire by P. Scott Lawrence

Published on January 1, 2006

Missing Fred Astaire
P. Scott Lawrence

I wasn’t yet a Montrealer when I first started reading Montreal writers. On my first visit here in 1988 from Los Angeles, I’d picked up Telling Differences, a wonderful anthology of short stories edited by Linda Leith. So this was Montreal. Le vrai Montréal.

I loved it already. I was especially struck by “Missing Fred Astaire,” P. Scott Lawrence’s story about a man musing from the dock of a rented chalet in the Laurentians. He’s editing a physics text, but what he’s mostly doing is missing his wife, away in Hong Kong on a business trip with no known return date, missing his daughter, missing the way things were. And missing Fred Astaire, who’s just died, and “who made it look so easy.” I was led like one of Astaire’s partners – bent, spun, held – as I read this story of coming of middle-age.

One image in particular has never left me after all these years. As his wife is walking to the car that is taking her to the airport and so far beyond that, the narrator notes that she is wearing his favorite dress. It’s blue and made of silk that shimmers along her hips. “The sash of her dress was twisted in the back like a Moebius strip. I remember thinking at the time – such a simple and prim design, does she know how erotic it is?”

When P. Scott Lawrence’s book of short fiction, Missing Fred Astaire, came out five years later, I read the story again, and all the other stunners in this collection. Uncertainty and hope; denial and acceptance; the myriad minor adjustments known as adulthood. This is Lawrence country. I reread the stories recently and found myself moved across the dance floor again, missing P. Scott Lawrence. mRb

Denise Roig's latest story collection, Any Day Now, was published by Signature Editions.

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