Canadian Literature Review - The Cult of Quick Repair

Reviewed by: Dorothy F. Lane

Beyond Repair

[...] The Cult of Quick Repair by Biritish Columbia writer Dede Crane is a collection of short stories suggesting that no quick repair is possible; in fact, along with the collection, Elysium by self-described "literary proctologist" Pamela Stewart, the stories in Crane's book describe lives and relationships that are beyond repair. 

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The Cult of Quick Repair is Crane's first published collection of stories; her earlier book, the novel Sympathy, focuses on a ballet dancer who is in a catatonic state after a car accident. The novel also relates the practice of sympathy-based therapy, and draws on Crane's personal experience as a professional dancer and choreographer. Crane, however, also describes herself as a "professional daydreamer" who gets lost in her own stories; these narratives confirm the "interconnectedness of people" as well as the connection of body and mind. Crane demonstrates her skill in developing interesting and sometimes grotesque characters and situations resonant with irony and pathos. The title story, which also appears at the beginning of the collection, focuses on the death of the main character's mother; however, quirkiness is highlighted in the presence of the mother's "mystic vigilantes" - a team of Buddhistts who pray around the deathbed - and the prodigal brother eyeing the vials of morphine. The mother's humanity shines through as the daughter reflects on what is lost in extremis: "It's devastating to Janet that her mom's laugh is now lost to the world. She should have recorded it, she tells herself, should have made a tape loop to play whenever something funny hapened....She could put it on right now, see if the Buddha team would react."

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It is the resounding note of humour that distinguishes Cran'es writing, and makes her colelction more compelling. While the subject matter and characters are quite similar-distorted, disconnected, and with a variety of perversions-there is a quirky irony to the stories. For instance, "Best Friends" focuses on an intimate gesture during a hockey game that makes public the homoeroticism of male competitive sports teams; "Next" describes a new mother initiating phone sex with a telecommunications company operator; "Breaking Things" narrates a woman's wait in an abortion clinic. Less successful is the story "Raising Blood," which takes the irony and fascination with the grotesque seemingly one step too far, describing a one-night-stand that goes terribly wrong. Like Stewart, Crane relishes the opening hook: "Jon didn't mean to have sex with the new systems analyst, the woman who, more or less, replaced his and six other jobs." Stories such as this, along with "Medium Security" and "Fireworks", remain just a bit too superficial. 

In the end, though, all three books are worthwhile reads, tracing the line between humour and sadness, and highlighting the strange beauty of humanity in extreme moments. As Crane says of her own artisitc inspiration, it is writing that "sticks in the craw." that emphasizes human life as beyond repair but always unpredictable and fascinating. 

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