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IN BRIEF

Fiction

February 11, 1996|ERIKA TAYLOR

DOES FREDDY DANCE by Dick Scanlan (Alyson: $19.95; 207 pp.). For some unknown reason, it seems that collections of short stories featuring a single protagonist are generally uneven. Often, there will be one aspect of the character's life that generates much stronger fiction than other areas. In the case of Dick Scanlan's debut collection, "Does Freddy Dance," the hot-spot is childhood and early adult life.

Freddy is profoundly different from the rest of his family, and it's not only the G.I. Joe he dresses in civilian clothes, and macrame belts woven secretly in his room. Freddy has layers of complexity and restlessness that give the family stories an undercurrent of tension. It is clear that Freddy will have a hard time in life not only because he is gay but because, metaphorically speaking, he just doesn't dance very well.

A few of the later stories concern the various women Freddy befriends. Perhaps they were meant to be tragically self-destructive but many readers may find Scanlan's female characters--including Freddy's mother--to be boringly self-indulgent. Another area Scanlan explores is romance. The painful death of Freddy's longtime lover, Mark, and his own frightening medical prospects are depicted in five stories, one of which, "Le 'Attrape de Coeur" is almost unbearably sad. Dick Scanlan is clearly a talented writer. It will be interesting to see what new moves he has in store.

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