Book Review: The Uncertainty Principle

uncertain mclennan
The Uncertainty Principle: stories
rob mclennan, 100 pgs, Chaudiere Books, chaudierebooks.com, $15

rob mclennan’s first collection of short stories follows the old adage, “Less is more.” Each brief story in The Uncertainty Principle is more of a disembodied thought — unfinished worlds or ideas made whole only by the reader willing to fill in the gaps. The book’s microfiction is raw, densely-packed prose ranging from wistful admissions to lighter contemplations. mclennan has constructed a literal gallery of narrative vignettes.

Among those are tongue-in-cheek Twitter posts: the Internet’s own storytelling platform. Each post follows the theme of made-up factoids, providing mclennan an opportunity to fit witty, dry humour in a more distilled form: “Seventeen perfect clones of Winston Churchill exist, but chose vintage car restoration over politics. #IDontHaveFactsToBackThisUp.”

The gags blend well enough with the tone of their neighbouring narratives, implying a purpose to their arrangement. Every strand of the collection’s fabric seems to weave into an ephemeral glimpse of a grander narrative. But whose story does it encompass — mclennan’s, a fictitious character’s, both, or neither? The deeper you peer into the negative space between each story, the more certain you are of The Uncertainty Principle’s deliberate design, but less so of its trajectory.

And that may in fact explain the title of The Uncertainty Principle — a principle in quantum mechanics which states that the more you know of an object’s position, the less you can know about its momentum, and vice versa. Does mclennan know where he’s heading, or does he only know where he is? I can’t say for sure, but I’m content as his passenger, regaled by small ruminations on place-specific postcards or not-so-wild theories on Barnard Hughes’ character in The Lost Boys. Did you know he taught Kiefer Sutherland how to dance on set? #IDontHaveFacts ToBackThisUp. (Paul Rocca)

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