The Withdrawal Method
"I should probably tell you," she said, swallowing coffee, "that I'm about to lose my skin."That opening sentence--- from the first story, "Slough," in Pasha Malla's remarkable debut collection The Withdrawal Method---is a sign (or warning) of things to come. When reading, for instance, Barbara Gowdy's stories, you expect characters with visible deformities and secret perversities. In Malla's world, look for cancer patients who are never victims, kids with adult wisdom, fickle lovers and men who fall short of acting like the heroes they believe they are. Comparable to Neil Smith's Bang Crunch, one of 2007's best Canadian short-story collections, Malla also deconstructs fragile relationships (boy-girl, parent-child, siblings) and contemporary anger, with occasional moments of tenderness. But there are never easy endings. In "Being Like Bull," a young Sikh turns his parents' souvenir shop into a wrecking yard for anyone with 20 bucks and a need to smash stuff, then deals with a violent altercation of his own. When a bored pre-teen role-playing game of rape comes too close to reality, the behavioural rules of "Big City Girls" melt down, as in "Long Short Short Long" when an ostracized, mulleted boy finally gets revenge with scissors.
Sue Carter Flinn