The magazines I’ve chatted about here so far have been exclusively bookish; I think “The Walrus” is perfectly bookish, but it’s also a magazine subscription that I can send to my father, who only reads “Time” and “Macleans”. So it’s a ::cough:: serious magazine, that’s also serious about fiction.
But if you’ve already read the May issue’s short story, Pasha Malla’s “1999”, you might be wondering what’s so serious about it. The story will have you snorting derisively, at least, guffawing slack-jawed or laughing aloud at best. (Assuming that you have a slightly bent sense of humour.)
I don’t always read “The Walrus” fiction first — even though I am remarkably resistant when it comes to reading non-fiction in book form, the articles in this magazine are actually interesting and I hardly ever set one aside unfinished — but I always read it and am consistently impressed.
And it’s not always the sort of fiction that I would seek out in book-form, but I’m happy to sample a few glossy pages of it. With Pasha Malla’s story though, I was particularly intrigued because I have read his collection, The Withdrawal Method, so when the May Issue of “The Walrus” arrived, I started with the story.
“1999” is excerpted from the Douglas & McIntyre collection Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow, edited by Zsuzsi Gartner. I wasn’t surprised by the futuristic slant because one of the stories that has stuck with me from Malla’s first collection was set in a futuristic Niagara Falls, where the water has run dry and the killer whale tanks at Marineland are empty, dusty bins. (Unthinkable: I know.)
“1999” is also about the end of the world as we know it, which also echoes The Withdrawal Method, as my review of it summarizes: “What is more prominent than characterization or style, however, more than any single aspect of this collection, is the pervasive sense of loss. In these stories, bad things happen to good people (and to mostly-good people, and seemingly-not-so good people): losses haunt the characters in The Withdrawal Method.”
In “1999”, bad things happen to people who love Prince and to people who don’t; sometimes people who love Prince do bad things to other people who love him too much or not enough. But they do DO things which sets them apart from the majority of the characters in the author’s earlier collection.
“Generally the characters in this debut collection do not take action, however, do not remake themselves; life unfolds around them, messy and problematic; things happen to them and they watch the events unfold. As passive creations, they are not necessarily going to find satisfied readers easily, but House of Anansi has a reputation for publishing up-and-coming writers and it will be interesting to see what happens in Pasha Malla’s next work, with characters who get up and get going (or don’t).”
The scenes and characterization in “1999” are just as realistic as those in The Withdrawal Method, the language use is similarly straightforward with occasional metaphors adding striking blotches, and the plots simultaneously ordinary and bizarre AND the characters get up and get going.
And, even if you don’t subscribe to “The Walrus” (but I really think you should: it’s wicked good), you can check out this freaky little story online. You can also check out the notes for Seven New Spring Books , a preview from the June issue, “Shoah Business: Yann Martel and the Holocaust Novel” AND a poem by Evelyn Lau, “Dear Updike”.
“The Walrus”: it’s good and it’s bookish.