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Vada Malbro

I used to be an avid reader of fiction, but I just don't have the patience for it anymore. I find lately that trying to enter the realms of the imaginary is a chore, like chewing rock-hard bubble gum: if I persist I may eventually enjoy it, but it hardly seems worth the effort. About the only fiction I've been able to read at all lately is William Burroughs.

I suppose there are many reasons for this: I'm older and more easily bored by prosaic fantasy, facile psychology, and simple cleverness; the professional polish of contemporary authors irks me the same way Hollywood movies do; what little time I have for reading is more fruitfully spent on serious non-fiction to help me understand where we are and how we got here; and, finally, I just seem to have outgrown it. When I do finally get around to reading fiction it's usually something by someone dead, rather tomelike, and very dense. Thus I almost never read short stories (with the exception, lately, of George Saunders).

Plus I require a very strong voice in my fiction — fiction must engage me intellectually and aesthetically: I'll take Henry James and George Meredith over Anthony Trollope and Ernest Hemingway any day. I don't read fiction for the story; I read fiction to see reality filtered through a particular worldview uniquely and gorgeously expressed.

But, when not attempting to write the next formulaic bestseller, it seems that writers today feel compelled to prove they have a unique voice the way Hollywood directors do, resulting in nothing so much as a lot of inventive sameness, finding various clever ways to say the same things, and there's something bloodless about it all. Thus I almost never read living authors either (with the exception, lately, of Elfriede Jelinek).

So when Bruce mentioned some story by some unknown author it didn't even register. But when he mentioned it again I figured it might be worth checking out.

The story at her site — The Sheds — is definitely worth reading.

Currently that's the only story she's posted. She promises a screenplay later this summer. And she says she's working on the first of a five part series of novels.

Judging from this one story, I'd say she has a deep understanding of the calculus of power: The Sheds tackles one of the most difficult issues of our time in a poetic, powerful and accessible way, providing insights that can only come from fiction and art. (And I expect it could seriously piss off a lot of people for that very reason, too.) Malbro has something to say, and she says it very well.

I can spot some influences. Tom was reminded of David Lynch and Todd Solondz. I think that's astute — her style is very visual, very cinematic. I think I detect some Paul Bowles, JG Ballard, and George Saunders too.

But it's hard to assess an author's style from one story. And yet it seems she has found her voice — it's uniquely her own, and it's a voice very much of our time. It is, actually, the first piece of fiction I've read in a while that's excited me.

She has great promise, but one story does not a writer make. I very much hope there are more to come.

And I don't think her passive-aggressive approach towards the publishing industry will help her get noticed. Pity. Someone should tell her about flies, honey, and vinegar, and remind her about Jack London's first story. (Though I understand and respect where she's coming from — it's just not going to get her published, is all.)

Plus I see she, too, is happy to live in Toronto. I hope our paths will cross sometime...