there's not much uplifting socialinteraction or many high-water performances by humanity in Hal Niedzviecki's Ditch.The short novel is the tale of Ditch, a 23-year-old sad sack with a glorified paper route who lives with his mother, and Debs, an equally unstable woman who arrives in Toronto under dubious circumstances and promptly begins uploading porno shots of herself onto the Web and corresponding via e-mail with a fellow pornographer, her father.
Debs and her laptop move into the apartment above Ditch, the two get friendly and eventually take off toward Maryland in a stolen van. There's no real reason for their flight -- they just have nothing better to do.
That sums up much about Ditch and Debs, who'd both rather stay on the move than face reality and themselves. Communication breaks down before it gets started, and even the vaguest idea of purpose is feared like the West Nile virus.
It's a bleak tale, yet what makes it a compelling read is Niedzviecki's acute grasp of the characters' slackness. Short chapters that resemble diary entries and the casual shorthand of e-mail drive the fractured, unstable narrative, and it's a credit to Niedzviecki's writing that he's created a pair of utterly pathetic losers who become likeable and even occasionally charming.
Niedzviecki reads at Barcode tonight (Thursday, August 30).
DITCH by Hal Niedzviecki (Random House), 229 pages. $25 paper. Rating: NNN