cover image The Fifth Lash

The Fifth Lash

Anis Shivani. C&R Press (, $14.95 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-936196-04-3

These new stories from Shivani (Anatolia & Other Stories), many set in Pakistan, parse the disconnect between public and private behavior, and the desires that must be muted in order for people to survive. In “Love in a Time of Communication,” Javed, a young worker at General Tires in Karachi, tries to get his parents a phone line while dreaming of love for himself. Social mores come into play often, such as in “The Abscess of the World,” which follows David, an American student, to Karachi to feed his fascination with Islamic law, while his Pakistani roommate at Princeton, Agha, looks to leave his past behind and work on Wall Street. In “The House on Bahadur Shah Zafar Road,” the course of young Abid’s life, full of A-levels study, dreams of Oxford, and first love, contrasts sharply with that of the family’s young servant girl who has become pregnant. “The Censor” traces the constantly changing rules about what is or isn’t permissible on the public airwaves; numbered paragraphs offer first-person accounts such as “The new rules of kissing are, it’s allowed if it’s done Indian-style.... But no American kissing.” Shivani is a perceptive writer who puts his finger on the contradictions his characters navigate to survive daily life. (Nov.)