Psychology and Other Stories

Sometimes when people tell us about their breakdowns, our first response is secretly less than empathetic than we might hope: we may cringe, shy away fearing contagion, or at worst, harbour a schadenfreude smile. While the six stories in C.P. Boyko’s collection Psychology and Other Stories demonstrate that the traditional therapeutic process can be as ineffectual as sharing the news with an unsympathetic friend, Boyko’s guiding, almost clinical tone effectively illuminates the internal turmoil of cases that often hit close to home. It is fitting that many of the stories build upon narrative archetypes, as this is precisely what classical psychoanalysts attempt in their work: identifying and interpreting the underlying tropes that surface in their clients’ re-counted tales. Replete with old-sport banter, “Reaction-Formation” is an English public school coming-of- age story worthy of Robertson Davies — if he was writing about a young boy’s self-interrogation regarding possible repressed homosexuality. A balance between cynicism and sincerity holds “Paddling An Iceberg  together as it peeks into the hotel conference rooms of a self-help seminar. And Freud’s cocaine use is the curious centre of a depressive-in- denial’s research in “Inner Life.” The final story, “The Blood-Brain Barrier” is a Robert Altman-esque L.A. courtroom drama told in rapid fragments and pitch-perfect dialogue. These stories dissect, diagnose and engage mental illness, spinning the delusions and traumas of their characters into compelling fiction. Ultimately, the reader is the one who gets the revelations. (Justin F. Ridgeway)

C.P. Boyko, 303pgs, Biblioasis, $19.95

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