Elevate Difference

Trailer Girl: And Other Stories

One of my favorite short story collections of all time is Black Tickets, a masterpiece written by Jayne Anne Phillips in the 1970s. So hauntingly poetic and impressive were these stories written about rootless misfits by a young and relatively unknown writer that a giant of the short story genre, Raymond Carver, contributed a blurb to the book’s back cover. He wrote: “These stories of America’s disenfranchised are unlike any in our literature. She is an original, and this book of hers is a crooked beauty.”

A ‘crooked beauty’ is also what the sixteen mostly short-short stories in Svoboda’s Trailer Girl conjure up in word pictures. Written in the style of dreamy prose poems about the alienated and edgy lives of the walking wounded, these stories shimmer and dazzle with an intensity that sometimes creates the feeling of the world as a floating, melting cloud of illusion.

In the title novella, a woman is obsessed with the idea there’s a wild child living in the gully near the trailer park where she lives but nobody believes her. Is the wild child a figment of her imagination to help her deal with the sexual abuse she suffered as a child? The other trailer residents ignore her—until there is a murder.

In “Psychic” a clairvoyant suddenly discovers her client is a murderer and then proceeds to exploit him. In “Lost the Baby,” an alcoholic couple black out and can’t remember where they dropped off their child. In “Sundress” two kicked out foster children move into a house while the owners are away on vacation and pose as house-sitting relatives. For a little while, they pretend they have a home to call their own and are blissfully happy.

Models of compression, these short stories are each skillful dramas about the lives of those on the dark side of the American dream. The style is a searing and cutting edge exploration of the long lasting effects of abuse and loss. For those who like elegantly poetic stories, Svoboda’s the real deal: a writer’s writer who unflinchingly makes us see with an almost hallucinogenic double-quick timing. Her brilliance will leave you breathless.

Written by: Cheryl Reeves, February 8th 2010

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