In the title novella of this collection of 14 otherwise short-short stories, Svoboda (Cannibal) tells the tale of a nameless woman, a survivor of foster homes and abuse. After a number of stays in mental institutions, she now lives in a filthy trailer park peopled by dropouts who are every bit as damaged as she is. The woman believes there is a wild child living in a gully near the trailer park but is this really true? Svoboda tends toward obfuscation and the reader is often left mystified, but the overall effect is compelling. Characters in the short stories really more like prose poems are shadowy personages difficult to pin down. The first story, ""Sundress,"" is a prologue to the novella, in which a nameless girl and a creepy boy named Ernie move into a house by pretending to be relatives of the vacationing owners. ""Polio"" features a sitter who invents a game called chute: she drops a baby down a laundry chute and lets her other charges follow. Most interesting of the short pieces is ""Psychic,"" in which a clairvoyant woman realizes she has been hired by a murderer, and uses her knowledge to wring a few extra dollars out of him. The language throughout is at once potent and oblique Svoboda has published three books of poetry and thus the allure lies less in the situations than in their strange telling. (Mar. 1) Forecast: Svoboda, sounding here like a cross between William S. Burroughs and Dorothy Allison, has been lauded in edgier venues like Spin and the Village Voice. While this may not be a mainstream hit, she could find an audience of more adventurous readers.
Reviewed on: 02/12/2001 Release date: 02/01/2001 Genre: Fiction