Trailer Girl
 by Terese Svoboda

University of Nebraska Press 2009, (First Published by COunterpoint, 2001)
First Collection

Terese Svoboda is the author of five volumes of poetry and four novels, including Tin God (Nebraska 2006), and, most recently, a nonfiction book, Glasses Like Clark Kent: A GI’s Secret from Postwar Japan, winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. In 2006 she won an O. Henry Award for her short story 80’s Lilies.

Read an interview with Terese Svoboda

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" We were Neanderthal, our cave icebound Canada, a basement apartment. Our Neanderthal love we expelled with grunts in white vapors, the kind of unwavering, always-lit lust that passes for passion if you are too Neanderthal to know better. "

Reviewed by Nuala Ni Chonchúir

There are seventeen stories in Trailer Girl – one of them, the title story, is 146 pages long and has 31 chapters. That is really a novella or a very, very long short story, in my opinion. Whatever it is, it is a seductive narrative told in the most unusual English I have come across in a long time. Teresa Svoboda bends the language to her own devices with musical, magical results.

The trailer girl of the title is a troubled young woman – a loner – who sees a small girl in a red dress playing among the cattle that graze behind her trailer park. She follows the child, watches her, but it’s never clear if this little girl is a figment of her imagination – one of her fostered-out daughters, perhaps – or maybe even a childish, dreamed-up version of herself.

This is a tale of sadness repeated and watchful wariness; the narrator is both naive and complex. There is enormous beauty and depth in this story but it takes careful reading because of the ambiguity of both the language and the events that occur. I did feel I would have liked the main event to occur sooner but it is the type of story that begs you to stay with it nonetheless.

Trailer Girl as a whole is a collection of repetitions: in characters, in mood, in its atmospheric, closed-in situations and spaces: there are snowy caves, caravans, hide 'n' seek in darkness, grain bins, beds to hide in and coffins.

Svoboda’s gifts as a writer are many – she has a genuinely unique voice and her prose is rich without being cluttered. For example, from the story A Mama:
You are given children when they are too small, but if you wait, your chance is up for experiment. For now, it fits good inside the car seat on the table and says nothing if I leave the room, even when I put on salt. This disappoints me. Salt should get a noise out of it.
She is a modern writer and doesn’t miss an opportunity to slot in cultural references but, again, she doesn’t overdo it or clog up the narrative with these references. Her fiction is rich with atmosphere, and a story’s setting is, it seems, as important to her as character, something which I relish as a reader.

In an interview about her novel Tin God, Svoboda was asked about how readers perceive experimental fiction. She answered:
"Put the word 'experimental' in front of any art form and you can clear the house. All I ask is that you read all the words."
I don’t think this book will please all readers; some people just don’t want to read all the words and Svoboda’s unusual prose can be cryptic at times. But for the committed reader of literary fiction, the one who loves beautiful, unusual, almost obscure prose, this is a gem to be treasured.

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Watch the trailer for this collection on Youtube

Nuala Ni Chonchúir lives in Galway, Ireland. Her third short fiction collection, Nude, was published by Salt in 2009 and shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize. The Irish Times called it "a memorable achievement". Her novel You was published in April 2010 by New Island. She blogs at 

Nuala's other Short Reviews: Sarah Salway "Leading the Dance"   

Patrick Chapman "The Wow Signal"

Kuzhali Manickavel "Insects are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings"

Moira Crone "What Gets Into Us"

Michael J. Farrell "Life in the Universe"

Simon van Booy "Love Begins in Winter"
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