“The sky is going all slatey like in a painting people say is important,” Terese Svoboda

The father comes up behind him. Furthest away the mother halts. They look up. The sky is going all slatey like in a painting people say is important. In the second they take to glance up, the rocketship retracts its legs and tail and plays dead.

—Terese Svoboda, “Leadership”

The best of Terese Svoboda’s words read themselves in your head like hearing a Steve Lacy line, perhaps from Only Monk, his solo recordings of Thelonious Monk compositions, all tight and ropy and in a single strand encompassing melody and harmony both, such as it is. They are quick and expressive and in every story in her collection Trailer Girl there is something strange, something you could call “modal” that comes about, like changing the harmonic structure of the story while the melody plays on, like listening to something new emerging out of the swamp off in the distance.

In “Leadership,” there’s a family: mom, dad, son. There’s also a rocket ship that lands on their lawn. Read the quote above, and see how in less than 30 words she’s drawn an entire poster in the Constructivist style, complete with dramatic lighting and a family unit.

Reduced rent was what the parlor floor got in exchange for letting everyone in the building roll through their window onto their bed, where they liked the light, though everyone entered snow-dusted or iced, and at any hour, often with them in it.

—Terese Svoboda, “Cave Life”

Though the sentence starts out practically and rationally to discuss household economy, the writer switches on the absurd lamp after the first clause. Then, there’s a nifty chiasmus, xy-yx, that tells you as much about the people who live on the parlor floor as their housemates. The elaborate construction, which seems to strand the phrases “they liked the light” and “with them in it” on their own little inaccessible semantic islands, signifies that something is bound to happen in the house, if only to resolve the tensions Ms. Svoboda has created in this single sentence.

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Wrapping paper wrap-up

I wanted to share with you this nice piece of traditional Norwegian
wrapping paper that came with Peg, who you met a couple days ago on
the blog here. What I like about this is the absence of the roly-poly
bearded Santa guy who would be featured on American paper; instead we
have red-capped elves delivering presents and some kind of
cool-looking yak pulling the sleigh.

 (Aside: the red cap or Phrygian cap, is a symbol of liberty dating
back to the ancient Greeks, who would give them to freed slaves. When
the Nazis invaded Norway, they banned traditional red-cap imagery and
illustrators instead turned to alternately colored caps.)

 The other cool thing about the paper is the green-coated fellow who’s
shoveling snow. Hunched over his shovel, having cleared a 50-meter
path all the way from the front door to the road, he pauses for a
break only to encounter some sugar-intoxicated goateed elf careening
down the lane, cackling madly and tossing wrapped packages hither and
thither. His expression says it all: “Jul be back next year, I don’t
doubt it.”