Water, its use and abuse, trickles through Great American Desert, a story collection by Terese Svoboda that spans the misadventures of the prehistoric Clovis people to the wanderings of a forlorn couple around a pink pyramid in a sci-fi prairie. In “Dutch Joe,” the eponymous hero sees the future from the bottom of a well in the Sandhills, while a woman tries to drag her sister back from insanity in “Dirty Thirties.” In “Bomb Jockey,” a local Romeo disposes of leaky bombs at South Dakota’s army depot. A family quarrels in “Ogallala Aquifer” as a thousand trucks dump chemical waste next to their land. Bugs and drugs are devoured in “Alfalfa,” a disc jockey talks her way out of a knifing in “Sally Rides,” and an updated Pied Piper begs parents to reconsider in “The Mountain.” The consequences of the land’s mistreatment is epitomized in the final story by a discovery inside a pink pyramid.
In her arresting and inimitable style, Svoboda’s delicate handling of the complex dynamics of family and self seeps into every sentence of these first-rate short stories about what we do to the world around us—and what it can do to us.
Recipient of a Guggenheim, Terese Svoboda is the author of seventeen books of prose, poetry, memoir, translation, and biography, including six books of fiction—most recently, Bohemian Girl.
“A devious and extraordinary new collection of stories from one of our best writers.” —Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
“Terese Svoboda has brought a poet’s lyrical intensity and factual density to prose fiction and writes like no one else.” —Tom McGuane
“I read this as a new American Gothic where the endless flatness is not so much broken as broken open into utterly new dimensions. I’m blown away.” —Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Brooding