Nebraska Center for Writers

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About Terese Svoboda


All Aberration
Copyright © 1986
by Terese Svoboda
U of Georgia P
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All Aberration is an excellent first volume. It is refreshingly unfashionable, strikingly written, and suffused with toughness and integrity. — Prairie Schooner

Copyright © 1995
by Terese Svoboda
New York UP
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Cannibal is Africa from the inside — inside the head of a woman who fears that the man she loves is CIA, that the film they're supposed to make is his cover, that she might be pregnant. A haunting story of survival, Cannibal lays bare a woman's greatest hungers. Known as Good-for-Nothing by the Africans — unfit for the climate, the work, or friendship, she struggles for recognition, and for her life. What she finds, wandering the savannah for months, are the "blue people," those with AIDS who have been left to die in an abandoned British outpost. But this is only counterpoint to her own predicament. "Trust hasn't enough syllables," she says, regarding her lover walking ahead of her. "He doesn't look at it. I can't not look, but he won't look." In Cannibal, nobody wants to look — the differences are too frightening, the truth too stark, the love too little. A step beyond Heart of Darkness, Cannibal is the virtual reality of exotic paranoia where, when the images break apart, Death grins out. — from the jacket

I am still hung over from reading this book, the images that linger because they appeal to the primordial cortex. Most writers cannot sustain their premises but Svoboda does and even strengthens hers....I am very excited about this book being put into the world — Mark Richard

Like another poet-turned-novelist, Denis Johnson, Svoboda turns a shrewd and lucid gaze on sights that make others turn away. Her diction is as precise as her territory is vast. What happens in Africa haunts her; it inhabits every word. — Amy Hempel

A harrowing first novel....A woman's Heart of Darkness....An obsessive monologue told in a measured whisper, desperate, chilling, seductive. — Vogue

Stark imagery paints a visceral, powerful portrait of a milieu beset by mistrust and pain. — Publishers Weekly

Profound and lyrical....Svoboda's reflective first-person narrative wades through deep currents of emotion. Sharp-boned writing that echoes for hours. — Kirkus Reviews

Cannibal has what many novels lack: guts, grist, balls, heart, lungs, and a worldview horrifically, uniquely its own. — Mark Richard for Spin's Best Books of the year

All too often American writers depict Africans as the "Other." Svoboda realistically portrays her central character as the "Other" whose ways seem strange to the Africans she encounters. — Library Journal

Cannibal is very powerful. — Houston Chronicle

Terese Svoboda's Cannibal can best be described as haunting. Its terse prose is well written. Cannibal tells the story of a woman's trek through Africa; following the man she loves. As their journey unravels she begins to suspect that he is not what he appears to be, and in fact he may be starving her. The story is told from inside the woman's head. It is all reflective dialogue; in this case it works, and keeps the reader's attention. If you are interested in Africa, and like dark psychological discourse in literature; then this book is for you. —

A women's "Heart of Darkness" — Vogue

Cannibal is fiction, but its horrors are real and somewhat similar to what Ms. Svoboda experienced when she spent 1975 in the Sudan traveling with a filmmaker. — Gerald Wade, Omaha World-Herald

A Drink Called Paradise
Copyright © 1999
by Terese Svoboda
Counterpoint P
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"Ah, sex" begins A Drink Called Paradise. Sex and death haunt this new novel by Terese Svoboda.
Clare, an LA ad executive, finds herself stranded on a remote South Pacific island and slowly discovers that life there is not what it seems. Barclay, the enigmatic leader, cannot tell her when the next boat is coming, nor will he unravel the disturbing mysteries that pervade this so-called paradise. Her hostess Ngarima appears indifferent to the incident in which Clare is nearly raped. Ngarima's son braves the sea in a homemade boat in a desperate attempt to escape the island — but why?
Stranded and spooked, Clare looks to Harry, a fellow castaway, for solace, but he has no patience for her growing fears and prefers the attentions of his newfound harem. It is the island women — Breasts for Three, Clam Hold, and Mouse Touch — who draw her into their circle, revealing the island's terrifying secrets and shedding light on Clare's own past.
Based on Tahitian, Pukapukan, and Marshall Islander experiences, the understated prose of A Drink Called Paradise tells of the wet, lush decay of an island inhabited by living ghosts, islanders moving in the shadow of a bomb that detonated fifty years ago. — from the jacket

Terese Svoboda has captured a "paradise" that few people want to know about — an isolated, cruelly abused Pacific island haunted by ghosts, castaways, and lost children. Writing in a slant, poetic style that mirrors the poison rain falling on the picture-perfect palms, she takes us on a quest for one woman's psychological, sexual, and spiritual espcape. A brilliant and beautiful book. — Molly Giles

This book is simple exhilarating. There is so much to praise: that it's an original voice, that the voice is poetic and heartbreaking, yet taut, that this is a tensely paced story, that this story matters in a larger sense. — Jane Vandenburgh

It's sexy, powerful, and surprising. It ought to be sung, not read, and in a low, harsh voice. — Frederick Busch

Postmodernism's heady potential to reinvent language, unclog the doors of perception, and reconceptualize thoughts, feelings, selves and reality is on vibrant display in this demanding, worthy novel. — Booklist

Svoboda's stunning novel, frighteningly mysterious and complex, deals with many themes. ... Fast-paced, intense, deeply moving ... Svoboda uses stark imagery and the protagonist's interior dialogue to craft a most compelling and fluent narrative. — Publishers Weekly

All tourists think their islands far, but this island's really far. So far off the beaten path, in fact, that our narrator Clare isn't altogether sure that she'll ever be able to find her way home again. ... Wonderfully written. ... — Kirkus Reviews

Laughing Africa
Copyright © 1990
by Terese Svoboda
U of Iowa P
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Svoboda delicately balances a harsh, yet convincing indictment of Western culture with an equally ardent belief in the possibility of human compassion and responsibility. — Publishers Weekly

Mere Mortals
Copyright © 1995
by Terese Svoboda
U of Georgia P
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All of the medical, technological, and psychological advances of the twentieth century struggle against mankind's being made up of "mere mortals" in Terese Svoboda's third book of poetry. In "Faust," a deconstructive mini-epic in five acts, the eponymous character of literary legend appears in the form of a woman, redefining what being mortal means in light of the politics of the Third World, as well as those of gender. "Faust" is a foil to the other long poem in the book, "Ptolemy's Rules for High School Reunions," which, Svoboda says, explores what happens when you don't have a pact with the devil. The gods — Greek and otherwise — also make appearances as a TV announcer in "Philomela," in the basement with the plumber in "The Smell of Burning Pennies," and in the dyslexic confusion of "Dog/God." Many of the poems in Mere Mortals show how our sexual nature suffuses and reinvents every relationship. Readers of such wittily probing poems as "The Root of Father Is Fat" and "Brassiere: Prison or Showcase?" will know why Philip Levine has described Svoboda as "one light-year from being the polite, loverly, workshop poet." — from the jacket

Tin God
Copyright © 2006
by Terese Svoboda
U of Nebraska P
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Celebrated by the New York Times Book Review for its "genuine grace and beauty," Terese Svoboda’s work has been called "desperate, chilling, seductive" (Vogue) and "haunting and profound" (AM Homes), while Vanity Fair warned that it "detonates on contact." In Tin God, her writing can only be called ... divine. "This is God," the novel begins, helpfully spelling G-O-D for the reader, and we are spinning on our way into the heart of a Midwest that spans spirits and centuries and forever redefines the middle of nowhere.
Whispers plague a desperate conquistador lost in tall prairie grass. Four hundred years later, a male go-go dancer flings a bag of dope into the same field. God, in the person of a perm-giving, sheetcake-baking Nebraska farm woman, casts a jaundiced yet merciful eye over the unfolding chaos. Fire and a pair of judiciously applied pantyhose bring the two stories together. A contemplation of divinity and drugs on the ground, Tin God is a funny yet poignant story of the plains that transcends its interstate spine and exposes us to a whole new level of Svoboda’s fiery prose. — from the publisher

Terese Svoboda's God—serenely positioned somewhere "out of time, broadcasting whenever, a pretend imposter with no megaphones or ziggurats" — is as irreverent and off-handedly smart as only a deity can be. This is a funny, and moving, and dazzlingly written book. — Jim Shepard

Tin God is a brutal and beautiful book about being lost in new worlds and old ones, too. Terese Svoboda has once again proven herself a writer of real power and mystery. — Sam Lipsyte

Tin God takes us on a wonderfully phantasmagoric and hilarious trip through the weird heart of the Midwest, a journey that passes across centuries and burrows into the unexplainable mysteries of what it means to be alive on this very strange planet. Terese Svoboda is a true American original: she writes with an angelic beauty and a devilish sense of humor. — Dan Chaon

Fabulous fabulist Svoboda (Trailer Girl) checks in to indulge a talent for wild, sketchy comedy. Laid in Willa Cather country, this quick take has some of Thomas Pynchon's quirky Americana crossed with the Indian tales of Jaime de Angulo. ... Back and forth the narrative moves, with Steinian The Making of Americans logic gluing together this eccentric vision of a God-driven Middle America. Svoboda loves her red-state mopes, and that warmth both illuminates and animates her eccentric prose. — Publishers Weekly

In this book, god is not a solemn, dignified deity but a wisecracking woman with attention deficit disorder — the intentionally lower-case, working-class version of a supreme being. ... Readers will find Svoboda’s perspective on God, faith, and the impulses that drive human behavior original and quirky. Her characters are self-absorbed buffoons at times but totally believable. This funny romp is very highly recommended for public libraries. — Library Journal

Svoboda's fiercely symbolic and brashly audacious allegory is a fanciful yet cautionary tale. — Booklist

It's hard to spell out dreams — to rein them in, to make the story under our lives rise to the surface. Terese Svoboda brings a light hand, a pinch of humor and a lot of irreverence to this weighty task with her new novel, Tin God. ... [T]he wisdom of Tin God lies in the idea that, in dreams, some people get within spitting distance of God, while others sleep the sleep of forgetting. — Los Angeles Times

This new title from the University of Nebraska Press shimmers with crisp writing, an out-of-the ordinary story and unique characters. — Lincoln Journal Star

Trailer Girl
Copyright © 2001
by Terese Svoboda
Counterpoint P
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In piercing, unprettified prose, Terese Svoboda navigates the terrain of alienation and loss. "I talk like a lady who knows what she wants" is how the vagrant begins her story in "Trailer Girl." As she struggles to rescue what she says is a wild girl hiding in the gully, the neighbors become more certain than ever that the child is imaginary — until there's a murder. Stark and disturbing, "Trailer Girl" is the story of cycles of child abuse and the dream to escape them. In "Psychic," a clairvoyant knows she's been hired by a murderer, in "Leadership" a tiny spaceship lands between a boy and his parents, in "Venice," a woman performs the Heimlich maneuver on an ex-husband, then flees by gondola, and in "White," a grandfather explains to his grandson how a family is like a collection of chicken parts. Frequently violent, always passionate, these often short short stories are full-strength, as strong and precise as poetry. — from the jacket

Terese Svoboda's stories are haunting and profound. — AM HOmes

Positively nuclear. — Molly Giles

Potent and oblique ... a cross between William S Burroughs and Dorothy Allison — Publishers Weekly

Powerful cutting-edge literary fiction. — Library Journal

Svoboda's subject is human suffering, and she bends language to her will in spare and oblique prose. ... Pain, distilled, on every page. — Booklist

Unnerve thyself: the violent and enthralling stories in Trailer Girl detonate on contact. — Vanity Fair

Disturbing, edgy and provocative, this collection will appeal to lovers on nontraditional prose. — Book Magazine

We see the ordinary anew through her cracked lens: It's always breaking up, shifting shape and surprising us. — Hartford Courant

You'll be grateful that someone has something new to say — and a perfectly realized voice to say it in. — Mademoiselle

One closes the book more shaken than one realizes by the disturbing structures of her prose. — San Francisco Chronicle

Terese Svoboda's new book — a novella and 16 very short stories — has the surreal poetry of a nightmare. ... Svoboda has written a book of genuine grace and beauty. — New York Times Book Review

Svoboda dazzles her readers with colors, calls, and gestures in scenes that we don't immediately understand. But each time, without fail, she is true to her poetic calling and wipes away the initial cloudiness of the story's slate, revealing disturbing truths whose images will insinuate themselves during our real lives — as we order a cappuccino at a coffee shop or step into our orderly, secure homes at night. Her creations will never rest quietly in our minds, but will remind us of the breadth of the world and the smallness of the piece that each of us samples from it. — Bookreporter

Copyright © 2002
by Terese Svoboda
Zoo Press
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Terese Svoboda publishes both fiction and poetry and is one of the best in both genres. A writer of great genius, she is at the height of her powers in Treason, her fourth collection of verse. These poems are political, highly poised, grand, and intensely lyrical. — from the jacket

Depth charge of cry, of outrage — language at the edge of utterance, utterly original, black-bordered, indelible as we are not. — Eleanor Wilner

Svoboda exhibits a remarkable range and command of her subject matter. ... This poet creates moments that are stronger than everday experience. — Publishers Weekly

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