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Starred Review. Nine caustic stories by TeBordo find screeching ironies in rhetorical absurdities and writerly subversiveness. In Took and Lost, the sense of violation felt by someone who lost something in an unspecified theft (though the thief is described as a brilliant man... penning poems with his left hand and novels with his right, while beautiful and scandalous arias drip from his tongue) is played out in an elaborate street spectacle. The Champion of Forgetting is a chilling chronicle of a brainwashed kid who has been kidnapped by a band of organ snatchers and is enlisted in their schemes; she proves masterly at sedation and surgery, to the reader's increasing horror. TeBordo relishes in tossing narrative wrenches into familiar setups, as with the second-person SS Attacks, in which a bored 10th-grade narrator plans a school shooting to compensate for his older brother's cooler existence. Similarly, in Rules and Regulations, the narrative transforms itself with vindictive fluidity from a dubious manual on child discipline to offering tips on caring for one's aging parent (Enact your revenge with double-knotted bows and dirty linen). Bizarre and biting, these tales leave a mark. (May)
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The nine stories of TeBordo’s first collection are as ambiguous and creepy as his third novel, We Go Liquid (2007). The opener and closer are also stylistically unusual. In each of the four parts of “SS Attacks!” nearly every paragraph begins with the same word; the narrator’s a teenager apparently planning a Columbine-like incident. Every paragraph in “Rules and Regulations” starts in imperative mood; what’s being taught is child, then elder, abuse. Those experiments bookend more conventional fare, but never are the tale-tellers named, the scenarios unfolded mount in violence as they head toward ghastly or at least lowering endings, and the diction is so chaste (Gertrude Stein’s ghost hovers over the lot) that a dire surrealism roils beneath their superficial naturalism. Best of show may be “The Champion of Forgetting,” told by a traumatized girl kidnapped by human-kidney thieves. Photo-postcards showing black glop inundating mid-twentieth-century exteriors and interiors with apparent strippers interfile with the stories; the handwritten messages on their versos constitute another weird tale. Sheer delight for connoisseurs of nongenre strangeness. --Ray Olson