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A reader opens the little black book with the murdered squirrel on the cover and begins to read. It makes her laugh into her pillow. Sometimes the stories are hard to understand, but it’s not because the stories are complicated. Actually, the language is very simple. But the ideas are big. Probing. The reader can’t remember the last time she read a story that made her think so much about friendship, morals and the importance of speaking up (“Taking Hot Calvinism to Missouri”). The story is only two pages long. Whether it’s “UFO,” “Toby and the Elephant” or “Batman Robin,” this is a book that makes you pick favourites and read them over and over, like the books you read again and again as a kid, but with adult themes, hidden jokes, dizzying twists and outrageous symbolism.

Paul Hong doesn’t glance at the world or the people and animals in it and take for granted the way they’re supposed to be interpreted or described. A master inventor with an altered point of view, Hong writes stories that are both familiar and eccentric, matching maverick characters with weird situations in places as close as your neighbour’s backyard and as far away as outer space. Like Pointillist paintings, Hong’s stories are both microcosmic and vast, using stealth linguistic techniques to colour wide thematic landscapes. (Suzanne Alyssa Andrew)

by Paul Hong, $14.95, 114 pgs, Tightrope Books, 17 Greyton Crescent, Toronto, ON, M6E 2G1,

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