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Paperback review: National Treasures, By Charles McLeod

Little nuggets of brutality, tenderness and isolation

National Treasures collects Charles McLeod's tales of misfits and oddballs in small-town America.

In "The State Bird of Minnesota" a reclusive anarchist fashions bombs from fragments of animal bone; in "Individualized Altimetry of Stripes" a clan of tattooists is forced apart by violence and infidelity; in the title piece a peripatetic loner recalls his stint in a white supremacist gang called "Lone Wolf".

McLeod delights in wrong-footing the reader, oscillating between tenderness and brutality, banality and the grotesque, often during the course of a single sentence. Reading these stories is like riding a rollercoaster in the dark: both exhilarating and unsettling at the same time.