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The Wonders of the Invisible World: Stories Hardcover – June 15, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (June 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679436685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679436683
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,781,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

David Gates writes practically perfect American stories. Perfect, first of all, in their staid adherence to American short-story tradition. There will be no rioting in the cafés over his first collection, The Wonders of the Invisible World, with its glimpses of characters daunted by love. Here are creatures we know well: Manhattan quasi professionals taking their lumps; urbane fortysomethings trying out small-town life. It's all Updikean adultery, Cheeveresque drinking, some drugs, a life-altering accident or two. But Gates's stories step beyond being perfect examples of their form to become something fresh, compassionate, and witty. He has an astonishing handle on the way people talk, not just to each other, but to themselves. In the title story, a husband remembers the day his wife left him: "She appeared holding a tall glass in each hand as if she were--forget it, no stupid similes. She was a vision. A vision of herself." In "Beating," a Jewish woman is fed up with her Leftist, activist husband, who owns Pound's collected works. "I fantasize sometimes about making a big stink and demanding that he at least put Ezra Pound away where I won't have to see it every day of my life. I'd be like, Hey hey, ho ho, Ezra Pound has got to go."

This kind of attention to the goofy music of interior dialogue is normally found in comic fiction. But Gates is concerned, too, with the little failures of language, and so the failures of relationships. His territory is not comedy, it's the tragedy of failed optimism. In this way, too, he is a perfectly American writer. --Claire Dederer

From Library Journal

The hard lesson learned by the characters in these smart, sometimes harrowing stories is that intelligence and sophistication are no protection against making a mess of your life. Newsweek staffer Gates (Preston Falls, LJ 12/97) creates bright, self-aware protagonistsAtoo educated in many cases for the circumstances in which they find themselvesAwho battle their personal demons with little more than a finely honed sense of irony. The title story concerns a divorced college dean who risks losing his student lover as he has lost his family. "Star Baby" is about a gay New Yorker who discovers an unexpected side of himself when he returns home to care for his drug-addicted sister's young son. Gates deftly mixes compassion and sarcasm throughout. For all public libraries.ALawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

His prose is gorgeous and the craftsmanship is excellent.
Kimberly Chisholm
I hope he takes a good long time between this and the next thing he writes so that he keeps the level of quality that's in these stories in everything else he does.
As such, he is held in contempt for his normality and his tolerance of the behavior of his loved ones.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By on July 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
An elderly Wasp stroke victim listens in as his speech turns to a dissonant, Steinian kind of music. A heartfelt letter to a pregnant daughter becomes a sort of Bartok concerto in words, and even a simple physical act, like licking the envelope, "requires analytical thought." "The Mail Lady," the climactic story in David Gates' collection, might have you leaning forward in awe and excitement: Gates works toward a parable of faith that might do a master like Flannery O'Connor proud. He starts with a surge, he seems to fumble in rendering the protagonist's devoutness, then startles with the revelation of an unprepared-for cruelty toward his daughter, and takes flight in the final passages. "The Mail Lady" fairly sings with mastery. I'd say it's the kind of story that could be taught as an example of the form at its perfectest, but that doesn't do the story justice; it has more unpredictability and ungoverned life than that. It leaves Cheever-Updike territory and finally rises to an altitude of grace comparable to a harrowing Bach cantata of fear and faith."Saturn," the penultimate story, is another stunner--a picture of a half-whipsmart, half-unformed woman's grope for happiness in a materially content but smothering marriage to a monomaniac. The subject matter seems twice-ironed, but the observation is crisp, newborn. It seems so honestly arrived-at all quibbles disappear.Elsewhere, there's a noticeable paucity of language that can make a story feel more like an outline or a vivid character sketch than an organic creature. Gates writes for Newsweek, and the accessible, cut-to-the-chase prose of magazine writing seems deeply ingrained.Read more ›
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Every story in this book has these in common -- overly-analytical people, unhappy and internal, trapped in their heads and the domestic situation that they pretend to have chosen.
Sound boring? Could have been and might still be to you, but this Gates feller riffs with so many personas, each dealing with these same issues in similar ways, people going out of control and trying to stay in control, it's a testament to his skill has a writer that Gates keeps us engaged. Reminded me of a jazz musician riffing on a standard (a metaphor that would not be out of place in one of these stories, i'm just warning you) if you could argue that the standard was written by john cheever (please don't say updike).
The slow build, the welter of observational detail that pulls you into these seemingly restrained parlor dramas that are suddenly upset by the tinest details, the capturing of the circular internal dialogues -- all make a captivating read. The old cliche about not being able to put it down--it's true of this book. While the first story sets the tone adequately enough, my favorite stories were Star Baby, Vigil, the Intruder, and Saturn. These felt finished and therefore induced some relief -- the ones that ended ambigously merely felt unfinished, but still left this reader with that sense of unease, claustrophobia, underlying lusts, passions and secrets that haunt the NPR cohort. So did the finished ones, now that I think of it...
My only reservation is less about the book but about the world that Gates has captured: has the intellegentsia in this country all become bergmanites, or is it just that Gates's abilites as a writer allow the uselessly educated, neurotic class in the usa a sheen of sexy tragedy?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Peterson on September 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Gates is a staff writer for Newsweek and the author of a couple of best selling novels. He puts together in this collection a series of stories that reflect the kinds of conversations that go on in people's heads when they are at the end of a personally, emotionally somewhat traumatic life experience. We read the pains of women coming to grips with being trapped in bad marriages, men dealing with unfaithful wives, a gay man who is taking care of his addict sister's boy, and in one story at the end, an elderly man who has experienced a stroke and is so alive and coherent internally but not externally. None of these stories is nice, none has a happy ending, there are no characters with whom one identifies - or better put, with whom one might empathize or sympathize. I had the overwhelming feeling that every single one of these protagonists sort of deserved what they had.... or had the means to escape their situation but were trapped by their OWN psychological ropes. It was a collection of stories that I couldn't stop reading, but that each left me unhappy, disconcerted, with sort of a low grade dull headache about the quality of human beings in the country I call home. The characters were, by and large, well-educated, intellectuals, worldly, and living in and around New York (so assumedly they had some greater vision of the world than what might come from less urban parts of the country). I guess the bottom line for me was that the slight depression I felt after finishing this collection did not encouraged me to read either of Gates' novels.
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