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The Miniature Wife: and Other Stories Hardcover – January 10, 2013
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Debut writer Gonzales blends imagined histories and biographies with the supernatural and scientific in 18 energetic tales depicting the bizarre as everyday events. Largely set in Texas, the author’s home, these stylized stories disclose a zombie-infested mall, an animal-ridden house, and a shed-dwelling unicorn. Swamp monsters battle robots and a father becomes a werewolf, while artists and anthropologists reevaluate their careers. In the uproarious title story, a scientist accidentally shrinks his wife, leading to an absurdly ferocious rivalry involving a dollhouse, dead flies, and makeshift moats. And in the collection’s defining opener, a writer aboard a hijacked plane that has been circling Dallas for 20 years chronicles his fellow passengers’ acceptance of life in airborne captivity. Loosely anchoring the book is a series of wry, encyclopedic entries recounting the mythic lives of a clown, poet, scientist, and zookeeper, respectively, and another about an innkeeper who shares the author’s name. Although these whimsical additions feel extraneous in an otherwise fascinating collection, Gonzales expresses empathy and demonstrates an impressive knack for violent humor, disturbing satire, and genre-infused literary fiction. --Jonathan Fullmer
"These stories are wrought with forceful clarity, Borgesian inventiveness and enchanting, devious wit—an unforgettable debut from a uniquely gifted writer."
– Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
"These are beautiful, strange truths—mad, weird, funny and unforgettable. Manuel Gonzales possesses a brand new American literary voice. This is vital work from an exciting new writer."
—Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet
“This book has everything you could ask for in a collection, and even things you hadn’t thought to ask for, but secretly wanted: unicorns, mobsters, swamp monsters and werewolves. Manuel Gonzales weaves the supernatural into the lives of everyday citizens, from anthropologists to airline passengers, and the result is pure magic mixed with humor and deep humanity.”
–Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
"You know that feeling you get when you pick up a book and realize you are hearing a voice you have never heard before but will be hearing for a long time? I had that feeling on page 5. Please pick up this book - you will have that feeling. Dark, smart and strange in a way that initially had me grasping for comparison but that ultimately revealed itself to be something new."
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
“Manuel Gonzales’s The Miniature Wife is a marvel—a beautiful, hilarious and moving reinvention of the gothic, a testimony to the sublime powers of the imagination and language. This a book of extraordinary joy, compassion, horror and grace all rolled into one.”
—Dinaw Mengestu, author of How to Read the Air and The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears
“It’s easy to compare Manuel Gonzales to George Saunders, but it would be just as easy to compare him to Borges or Márquez or Aimee Bender…He makes the extraordinary ordinary, and his playfulness is infectious.”
—Benjamin Percy, Esquire
“Excellent…Gonzales has built a peerless fictional universe by populating his stories with zombies, unicorns, werewolves and space warriors, and then giving them the sensibilities of worried middle managers…hilarious and chilling…a superior collection of writing and a signpost of an emerging talent with a strong and distinctive voice.”
—Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post
"Lucid and confident...because his prose is never sloppy and his rhythm is impeccable, Gonzales's sentences unfold with an unusual smoothness...these stories showcase an exciting new voice... [they] ring and resound."
—Aimee Bender, The New York Times Book Review
“Is there a term for something that's sad, funny, and strange all at once? Sunge? Frad? Because that would describe this imaginative debut…even the most absurd emotional conflicts feel familiar somehow, which only makes them more moving.”
—Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly
“Gonzales’ voice is so new and different and dazzling that you won’t be able to put down his book.”
—Steph Opitz, Marie Claire
“The stories are written so believably, they handle the strange and surreal so carefully, that you want to believe the impossible is possible.”
—Roxane Gay, Tin House
“Remarkable…with an unerring eye for the magnificently weird and funny…hilariously familiar, and also painful and heartbreaking. Gonzales brings great humanity to his oddball scenarios”
—Julia Holmes, Men’s Journal
“Wildly imaginative, at times surreal, and always captivating… Gonzales creates these bizarre scenarios that are so utterly believable you forget how impossible they actually are. There is an intelligent economy to his prose throughout the collection and I was thrilled by the originality of his ideas and how they were rendered.”
—Roxanne Gay, The Rumpus
“Impressive…There are true moments of Kafkaesque absurdity and Borgesian fantasy…It pays to suspend disbelief, dive right in and revel in the mayhem.”
—Malcolm Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle
—Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
“A triumph of the form…exhilarating… Gonzales' command of genre and his defiance of convention ripple throughout.”
—Shawn Badgley, Austin Chronicle
“Manuel Gonzales is his own weird, imaginative, witty self. Any story by him is going to take the reader on a ride through a new world that is eerily like our own, yet full of the unexpected.”
—Jenny Shank, Dallas Morning News
“A volume of artfully structured tales… a wild adventure through the human condition.”
—G. Clay Whittaker, The Daily Beast
“[The Miniature Wife] will stick with you. The places and characters will ring daily in your mind.”
—Cate McGehee, The Stranger
“Deeply imaginative… . With commendable skill, Gonzales seamlessly blends the real and the fantastic, resulting in a fun and provocative collection that readers will want to devour.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Rife with ingenuity and beholden to few rules…Delightfully eerie tales from the dark side.”
“With an astringent wit… intelligence and versatility.”
—Emily Donaldson, Toronto Star
“An exciting new addition to the modern fabulist genre.”
—Emily Temple, Flavorwire.com
“The Miniature Wife will entertain your intellect.”
—Black Balloon Publishing blog
“With clear, matter-of-fact writing and relatable characters who are forced to make heartbreaking decisions… you get crazy scenarios mixed in fine writing and profound thoughts about the human condition and the state of the world. Manuel Gonzales can make you believe anything.”
—The Hispanic Reader blog
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Over half of them are horrible and a complete waste of time you will never get back. Some are super short, perhaps they could be made into a story but certainly aren't worth a read now.
A few are entertaining. It is a shame they are stuck between other pointless boring wastes of paper.
Sure enough, as Wolfe foretold, "New types of novels came in waves, each trying to establish an avant-garde position out beyond realism. There were Absurdist novels, Magical Realist novels, and novels of 'Radical Disjunction' in which plausible events and plausible characters were combined in fantastic or outlandish ways, often resulting in dreadful catrastrophes."
Some of those catastrophes nearly sank several imprints, who now rely on vampires and spanking to save them.
THE MINIATURE WIFE is not one of those catastrophes. It is sharply observed, densely imagined, and a near-perfect evocation of our fractured human condition circa 2013. The magic realism is there, with traces of Borges, Kafka and Gabriel García Marquez woven through the stories. But there are other, and subtler, layers. Ibsen's Doll House lives inside the title story. Another piece, the minimalist "Cash to a Killing," would fit comfortably beside the Hemingway Nick Adams tales. The dirty realism of Raymond Carver and granular precision of early Chekhov suffuse the entire collection.
It is a strange, haunting book - a menagerie of lost souls, a Madame Tussauds of the human spirit, an objective correlative for a mad planet.
Manuel Gonzales has done his homework. He is a balanced, mature writer whose imagination matches the surreality of our times. He arrives in full throat in this debut work.
I won't review each story, as this has been done well by others on Amazon. But, my favorite story is the title story: "The Miniature Wife". A man accidentally shrinks his wife to doll-size, and can't reverse the process. So, he tries to accommodate her by building her a doll house to live in. Things do not go well. Their relationship changes drastically. And, so it goes. Very creepy, and also funny.
"Cash to a Killing" is my next favorite, then "Pilot, Copilot, Writer". On my personal grading scale, all 18 of these stories merit a grade of between A+ and C, which (in my experience of reading short story collections) is excellent. Not all stories are winners, but none of them is bad. Quirky variations on tales of wolfmen, zombies, unicorns, murderers, hijackers, robots, other-worlds, end of the world, human oddities. Sprinkled in amongst the stories are several "Meritorious Life" encyclopedia-like entries. They are not short stories, but seem more like writing exercises . These are the weakest entries in this collection, with one exception: "William Corbin: A Meritorious Life". The encyclopedia entry gives a scholarly explanation of the origin of clowns. It reminded me greatly of a museum I visited in Culver City, CA -- the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Just as this museum presents the fantastical as "truth" (and you must do your own research to determine the real truth), it is difficult to separate fact from fiction when it is presented in a scholarly format. That's what this particular entry does -- presents the wildly fantastic as truth. And, it's presented so seriously that you almost might believe it. (I don't believe that the other Meritorious Life entries are as successful.)
The writing is very good, the stories are engaging, odd, creepy, funny, etc. My main criticism of many of these stories is the author's chosen "ending". As some other reviewers have mentioned, they didn't think the stories were finished. The author is obviously very talented, so I also do not understand why he seemed to not supply adequate "endings" to some (not all) of these stories.