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In the tradition of George Saunders and Aimee Bender, an exuberantly imagined debut that chronicles an ordinary world marked by unusual phenomena. The eighteen stories of Manuel Gonzales’s exhilarating first book render the fantastic commonplace and the ordinary extraordinary, in prose that thrums with energy and shimmers with beauty. In “The Artist’s Voice” we meet one of In the tradition of George Saunders and Aimee Bender, an exuberantly imagined debut that chronicles an ordinary world marked by unusual phenomena. The eighteen stories of Manuel Gonzales’s exhilarating first book render the fantastic commonplace and the ordinary extraordinary, in prose that thrums with energy and shimmers with beauty. In “The Artist’s Voice” we meet one of the world’s foremost composers, a man who speaks through his ears. A hijacked plane circles a city for twenty years in “Pilot, Copilot, Writer.” Sound can kill in “The Sounds of Early Morning.” And, in the title story, a man is at war with the wife he accidentally shrank. For these characters, the phenomenal isn’t necessarily special—but it’s often dangerous. In slightly fantastical settings, Gonzales illustrates very real guilt over small and large marital missteps, the intense desire for the reinvention of self, and the powerful urges we feel to defend and provide for the people we love. With wit and insight, these stories subvert our expectations and challenge us to look at our surroundings with fresh eyes. Brilliantly conceived, strikingly original, and told with the narrative instinct of a born storyteller, The Miniature Wife is an unforgettable debut.


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In the tradition of George Saunders and Aimee Bender, an exuberantly imagined debut that chronicles an ordinary world marked by unusual phenomena. The eighteen stories of Manuel Gonzales’s exhilarating first book render the fantastic commonplace and the ordinary extraordinary, in prose that thrums with energy and shimmers with beauty. In “The Artist’s Voice” we meet one of In the tradition of George Saunders and Aimee Bender, an exuberantly imagined debut that chronicles an ordinary world marked by unusual phenomena. The eighteen stories of Manuel Gonzales’s exhilarating first book render the fantastic commonplace and the ordinary extraordinary, in prose that thrums with energy and shimmers with beauty. In “The Artist’s Voice” we meet one of the world’s foremost composers, a man who speaks through his ears. A hijacked plane circles a city for twenty years in “Pilot, Copilot, Writer.” Sound can kill in “The Sounds of Early Morning.” And, in the title story, a man is at war with the wife he accidentally shrank. For these characters, the phenomenal isn’t necessarily special—but it’s often dangerous. In slightly fantastical settings, Gonzales illustrates very real guilt over small and large marital missteps, the intense desire for the reinvention of self, and the powerful urges we feel to defend and provide for the people we love. With wit and insight, these stories subvert our expectations and challenge us to look at our surroundings with fresh eyes. Brilliantly conceived, strikingly original, and told with the narrative instinct of a born storyteller, The Miniature Wife is an unforgettable debut.

30 review for The Miniature Wife and Other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Kottke

    3 stars is a compromise score between a sizable handful of 4-5 star masterpieces and an accumulation of 1-2 star yawners. Like a lot of short story collections, there are some sublime entries here (the title story, "Pilot, Copilot, Writer," "Cash to a Killing," and "Life on Capra II" were among my favorites) and some that just left me cold (all of the "Meritorious Life" stories, "The Animal House," "The Disappearance of the Sebali Tribe," to name a few of the meh-est). All of the stories feature 3 stars is a compromise score between a sizable handful of 4-5 star masterpieces and an accumulation of 1-2 star yawners. Like a lot of short story collections, there are some sublime entries here (the title story, "Pilot, Copilot, Writer," "Cash to a Killing," and "Life on Capra II" were among my favorites) and some that just left me cold (all of the "Meritorious Life" stories, "The Animal House," "The Disappearance of the Sebali Tribe," to name a few of the meh-est). All of the stories feature some level of speculative absurdity and twist on genre fixtures: zombies, sentient videogame characters, werewolves. "The Sounds of Early Morning" is the best at Gonzalez's game, where an odd premise gradually leads to a dawning marvelousness (in this case, a literal inversion of the old "sticks and stones may break my bones" jingle). That story deserves to be anthologized among the best of contemporary short fiction. The writing style alternates between breathlessly run-on first-person narration and a faux encyclopedia-like omniscient third person. The least successful stories, for my money, were of the latter style. Dip in, savor a morsel or two, skip the courses that don't connect with your palate, and get an early taste of a new author I hope we'll see more from in the future.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melora

    A largely unsatisfying collection, though with a few redeeming gems. In many of the stories Gonzales seems to have put all his effort into creating a startling situation for his characters without having a clear idea of what he wanted to do with them once they were there. A lot of set-up and disappointing follow-through. The stories I'll remember -- the ones that make the book worth bringing home from the library -- are "Life on Capra II" and "Pilot, Copilot, Writer." And the last in the book, " A largely unsatisfying collection, though with a few redeeming gems. In many of the stories Gonzales seems to have put all his effort into creating a startling situation for his characters without having a clear idea of what he wanted to do with them once they were there. A lot of set-up and disappointing follow-through. The stories I'll remember -- the ones that make the book worth bringing home from the library -- are "Life on Capra II" and "Pilot, Copilot, Writer." And the last in the book, "Escape from the Mall," was interesting, though not a standout.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Shank

    http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainme... Zombies in the office and video game characters with souls add up to a clever story collection from an Austin writer. The Miniature Wife and Other Stories Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead, $26.95) By JENNY SHANK Special Contributor Published: 04 January 2013 05:27 PM The fantastical is commonplace in The Miniature Wife, the funny and clever debut story collection by Austin-based writer Manuel Gonzales. A scientist returns from work to find his wife “shrunk to the heigh http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainme... Zombies in the office and video game characters with souls add up to a clever story collection from an Austin writer. The Miniature Wife and Other Stories Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead, $26.95) By JENNY SHANK Special Contributor Published: 04 January 2013 05:27 PM The fantastical is commonplace in The Miniature Wife, the funny and clever debut story collection by Austin-based writer Manuel Gonzales. A scientist returns from work to find his wife “shrunk to the height of a coffee mug.” A composer talks out of his ears. A narrator reveals that not only has the day-to-day grind of his office job rendered him zombielike, but also that he actually is a zombie, constantly convincing himself not to consume his co-workers’ faces. In “Pilot, Copilot, Writer,” an airplane circles Dallas for decades, long enough for its pilot to age and die and for a young man who was born on the plane to take over flying. Some of us who’ve been stuck in an endless holding pattern over the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport might be able to speculate about the genesis of this story. “Life on Capra II” begins with the irresistible line, “Just as we bag that piece of [expletive] swamp monster, the robots attack.” The narrator is trapped in a repeating cycle of annihilating intergalactic beasts that blow his buddy’s head off. He never finds time to romance “the tomato who runs the commissary, a pretty little thing named Becky.” Although Gonzales is too subtle a storyteller to reveal that the narrator is a figure in a video game, it becomes clear that’s the case, as he repeatedly finds himself set back in places he’s been before, not knowing why he returned, his weapons reloaded and his buddy alive again. “Life on Capra II” asks: What if those muscle-bound gunmen in video games had souls, desires, fears and a creeping suspicion that their memories and experiences were being toyed with? Gonzales throws swamp monsters, werewolves and zombies at the reader in part for the fun of it — and they do have a way of enlivening the literary short story — but mostly to probe the questions about humanity prompted by our culture’s delight in these creatures. In what way do these beasts illuminate the human condition? How would a regular person react if he encountered one? Perhaps a regular guy, upon purchasing a cheap, goatlike unicorn, would tie him in his Houston backyard and sit around with his buddy drinking beer and staring at it, to the detriment of his marriage, as in “One-Horned & Wild-Eyed.” The comedy and significance of this story arise from the way it seems like the result of introducing a discount unicorn into a typical Raymond Carver tale of minimalist domestic realism. Many of the stories are written in a style of philosophical digressiveness that brings to mind a very different writer, David Foster Wallace, such as in a 100-plus-word sentence from the perspective of a hit man in “Cash to a Killing” that reads, in part, “I wish I could say that killing the guy was an accident, and maybe if you were to take the long view of the situation, take into account the events of his life, those of my life, the arbitrary successes and failures that befell us … you might say it was an accident.” But enough comparisons to other writers — The Miniature Wife demonstrates that 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’s first novel, The Ringer, won the High Plains Book Award. Manuel Gonzales will appear at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble, 801 W. 15th Street, Plano.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    I loved this book. Normally I find it difficult to get through short story collections, because every few pages you have to develop new relationships with new characters and plots, but with this book I did not have that issue. The stories were all different, set in different worlds, with a variety of fantastical and mundane elements, and I loved them all. I'm grateful that I could get this book through Goodreads giveaways. In some of the stories, I found the narrators repetitive in their speech I loved this book. Normally I find it difficult to get through short story collections, because every few pages you have to develop new relationships with new characters and plots, but with this book I did not have that issue. The stories were all different, set in different worlds, with a variety of fantastical and mundane elements, and I loved them all. I'm grateful that I could get this book through Goodreads giveaways. In some of the stories, I found the narrators repetitive in their speech styles, but it suited the characters, and worked much better than writing all of the stories the same way. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read stories about zombies, werewolves, unicorns, and planes that can spend twenty years circling the same city, that never seem ridiculous or childish. Each story consists of very human elements that I found appealing. I think anyone could read this book and enjoy it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    A hijacked commercial airliner, stuck in a holding pattern, high above Dallas International, for….20 years. How the beleaguered passengers cope is a revelation. A man learns his best friend has just bought a beer-drinking unicorn, from a shady, Chinese street vendor and keeps it in a pen in his yard. These are just a couple of the wonderful, slightly bent, magically surreal stories in this collection. There are werewolves, clowns, zombies, hit men and yes, there is a miniature wife as well, whic A hijacked commercial airliner, stuck in a holding pattern, high above Dallas International, for….20 years. How the beleaguered passengers cope is a revelation. A man learns his best friend has just bought a beer-drinking unicorn, from a shady, Chinese street vendor and keeps it in a pen in his yard. These are just a couple of the wonderful, slightly bent, magically surreal stories in this collection. There are werewolves, clowns, zombies, hit men and yes, there is a miniature wife as well, which brought back fond memories of the camp Sci-Fi classic “The Incredible Shrinking Man“, although this wife is very pissed and ready to do battle. Gonzales is an impressive talent and he delivers his prose in a straight-forward manner, with dead-pan humor, fresh imagination and genuine love for his off-beat and mostly desperate characters.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Original, weird, funny, dark. What else do you want? Okay, fine. The best stories in the bunch manage to be emotionally open ended, if that makes sense. You can't really describe how the story makes you feel and to attempt to describe it, you'd be describing the story. Capice? Original, weird, funny, dark. What else do you want? Okay, fine. The best stories in the bunch manage to be emotionally open ended, if that makes sense. You can't really describe how the story makes you feel and to attempt to describe it, you'd be describing the story. Capice?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I'm glad I picked up The Miniature Wife by Manuel Gonzales on a whim at the library. It's a 2013 short story collection by an author I hadn't heard of, but unsettling speculative stories are my jam lately and this seemed it would fit the bill. Gonzales' premises are so creative; one of my favorites was the title story, a chilling tale about a man who accidentally miniaturized his wife and the war they wage upon each other. I also loved The Sound of Early Morning, which imagines a world where sou I'm glad I picked up The Miniature Wife by Manuel Gonzales on a whim at the library. It's a 2013 short story collection by an author I hadn't heard of, but unsettling speculative stories are my jam lately and this seemed it would fit the bill. Gonzales' premises are so creative; one of my favorites was the title story, a chilling tale about a man who accidentally miniaturized his wife and the war they wage upon each other. I also loved The Sound of Early Morning, which imagines a world where sound has become physically painful to hear, and One-Horned & Wild-Eyed, a story about two friends who become obsessed by a unicorn. ⁣ ⁣ My enjoyment of the book was a little uneven, I especially didn't know what to do with the "Meritorious Life" series of strange obituaries that were interspersed throughout, but I was always excited to read the next story and see where Gonzales' imagination would take me next. ⁣

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    I just finished reading the stories in this amazing collection several hours ago, and they are still haunting me, tickling at the edges of my brain like the unholy tongue of a zombie (yes, two of the stories are about zombies). These stories were unsettling and disturbing at times, humorous and bizarre at others, but in all cases brilliantly written gems that look directly into the heart of what it means to be human. Each story seems innocent at first, but eventually things go horribly wrong, le I just finished reading the stories in this amazing collection several hours ago, and they are still haunting me, tickling at the edges of my brain like the unholy tongue of a zombie (yes, two of the stories are about zombies). These stories were unsettling and disturbing at times, humorous and bizarre at others, but in all cases brilliantly written gems that look directly into the heart of what it means to be human. Each story seems innocent at first, but eventually things go horribly wrong, leading to that unsettled feeling I was talking about. The stories are all told in first person in a slightly detached way, as though the strange events the characters find themselves in the middle of are simply run-of-the-mill occurrences. The deadpan delivery and overall lack of emotion from these narrators might lull you into thinking these stories are safe, but they aren’t. Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorites: Pilot, Copilot, Writer – One of my favorites, this strange tale is about a hijacked plane that has been flying in circles over the city of Dallas, TX for twenty years. The reasons behind what the hijacker wants and why he’s flying in circles go unexplained, but the curious way the passengers handle this problem is part of the charm of this story. The Miniature Wife – A man accidentally shrinks his wife and then tries to atone for his horrific mistake by building her a dollhouse. What starts as an almost funny premise takes a darker turn when things begin to escalate out of control, and the narrator and his wife wage war on each other. I won’t go into details, because this is one story you’ll want to read for yourself, but let’s just say the family cat is involved… The Artist’s Voice – A story about a man whose compulsion to compose music has not only resulted in him becoming nearly paralyzed, but has caused him to speak through his ears. One of the odder stories in this collection, and a great example of how Gonzales is able to convince the reader that the absurd is actually normal. Cash to a Killing – I loved this one! It starts out like this: We had spent the past hour burying the body and were on our way to grab a hamburger. This story, written with dead-pan humor, is about two men who are burying a body and the comedy of errors that ensues when one of the men loses his wallet. All of Me – The first of two zombie stories, this one is oddly sweet, a story about a very conflicted man who has recently become a zombie and how he tries to disguise that fact when he continues to go into the office every day. His human side and his zombie side are fighting each other, and one of them is about to win… One-Horned & Wild-Eyed – A quirky tale about a man, his friend and a unicorn. A man yearns for a different life after an encounter with a unicorn makes him realize he isn’t the person he wants to be. “Wolf!” His claws fell away almost immediately upon his death, his snout shrank back to a reasonable size, his body returned to its previous near-bald state, and the madness leaked from his eyes, leaving small orange tracks, like painted tears, down his cheek, his innocent brown pupils surrounded once more by a pure white sclera. Another of my favorites, this werewolf tale is bloody and terrifying, and once again, told by a very matter-of-fact narrator, whose father has become a werewolf and is devouring his entire family, including his eight children. As in many of these tales, Gonzales explores what it means to be human by placing his characters in not-so-human situations. By the end of this story I was crying… Farewell, Africa – What starts as an absurd premise (a museum installation that demonstrates how the continent of Africa has sunk into the ocean) turns sobering when the reader begins to realize what’s happening… Escape from the Mall – Another zombie story, with a nod to George Romero, about a group of strangers trapped in a janitor’s closet at the mall during a zombie attack. Both a horrific story of survival and metaphor for starting over, this was a great way to end the book. Scattered throughout are very short “Meritorious Life” stories about fictional famous people. My favorite was William Corbin: A Meritorious Life, which is a bizarre and scholarly explanation of the history of clowns. Manuel Gonzales is a unique new voice, and his first collection of stories should not be missed. These stories are guaranteed to linger in your mind long after you finish them. If Gonzales leaves you feeling slightly uncomfortable, then he has done his job well. Many thanks to Library Thing for a review copy. Quotes from the book have been taken from an Advance Review Copy and may not reflect the final version. This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Read some of the big spring collections, all of which seem to share a similar paranormal streak (Russell, Saunders, this, waiting for Jamie Quatro's from library). Saunders was my favorite, I think--added more human/humane depth to the addled teen-speak he does so well, though I have to say I adored the one where the guy works in a faux-medieval village where the workers get doped up with drugs to enable them to better perform their roles ("My Chivalric Fiasco"), only the Noble Knight ("KnightLy Read some of the big spring collections, all of which seem to share a similar paranormal streak (Russell, Saunders, this, waiting for Jamie Quatro's from library). Saunders was my favorite, I think--added more human/humane depth to the addled teen-speak he does so well, though I have to say I adored the one where the guy works in a faux-medieval village where the workers get doped up with drugs to enable them to better perform their roles ("My Chivalric Fiasco"), only the Noble Knight ("KnightLyfe") dose makes him chivalric to a fault, not to mention Improves his Diction--makes him “Elevated & Confident to a Fault,” even though it's basically standard-issue Saunders that he's done 20 times before. So sue me. The Gonzales book is frustratingly uneven--the title story is astonishingly good (Matheson's 1950s "Shrinking Man" [whaddya know? they're remaking it,] with the gender/marital politics shoved front and center), and the one about the hijacked plane circling endlessly has real existential force. And then there are a few others that just feel like unfinished ideas. But boy do I love the ideas that germinate in this guy's head. Still, the coincidence of aesthetics interests me--the notion that relationships and society today are so odd that you basically need to move to some sort of surreal/supernatural plane merely to capture their tone seems to have crossed all of these writers' radar around the same time. I'm sure the well-made Cheever-type story is still getting churned out, but I wonder if today's MFA programs are stuffed with people trying to produce this kind of fiction. Oh, and of course that excepts Junot Diaz. Had a long conversation with Michael H. where we agreed that Junot Diaz is amazing. Karen Russell's last story, which is pretty great, strikes me as her riff on a Diaz-type tale.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I really wanted to like this. Gonzales is from Austin and works (worked?) with the Austin Bat Cave and seems like a good dude. You'd be forgiven for slotting his stories beside George Saunders' and Karen Russell's as all three swim in the literary fantasist waters, but Gonzales' stories too rarely rise to the level of humanity that Saunders and Russell achieve in every effort. Saunders seems to say, "I want to write a story about workplace isolation" and then create a far-flung scenario to allow I really wanted to like this. Gonzales is from Austin and works (worked?) with the Austin Bat Cave and seems like a good dude. You'd be forgiven for slotting his stories beside George Saunders' and Karen Russell's as all three swim in the literary fantasist waters, but Gonzales' stories too rarely rise to the level of humanity that Saunders and Russell achieve in every effort. Saunders seems to say, "I want to write a story about workplace isolation" and then create a far-flung scenario to allow him to do so, using the unlikely to explore the quotidian. Gonzales seems to reverse that, saying, "I want to write a story about zombies/unicorns/a shrunken woman/a plane that never lands" and then trying to work his way back toward the human. The results are often flat, often just exercises. But, there is enough here to keep me reading, and the unicorn story ("One-Horned & Wild-Eyed") is proof that Gonzales can get it right. In it, a man buys a unicorn, becomes mesmerized, and transforms. Simple, right? But nothing happens as you suspect it might. Gonzales here is answering the big questions: What will we/can we change for those we love? How long should you fight to keep a dying relationship alive? What constitutes a life worth living? When mired, why do we need near-magic to extricate us? It's a great and promising story, one I may well teach at the end of the semester, and enough of a high point to make me pick up his next collection, despite the lackluster effort here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    I admit, I like some of the stories in this collection more than others, but stories as good as "Pilot, Copilot, Writer" and "The Miniature Wife" alone make this collection worth the rating I've given it as far as I'm concerned. Sometimes you just run across someone who has already done the exact sort of thing you are trying to write and it's an interesting feeling. I kept feeling torn between needing to get back to writing before he gets any further ahead of me and needing to keep reading. Eith I admit, I like some of the stories in this collection more than others, but stories as good as "Pilot, Copilot, Writer" and "The Miniature Wife" alone make this collection worth the rating I've given it as far as I'm concerned. Sometimes you just run across someone who has already done the exact sort of thing you are trying to write and it's an interesting feeling. I kept feeling torn between needing to get back to writing before he gets any further ahead of me and needing to keep reading. Either way, great stories.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Between each strange story in this bewitching collection, I had to pause before starting the next entry, just to ruminate on the things I just read. That, to me, is the mark of a good book: the kind that makes you stop and wonder at the things you've never thought before. I loved it, and I look forward to more from this talented author! Between each strange story in this bewitching collection, I had to pause before starting the next entry, just to ruminate on the things I just read. That, to me, is the mark of a good book: the kind that makes you stop and wonder at the things you've never thought before. I loved it, and I look forward to more from this talented author!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hartzer

    At first, I was going to catagorize these stories as surrealistic, but that is not really true. I think if pressed, I would have to simply say that these are stories where the author makes a sharp left turn from where you THINK the story is going to go, and then proceeds accordingly. Let's say you meet Willie Nelson at a party. You'd be exited to talk about his songs; or his tours; or the 'picnics'; or touring; or getting high; or just his musical ideas. Right? If you were Mr. Gonzales, we would At first, I was going to catagorize these stories as surrealistic, but that is not really true. I think if pressed, I would have to simply say that these are stories where the author makes a sharp left turn from where you THINK the story is going to go, and then proceeds accordingly. Let's say you meet Willie Nelson at a party. You'd be exited to talk about his songs; or his tours; or the 'picnics'; or touring; or getting high; or just his musical ideas. Right? If you were Mr. Gonzales, we would instead hear about the bad transmission on his tour bus. Well, OK. I guess. While Willie Nelson would be interesting, I'm not terribly interested in hearing about the mechanics of his bus. Gonzales' stories are like that. For example, in "All of Me" we have a zombie who works in an office. Great concept, right?!? This could be really fun. Instead we get a weird scenario where he (the zombie) has a crush on one of his co-workers. Or "Wolf!" where the narrator lets us know his dad is a werewolf. Again, the possibilities are endless. Again, we get the left field narrative. Here is the narrator describing his family: WARNING: Spoiler: "What if I were to confess that I loved my mother dearly but that I am happy the rest of them are gone, eaten, disposed of?" Now there's a line that will make you think. But it goes nowhere. In fact, the best way to think of this collection is to enjoy it as exercise similar to Alfred Hitchcock's film making. These are stories of "MacGuffins". (Wiki has a good explanation.) None of them go where you expect. Short stories are tricky because you don't have layers and layers of exposition. There will always be some level of wishing for more detail. As with any collection of short stories, there will be some you'll like more than others. Really good writing, but sometimes frustrating narratives.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Sevitt

    I picked this up cheaply second hand because I've been waiting to buy The Regional Office is Under Attack! for the longest time. They sent me an uncorrected proof which I hate, but the stories are pretty good. I get the sense that the success of George Saunders has given loads of people licence to publish crazy shorts where weird shit occurs, but there's a genuine voice here and I'm still really looking forward to the novel. I picked this up cheaply second hand because I've been waiting to buy The Regional Office is Under Attack! for the longest time. They sent me an uncorrected proof which I hate, but the stories are pretty good. I get the sense that the success of George Saunders has given loads of people licence to publish crazy shorts where weird shit occurs, but there's a genuine voice here and I'm still really looking forward to the novel.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Snem

    As with many short story collections there are some hits and misses. These are super creative and strange. Some of my faves included the hijacked plane circling Dallas for 20 years, and the unicorn, werewolf and zombies in the mall stories. Entertaining, quirky and a fine set of magical surrealism. There were some bright spots and some clunkers. In general I was left a little bored and disappointed. Really exciting premises but I was let down by many of them. Recommended for fans of magical surr As with many short story collections there are some hits and misses. These are super creative and strange. Some of my faves included the hijacked plane circling Dallas for 20 years, and the unicorn, werewolf and zombies in the mall stories. Entertaining, quirky and a fine set of magical surrealism. There were some bright spots and some clunkers. In general I was left a little bored and disappointed. Really exciting premises but I was let down by many of them. Recommended for fans of magical surrealism, modern weird and if you enjoy Aimee Bender (I adore her writing) then I think you’ll like this. Gonzalez has a promising voice and I look forward to more from him.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hector Garcia

    Various short stories, mostly horror- comedy but also reflective on the human nature

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marina

    Manuel Gonzales' The Miniature Wife and Other Stories is a collection of magical realism short stories containing an overarching fascination with the supernatural and unusual in the everyday world. Gonzales voice is strange and clever; I enjoy his writing style and unique structures. I really enjoyed 'Pilot, Copilot, Writer,' 'The Miniature Wife,' 'The Sounds of Early Morning,' 'Life on Capra II,' and 'Farewell, Africa.' Manuel Gonzales' The Miniature Wife and Other Stories is a collection of magical realism short stories containing an overarching fascination with the supernatural and unusual in the everyday world. Gonzales voice is strange and clever; I enjoy his writing style and unique structures. I really enjoyed 'Pilot, Copilot, Writer,' 'The Miniature Wife,' 'The Sounds of Early Morning,' 'Life on Capra II,' and 'Farewell, Africa.'

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Scott

    The stories center around a loss of self. Not necessarily an unravelling of a character, but aspects of that character disappear with surreal and bizarre reasons as the cause. A man on a hijacked plane that's been circling for 20 years wonders what will be left for the passengers if they land. Do they restart their old lives or start anew? A man who shrinks his wife contemplates what's missing in his life. His state becomes reduced, yet she gains beyond what he thought capable. Most of the storie The stories center around a loss of self. Not necessarily an unravelling of a character, but aspects of that character disappear with surreal and bizarre reasons as the cause. A man on a hijacked plane that's been circling for 20 years wonders what will be left for the passengers if they land. Do they restart their old lives or start anew? A man who shrinks his wife contemplates what's missing in his life. His state becomes reduced, yet she gains beyond what he thought capable. Most of the stories have an emotional punch with a good use of metaphor to emphasize points in the story. Gonzales covers a far range of topics from the surreal, to crime, to zombies. Many of the stories have insightful passages, but generally a weak pull. They lack the full punch that some of the stories could deliver. At times the stories are brilliant, but too often they fell flat. Favorite parts: I began to take notes for a story and the notes for a novel, and then notes for another novel and another story, but all they have been are notes. P. 8 "Is twenty years long enough to wipe away bad marriages, poor career choices, too many long hours spent following someone else's dreams?" P. 21 "...that I don't understand how hard it can be to keep our baser selves in check or how much easier it is, ultimately, to go back to the evil we know and understand, the evil we have lived with for so long that it feels an inherent and important part of ourselves, to go back to this evil and tell ourselves we had no other choice, that we didn't opt for this decision, but that really there were never any other options for us to take. I know about choices and about not having choices and how it feels when it seems you have no other choice. P. 149 “We had an impression of ourselves, of who we were, right or wrong, and we acted out our lives accordingly, and as I sat in my car I wondered when we had come to some reckoning of ourselves, some rethinking of ourselves as guys who did exciting, adventurous childish things, when I stopped believing in that story we told about ourselves, because, miserable or not, Ralph was still doing things. Things, for the most part, I wouldn’t do. Things I had no interest in doing, but things, nonetheless, and he had eked out a life for himself that, though just a shadow of the lives we had imagined for ourselves, was at least closer to those lives than anything I had made for myself, and that had now brought him to a Chinaman with a unicorn to sell for cheap.” P. 235 “I think to myself, 'This was for the best. All of this.' And maybe I should feel worse for Roger and the security guard and the reset of the human race, but I can’t help but wonder that maybe we need these kinds of moments. Not moments of quiet, but moments when our lives are upended by violent tragedy, monsters, zombies, because without them, how would we meet the men and women of our dreams? How would we make up for the sins of our pasts? How would we show our true natures—brave, caring, strong, intelligent?” p. 300

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Koudelka

    Man I just.... did not feel this book at all. Reading brief descriptions of the short stories this collection seemed absolutely perfect for me. A man who accidentally shrinks his wife and has to keep his war with her hidden from everyone else? A plane that flies in circles around Dallas for 20 years? A couple who have to isolate themselves from the world because sounds cause them physical harm? ALL OF THESE STORIES SOUND GREAT. Unfortunately, although the author was excellent at coming up with s Man I just.... did not feel this book at all. Reading brief descriptions of the short stories this collection seemed absolutely perfect for me. A man who accidentally shrinks his wife and has to keep his war with her hidden from everyone else? A plane that flies in circles around Dallas for 20 years? A couple who have to isolate themselves from the world because sounds cause them physical harm? ALL OF THESE STORIES SOUND GREAT. Unfortunately, although the author was excellent at coming up with strange and interesting concepts to base his short stories on, they were not developed much beyond that. I understand that in the format of short story we don't have a lot of time get as in depth as we do with a novella or novel, but quite frequently the story would be nothing more than just explaining that a concept exists without any context or further investigation. Full disclosure, I stopped reading after the ninth story in this collection. Of the nine I read, I only really liked one of the short stories, the titled Miniature Wife. Every other story seemed to rely heavily on telling rather than showing. There would be a lot of stating the bare facts of what's happening, which frustrated me to no end. Maybe I had too high of expectations with my love of all things weird and creepy, but I needed more substance than what was ultimately given. I'm sorry, book, but I really did not enjoy my time with you.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    I won this book for free from the Goodread's First Reads giveaway. If the website would allow, I would of rated this book a 3.5/5 (I liked it). I also rated each short story individually so I could average out an accurate rating. Some of my favourite short stories were: "Escape from the Mall" (and I hate the zombie fad out there but I just loved this story), and "One-Horned & Wild-Eyed". Those two stories really held my interest from beginning to end. I also really enjoyed "Wolf!" and "The Disappe I won this book for free from the Goodread's First Reads giveaway. If the website would allow, I would of rated this book a 3.5/5 (I liked it). I also rated each short story individually so I could average out an accurate rating. Some of my favourite short stories were: "Escape from the Mall" (and I hate the zombie fad out there but I just loved this story), and "One-Horned & Wild-Eyed". Those two stories really held my interest from beginning to end. I also really enjoyed "Wolf!" and "The Disappearance of the Sebali Tribe". Their plots were really unique and interesting. Some things I didn't enjoy about this book: - It seemed that the author hates animals. I know they're just stories but there seemed to be a lot of killings directed at animals for no reason. I loved "The Miniature Wife" and rated it 4/5, but after the cat and bird were murdered I had to knock down the rating. - "The Animal House" was also rated at 4.5/5 but knocked down to 3.5 after the brutal killings of multiple animals. Overall though, I am really impressed with this book. The author has an unique writing style and a lot of the stories held my attention and left me wanting more. I absolutely recommend this book to everyone.

  21. 5 out of 5

    April

    This is author Manuel Gonzales’ debut, a collection of short stories that probably belong in the category “new weird.” Each individual story contains anywhere between a speck and a load of the speculative. Taken both individually and as a collection, these stories are absurd and surreal. My two favorites of this collection were Cash to a Killing because it made me laugh and Escape From the Mall because it really spoke to me about overcoming obstacles and finding hope when hope seems lost. I felt This is author Manuel Gonzales’ debut, a collection of short stories that probably belong in the category “new weird.” Each individual story contains anywhere between a speck and a load of the speculative. Taken both individually and as a collection, these stories are absurd and surreal. My two favorites of this collection were Cash to a Killing because it made me laugh and Escape From the Mall because it really spoke to me about overcoming obstacles and finding hope when hope seems lost. I felt they grew slightly more compelling as the book went on. The first few stories read more like Catholic guilt served fresh with some kind of existential fear- perhaps of becoming too mundane, too ordinary. The characters and their collective weirdisms became more readable, for one thing, but also more relatable and even funny. All the shorts in this collection have something a bit disturbing, eclectic, and/or perhaps obsessive about them. Definitely something new and recommended for someone with a thirst for something bizarre.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This book is a weird little collection of short stories. There are zombies, werewolves, and unicorns, and because of this I am surprised I liked it, because I generally don't like stories about any of these things. Often, I actively hate stories about these things. I think I liked it because Gonzales doesn't attempt to explain any of the weird things that happen in the stories. Everything is written in a very straightforward manner. Things simply are what they are, and you accept it. For example This book is a weird little collection of short stories. There are zombies, werewolves, and unicorns, and because of this I am surprised I liked it, because I generally don't like stories about any of these things. Often, I actively hate stories about these things. I think I liked it because Gonzales doesn't attempt to explain any of the weird things that happen in the stories. Everything is written in a very straightforward manner. Things simply are what they are, and you accept it. For example, in one story a plane is circling a city for about 20 years. The story isn't about how that is possible, but rather about what happens on board. In one story, Africa has sunk into the ocean, but the story doesn't attempt to explain it, it is just something that has happened. In the title story, a man has shrunk his wife, and the story is about what that does to their relationship. All in all, a weird collection. There were some stories I didn't care for much, but I really enjoyed most of them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Absolom J. Hagg

    This rating has more to do with my feelings about absurdism (I'm not much of a fan of George Saunders, for Pete's sake. I know, what's wrong with me?). Basically, I think it works a lot better in small doses than in a collection. Every story in this book is interesting and technically proficient, but reading them all in a row seems to rob them of some of their power, at least for me. There's no doubt that Gonzales is a clever writer in command of his craft, and I really appreciated the ideas in This rating has more to do with my feelings about absurdism (I'm not much of a fan of George Saunders, for Pete's sake. I know, what's wrong with me?). Basically, I think it works a lot better in small doses than in a collection. Every story in this book is interesting and technically proficient, but reading them all in a row seems to rob them of some of their power, at least for me. There's no doubt that Gonzales is a clever writer in command of his craft, and I really appreciated the ideas in the stories. They just didn't all connect with me on an emotional level. That said, I absolutely loved "The Disappearance of the Sebali Tribe." An excellent story all around. This is definitely a case of personal taste, so don't let the number of stars scare you away. In all likelihood, you will love it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    Some of these stories showed real potential. I’m thinking in particular of the ethereal one where sound causes physical damage to people, but children are somehow immune. There’s definitely some charming George Saunders whimsy in parts, especially in the zombie story. But with most of them I couldn’t help but feel that this is what Etgar Keret’s weird little gems would look like if they were allowed to maunder and drag on for too long. But whereas Keret splices in important details in appropriat Some of these stories showed real potential. I’m thinking in particular of the ethereal one where sound causes physical damage to people, but children are somehow immune. There’s definitely some charming George Saunders whimsy in parts, especially in the zombie story. But with most of them I couldn’t help but feel that this is what Etgar Keret’s weird little gems would look like if they were allowed to maunder and drag on for too long. But whereas Keret splices in important details in appropriate ratios in his spare little vignettes, Gonzales allows the same quantity of detail but with a much larger denominator of odd, sometimes annoying detail whose relevance is often questionable. And so much of it had a sophomoric character to it—swamp monsters and video game characters and heads getting blown off and TWO stories about zombies/the walking dead. Not my cup of tea, personally.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Niki

    Excellent collection of lively, intelligent short stories that deal with identities and transformation. My favorites were 'Cash to a Killing', 'Artist's Voice', 'Escape from the Mall' and 'All of me'. The author's use of dark humor and the paranormal is balanced with rapid paced tempo and every day dilemmas. 'Wolf!' was the only story that was a little too horror themed for me, but I do not generally read horror literature. I love that the author leaves space for the author to use their own inte Excellent collection of lively, intelligent short stories that deal with identities and transformation. My favorites were 'Cash to a Killing', 'Artist's Voice', 'Escape from the Mall' and 'All of me'. The author's use of dark humor and the paranormal is balanced with rapid paced tempo and every day dilemmas. 'Wolf!' was the only story that was a little too horror themed for me, but I do not generally read horror literature. I love that the author leaves space for the author to use their own intellect and to identify his irony. He does not explicitly state, he implies and leaves it to the reader to work the text, to engage the story and to try to see what he might mean.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Although I can't say that I liked all the stories in this collection I did like several. Among my favorites was the title story "Miniature Wife" and the first story about a high-jacked airplane, as well as the Mall story which kept my interest all the way through. It is hard to describe these stories, the best I can come up with is it is like falling asleep and having a really out there dream and than waking up and thinking "Where did that come from?" That is what some of these were like, and on Although I can't say that I liked all the stories in this collection I did like several. Among my favorites was the title story "Miniature Wife" and the first story about a high-jacked airplane, as well as the Mall story which kept my interest all the way through. It is hard to describe these stories, the best I can come up with is it is like falling asleep and having a really out there dream and than waking up and thinking "Where did that come from?" That is what some of these were like, and once again the imagination of the human mind can be astonishing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tobias

    The dream logic in some of these stories is incredibly potent; that Gonzales can also write in a dry, faux-magazine-profile style is also impressive. Further thoughts here: http://www.vol1brooklyn.com/2013/02/2... The dream logic in some of these stories is incredibly potent; that Gonzales can also write in a dry, faux-magazine-profile style is also impressive. Further thoughts here: http://www.vol1brooklyn.com/2013/02/2...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Dunn

    Sure, I'm biased; he's been one of my best friends for years. Doesn't make it any less great. Sure, I'm biased; he's been one of my best friends for years. Doesn't make it any less great.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    3.5 stars. Absurd, surreal, and a little hit-or-miss.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    To pick up where we left off: Her body bent awkwardly over the desk, the soft gurgle escaping her lips. I want to tell her, It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, you know. I want to take her head in my lap. I want to smell her hair, smell her wrists. I want to kiss her neck. I want to say to her soft, lovely things, whisper unyielding truths in her ear. I want to run my finger along the length of her nose, from the bridge to the tip, and then over and onto her lips. I want to feel the warmth of he To pick up where we left off: Her body bent awkwardly over the desk, the soft gurgle escaping her lips. I want to tell her, It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, you know. I want to take her head in my lap. I want to smell her hair, smell her wrists. I want to kiss her neck. I want to say to her soft, lovely things, whisper unyielding truths in her ear. I want to run my finger along the length of her nose, from the bridge to the tip, and then over and onto her lips. I want to feel the warmth of her as her living body warms my thighs and my feet and the lower part of my stomach, makes my skin, which is cold and rubbery to touch, feel pliant and lifelike again. These are the things that I want. These are the things I have wanted for some very long time now. I imagine that these are the things I have wanted since even before I became the kind of thing that could not have them. But the zombie in me wants something else. The zombie in me wants to eat. The zombie wants to eat and he wants his horde, and as much as I try to deny it, there is no zombie in me, there is only me, and all of me is zombie. *** The Miniature Wife and Other Stories, the debut short fiction collection from author Manuel Gonzales, is a surreal, sometimes absurd collection of mostly slipstream stories that hit far more than they miss. Across the eighteen stories collected in this book, Gonzales touches on such subjects as spousal neglect and abuse, substance abuse, misogyny, jealousy, and the often-heavy price of creativity. In “Pilot, Copilot, Writer,” a plane is hijacked and flown in a circle over Dallas for twenty years (thanks to the advent of perpetual oil), forcing its passengers to reflect on the endless, unsatisfying loops they’ve all seemingly become trapped in in their lives before getting on the plane. “The Artist’s Voice” introduces us to Karl Abbasonov, a musician whose body should not still be functioning, and does so primarily through artificial means. Karl suffers rather vicious seizures directly tied to his creativity—the more he composes, or the longer a composition takes, the more extreme his seizures. Because of this, his body has brutally contorted over time, to the point where he needs help merely to breathe, yet he is able to communicate, even speak quite beautifully—from his ears. “The Disappearance of the Sebali Tribe” offers an account of one woman’s uncovering of a fraudulent anthropological discovery regarding a tribe (the titular Sebalis) created by two con artist professors. In what I can only imagine is a nod to Jurassic Park, the con artists’ names are Hammond and Grant. One of the darker pieces, “Wolf!” follows the lone survivor of a family destroyed by their father, who has turned into a werewolf. The father’s ability to dismember his family one person at a time seems a strong analogue for alcoholism and its ability to both destroy and infect those around it either by sharing the disease or merely spreading its malignancy. Of the eighteen stories in this collection, five stood above the rest. In “The Miniature Wife,” a man working in miniaturization accidentally shrinks his wife to three inches tall. As is to be expected, she’s a bit upset by this and begins attacking him, dulling his razors and ascending him as if he were a mountain. He tries to make her more comfortable not by rectifying her condition but building her a dollhouse, which she detests though he is certain she will grow to love it. As with several of the stories in this book, there are multiple ways this entry could be read: as a tale of a woman forced into an unhappy, unhealthy relationship with an overly controlling man; or as a wife whose penchant for control lowers her in the eyes of her partner, based on a shifting perception of worth. The last line is especially sinister. “The Sounds of Early Morning” presents a haunting abstraction of a stillbirth, or of a young child’s death, via cracks in the house and the protagonists’ aversion to noise—especially that of children. Theirs is a post-apocalyptic wasteland with no details as to the cause of the apocalypse—one suspects the world outside has warped to match their personal torment. Staying on the subject of parental torment, “The Animal House” can also be read in one of two ways: as a young couple forced to deal with a dead child (in this case, it’s the result of an abortion); or as the tale of a father-to-be growing preternaturally protective of his family, whose future is uncertain. This was one of the more lyrical stories in the collection. Masquerading as a zombie narrative, “All of Me” focusses on the why-not-me-I’m-a-good-guy misogynist so unfortunately prevalent these days. The protagonist’s entitled attitude toward the woman of his desires, for whom he is that perfect friend, that shoulder to cry on when everything goes wrong—when her husband cheats on her—allows him to be picked apart piece by piece as a rotting shell of a man who has confused what he wants with what he believes he deserves. In the end, however, he reveals himself as much a slave to stereotypical carnal desires as the cheating husband, only, you know, instead of fucking another woman he just wants to eat her flesh. Wicked, disgusting imagery. Lastly, “One-Horned & Wild-Eyed” is an amusing piece about the dissolving of a friendship by way of an honest to goodness unicorn. Because if anything’s going to pit friend against friend, it’s going to be a goat with a spire on its forehead that lives off a diet of crushed up fairies and beer. On a slightly more subtextual level, the story is about the jealousy that develops between two adults who’ve been friends since high school when one brings home a unicorn that he starts spending all his time with, thereby neglecting his wife and kids. Meanwhile, the other friend, who wishes he had a unicorn of his very own, begins to resent the first friend’s ability to shrug off his adult responsibilities and do something so utterly ridiculous as spend all his time drinking beer in a lawn chair outside a shed, watching his new not-so-mythological pet. A surprisingly poignant tale, given its subject matter. The stories “Cash to a Killing,” “Life on Capra II,” “Farewell, Africa,” and “Escape from the Mall” were interesting enough, though they didn’t leave the same lasting impression as the stories mentioned at the start of this review, or the five outlined in the previous paragraphs. Two of them in particular, “Life on Capra II” and “Escape from the Mall,” hew a little too close to certain pop culture touchstones (All You Need is Kill/Groundhog Day and Dawn of the Dead respectively) without really crafting an essential narrative of their own. Additionally the shorter narratives, the various “A Meritorious Life” entries, while amusing, did not manage to strike a chord with me. Although the tales mentioned directly above didn’t leave as strong a mark as the ones more thoroughly outlined in this review, the overall quality of the book is stellar, with no one story feeling unnecessary or wholly out of place—some were merely less exceptional than others. Start to finish, this is a fantastic collection of slipstream fiction, which is something I feel I don’t see enough of. Highly recommended.

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