Andrew Kaufman: The Tiny Wife (Madras Press)

This is another of the Madras Press teeny-tiny books from their second series.

Just a few pages in, I was dismayed at the thought of going broke sending copies of this to a few dozen friends because they just HAD to read this book. In the end, I was severely disappointed, but only because with every word as I read, my expectations increased. … so I don’t think any ending written by human hand could have satisfied me.

What was my disappointment? Here is this strange and wonderful story, full of amazing events, all ripe with symbolism, just waiting to be tied together in a neat little package – and, well, no. I feel very much like one of the characters, Jennifer Layonne, who found God under the couch while she was looking for the remote control, and since he was pretty dirty, having been under the dusty couch, she put him in with the laundry but, alas, a tissue snuck in there as well and when she removed him, he was covered with lint and he left, and now Jennifer keeps looking for him every day, everywhere, whatever she’s doing, and has come to understand it’s the looking, not the finding, that is important. See why my expectations were so high? Damn it, I wanted to find God!

Hey – do you think maybe that was exactly what the writer intended?

One of the nit-picky technical things that bothers me about this novella is the switching of perspectives – it’s mostly first person from the POV of the husband of one of the robbery victims, but it keeps switching out to third person to tell more completely the tales of the other folks. Yet it always sounds as if the first-person narrator is speaking, reportorial style; yet he does not have access to the events. It’s funny, though, I didn’t even notice this until I finished the book, I was so enthralled by everything.

The story begins with an unusual bank robbery. The thief lines up the customers and demands of them the article on their person with the most sentimental value. He then makes a speech about taking with him 51% of their souls, and explains they will need to grow new souls if they are to live.

In short order, things start to happen. Odd things involving husbands turning into snowmen and lion tattoos becoming lions and hearts being pulled out of chests and accidentally replaced and chunks of history falling from the ceiling. The main character of the story is Stacey, who begins to shrink. Her husband, the first-person narrator, does not know what to do. A support group is formed of those in the bank. More strange things happen.

And here is where I started making charts: who was in line where, what the item was, why it had sentimental value, what the odd turn of events was, and, I expected to discover a link, and probably the answer. God. Perhaps someone more clever than I would read the last few pages and say, Here, this is the answer, here is God, what are you talking about, it’s all right here! For me, it felt something like Twin Peaks and I was one of the ones who felt cheated when it became evident the writers and producers hadn’t really thought out who killed Laura Palmer. But I think Andrew Kaufman has a notebook full of diagrams and details that didn’t make it into the novella, and I’m sure he presented a perfect blueprint for finding God.

Aha! I’ve just discovered that Kaufman gave a reading of a piece called “98 Tiny Mothers” (who show up in the story) at a Toronto Literary Death Match! Maybe that accounts for my sense that there’s a thread missing – The Tiny Wife is perhaps a collection of tiny stories! I’m always claiming I want the reader to participate in my writing, and now that the shoe is on the other foot, maybe I see why this isn’t always a great idea. But… I loved it, so maybe it’s a great idea.

Frankly, I think he only wrote nine-tenths of the story. But damn, it was a great nine-tenths. I only hope I can write nine-tenths of a story this good someday.