Manuel Gonzales loves zombies. Especially self-loathing zombies with unrequited office crushes and enough makeup to hide their undead identity.
His story collection, The Miniature Wife and Other Stories (Riverhead), is populated with zombies, werewolves, unicorns and other monsters and misfits. But Gonzales re-imagines these familiar figures in hilarious and heartbreaking ways. With deft humor and compassion, Gonzales makes what could be over-tread ground fresh and newly strange.
As funny as the stories often are, they also bubble with moments of dread and outright terror. But the terror comes from unexpected sources. Gonzales’ werewolf in the story “Wolf” is not nearly as horrifying as the relative trying to kill it. The mad scientist in the title story isn’t as haunting as the murderous wife he “unintentionally" shrunk to the height of a coffee cup, and the unicorn in “One-Horned & Wild-Eyed” is more eerie than beautiful and dangerously seductive.
Gonzales carries his playfulness into form, as well. Obituaries, pseudo-journalism, and voice-driven monologues fill the pages. The book is a weird, glorious ride that never leaves you less than surprised.
In our conversation on The Write Up, host Owen Egerton and Gonzales touch upon the hunger for myth in a techno-savvy world, the power of humor in twisting nightmare scenarios, and his journey as writer.
“…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? I wonder, How would we?”
—“Escape from the Mall” from The Miniature Wife and Other Stories