US-based independent Madras Press publish small books, containing one or more short stories, and donate the proceeds to charities nominated by their authors. The books themselves are very nicely done, attractive little square paperbacks. The first titles were released just before Christmas in 2009, and over the recent holidays they published their second series, which includes a new story from Andrew Kaufman.Andrew Kaufman is a McSweeney’s contributor, and has two novels published in the UK by Telegram: All My Friends are Superheroes and The Waterproof Bible. He has a whimsical style, perhaps reminiscent of somebody like a Richard Brautigan, which probably works better in small doses like this than it does in his more extended work. Maybe for that reason, I enjoyed The Tiny Wife more than anything else of his that I’ve read. It begins with a bank robbery, in which the thief takes one item of sentimental value from everybody present. As a result of these losses, surreal changes begin to affect the victims: one person is pursued by her own tattoo, another discovers their office filled with water, and the narrator’s wife starts to shrink.
On February 24th, five days after the robbery, Jennifer Layone was searching underneath the couch for the remote control when she found God. He looked almost exactly like she’d expected him to look—long white beard, robe, sandals, the whole thing. But he was very dirty. It was dusty underneath the couch, and since she was doing laundry anyway, she took him with her.
At the laundromat Kennifer put him in a washing machine. She was running low on quarters, so she washed him with a load of jeans. She must have forgotten to check the pockets because when she took God out of the washing machine, he was covered with little bits of Kleenex. This disappointed God. He wouldn’t look Jennifer in the eyes and he left the laundromat without saying goodbye. Now she was no closer to God than she had been that morning, or before the robbery.
The setup provides the framework for a series of stories, some of which intertwine. Others seem to have been imported, making this something of a showcase: here’s Kaufman reading a story ’98 Tiny Mothers’, at Toronto’s Literary Death Match – he introduces it as an unpublished short story, but it now makes up one chapter of The Tiny Wife:
Kaufman’s writing lies somewhere between “imaginative and vivacious” or “gratingly twee and whimsical”, probably depending on your mood when you pick up one of his books, but if you’ve not read him, he’s definitely worth a shot. If a little of his writing goes a long way, well, The Tiny Wife is a little of his writing, and it goes just far enough. You can get it direct from Madras Press for $7, and proceeds are donated to SKETCH, a Toronto-based arts charity.