Sometimes, books don’t follow the rules. Sometimes books do whatever the hell they want to without paying any sort of attention to conventions of the medium. They just do what they please; because why shouldn’t they?
Though of course, it’s much more accurate to say that sometimes authors don’t follow rules. And that is definitely the case when it comes to Andrew Kaufman and his book, The Tiny Wife. Kaufman is an author that I have only really discovered recently over the past few months. I went through a bit of a funk with my bookshelf over Christmas and decided on a complete rehaul of my reading list, with Kaufman being recommended by my favourite vlogger Carrie Hope Fletcher. He very much writes what I believe is called “magical realism”, which basically means anything can happen and it doesn’t need to make any sense, apart from in the context of the book.
To give you a quick idea as to what the book is about, basically a robber comes into a bank with a gun, but instead of stealing money he steals an item from each person inside the bank that means the most to them sentimentally, which turns into a piece of their soul. From the narrator’s wife, Stacey (our eventual titular Tiny Wife) he takes the calculator that she has used since she was a child. The victims are then left with “curses”, Stacey’s being that she starts shrinking.
Now you might be thinking, “what kind of drugs is this guy on?” but honestly, it’s so good and the fact that it doesn’t make sense at all makes complete sense in the context of the book. Sure, it can be a little daunting at first since it is so out there and so wacky, but in my opinion when writing and creating fiction you define the rules of your own world as you go. I mean, that is the literal definition of world building, but when you create the universe that exists inside your story, you get to make all the rules. That’s one of the things that frustrates me about TV or films or books, in that a lot of the things that happen are unrealistic. Now, usually when I start ranting about this I lose people to eye rolls and scoffs, because a lot of the content I watch or read is, by definition, unrealistic. For example, I watch a lot of fantasy and sci-fi and that sort of guff, where there are dragons and magic etc. so I can understand why people have trouble in grasping my point. However, what I mean by unrealistic is purely in terms of the universe that they are portraying. For example, it’s completely fine in The Avengers for an ordinary man to turn into a big green monster. But if that happened in, say, Sherlock it wouldn’t make sense. The parameters of realism change with every new thing that’s created and are set as you create them. So, if you present your TV show as a straight laced, almost exact replication of real life and then something ridiculous happens then yeah, I’m going to get annoyed.
But Kaufman doesn’t do that. From the very first page, or even just reading the blurb, there is a distinct aura of “Anything goes here”, and that’s what I really love about it. The book twists and turns through scenario after scenario, with many chapters being very short so you feel like you’re blitzing through a plot point to have it never be revisited again. It is the definition of a whirlwind and everything that happens is bizarre. To give you an idea, one of the curses that happens in the book is that a baby starts pooing money. And that is noteworthy to the people in the book, but not as much as you’d think, and eventually they are desperate to stop it. It’s just wacky and wonderful and it jolts around every corner. You literally can’t predict anything, and I just adore it.
Kaufman’s work is basically like a dream. In your dreams absolutely nothing makes sense, but they also make complete sense at the same time. In a dream, your chair could suddenly be your father and you wouldn’t even question it. Or you could turn around in a forest and somehow be in a shoe shop and because you’re in the dream you just roll with it. That is exactly how it feels to read The Tiny Wife. Nothing makes sense at first, but once you learn to just accept it then it’s all perfectly clear; and I absolutely love that.
If you haven’t read The Tiny Wife, I truly recommend you pick up a copy as soon as possible. It’s such a wonderful book that takes no time at all to read – it’s very short so perfect for people like me with short attention spans. I would also really recommend Kaufman’s other books – All my Friends are Superheroes is another excellent one, and I have just started Born Weird which is, by comparison, his most “normal” book, but still completely crazy. I love books that make me question everything, and I firmly believe that Kaufman makes you do that and a whole lot more.