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Summer Reading: Manuel Gonzales

Manuel Gonzales’ story “When We Realize We Are Broke,” is now available to read online. Our managing editor Cheston Knapp coined a new phrase to describe it: berzankrupt. We asked Manuel a few questions about writing the story, writing in general, and reading.

Tin House: What was the biggest obstacle in writing this story?

Manuel Gonzales: The biggest obstacle for this story was coming up with the right tone for the ending. I wrote the story, the first draft, in about a day, and then spent the next four or five months rewriting the very last page. My first stab at the ending was clearly a cop out — on my part as a writer but also on the narrator’s part, as a character. It was all too easy the way I originally ended it, and then I ran through a number of versions in which everything was outsized and over the top, and only at the last minute realized that something normal, something quiet might be the most crushing thing for this guy telling this story.

TH: When you read this story in the future, what do you think you’ll associate with the period of writing it?

MG: Looking back at this, I think I’ll associate this story with two main things: this sense of having just barely escaped being on the cusp of what this narrator goes through, and a sudden urge to play around with a story that hews more closely to realism. There aren’t any unicorns or faeries or zombies or robots in this story, just a guy in a relentless downward spiral, losing all control of life and his own ability to reckon with it honestly.

TH: Do you have any writing rituals?

MG: Lately, a very frustrating writing ritual — or pattern, anyway — is that I will try to work for two or three hours, very early in the morning, I will get absolutely nowhere, and then two hours later, when I am unable to do anything about it, some clarifying idea will arrive fully formed in my head. And so it will seem as if I’m working out of synch.

TH: What was the last sentence you underlined in a book?

MG: So, I don’t underline in my books, or I haven’t in maybe fifteen years. I’ve just finished packing away all my books, and so I can’t get to any specific sentence, but the last book I underlined in was IN THE HEART OF THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY, by William Gass, in the introduction.

TH: What is the next story I should read?

MG: If you picked up this issue of Tin House, you’ve got at least three of the next stories you should read, starting with Jamie Quatro’s  story, then moving to Jess Row, and then Adam Johnson, which are the three I read in quick succession as soon as I received my copy.

Manuel Gonzales is the author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories and the forthcoming novel The Regional Office is Under Attack!

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