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Flavorwire Exclusive: Manuel Gonzales on His Favorite Short Story

The short story can be a magical thing. It’s a breath, a moment, a captured mood — or an entire teeming world packed into a few pages. Maybe, if it’s really great, it’s both. The only trouble with short stories is that not enough people read them. So, in a series to celebrate Short Story Month (and help you add to your reading list), Flavorwire is asking some contemporary masters of the form to talk about the short stories they love. In this installment, Manuel Gonzales, whose dark, funny collection The Miniature Wife hit shelves in January, recommends one of his favorites.

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Gonzales: One of my favorite stories, and one that I return to time and again as a reader and when teaching a workshop, is “Elephant Feelings” by John Haskell. It’s unlike any other story I’ve read — though that could be said of most of Haskell’s stories in the collection I Am Not Jackson Pollock — and it shifts from a narrative exploring the thoughts and feelings of Topsy, the elephant electrocuted in 1903 in Coney Island, to Saartjie Baartman, the Hottentot Venus, as she’s walking around on stage or attending a fancy party in Paris, to a story about the origin of Ganesh, the Hindu god whose head was an elephant’s head. What’s most surprising about it, though, is the way it turns its back on so many traditional short story devices and presents all of this in the tone of a kind of wistful and far-reaching essay, and still it’s one of the more heartbreaking and oddly compelling stories I’ve ever read.