Simplify

Twelve haunting stories about people caught somewhere between love and madness, Simplify mines the often surreal terrain of people on the margins of life: from the man with a photo of Elvis bleeding on his wall in “Comeback Special,” to the profoundly troubled boy genius of the title story “Simplify,” to the family that must traverse “The Distance Between Us” to finally get to the truth about their son the murderer, each story hums with sharp drama, mystery, wonder, and startling humor. Simplify, the first collection of short fiction by Tod Goldberg, portrays a world where redemption, hope, and violence are never too far apart.

Hear Andrew McCarthy read the title story.

“A keen voice, profound insight…Tod Goldberg’s fine ear for dialogue and for the spoken nuances of social microstrata enable him to dispense with reams of descriptive background and cut straight to the heart of the matter. If sometimes his overwhelmed characters fail to fully engage emotionally, their deadpan delivery of jolting ironies reaches to laugh-out-loud heights of insight. Even the collection’s title has a sardonic ring. While hardly simple, “Simplify” is devilishly entertaining.” —Los Angeles Times

“Tod Goldberg’s collection, Simplify, contradicts its title: Goldberg complicates things, in brilliant and moving ways, in stories that live along the border between the mundane and the surreal. … Goldberg’s prose is deceptively smooth, like a vanilla milkshake spiked with grain alcohol, and his ideas are always made more complex and engaging by the offbeat angles his stories take.” —Chicago Tribune

“Simplify by Tod Goldberg is lovely and odd.” —New York Journal-News

Everybody dies at the end of a Tod Goldberg story. Well, almost. The ones who don’t die — violently, through hangings, shots to the heart, slit wrists, drownings, murders — are left to deal with the emotional and psychological fallout. They are the mothers, fathers, younger brothers and sisters in Goldberg’s creepy, strangely sardonic, definitely disturbing version of Middle America…And that, of course, is where the fun begins.” —LA Weekly

“Goldberg’s best stories are told in retrospect, as if the narrators need psychic distance to fashion their memories in the most potent form. My favorite is “The Living End,” a haunting account of the summer of 1973, when the narrator’s older brother returns from Vietnam with strange scrapes and bruises; the story becomes a mystery that involves the abduction of a Native American girl across the street. This story has a stable nuclear family at its center — not stable enough, however, to stave off the enormous forces that conspire to destroy its children.”Washington Post

“Goldberg’s work is an eclectic collection of realist and surrealist storytelling…startling and shuddersome.” —TimeOut Chicago

“The stories in this collection hum with speed and ferocity and a raw energy that exposes your nerve endings, wakes up places inside of you that you had happily lulled to sleep. The sharp-edged, hard-luck boys that populate these pages know exactly how you feel at two in the morning and are telling the truth about it. Simplify is ruthless and tender, truthful, full of heart and scary in all the right ways.” —Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness; Sight Hound

“Energized, engaging, highly readable– each one of Tod Goldberg’s stories is a nugget of originality. I started each new story with fresh interest, wondering where he would take me next– to bleeding Elvis, or the Salton Sea, or through the strange way childhood cruelty rearranges adulthood. A terrific collection.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt; Willful Creatures

“With Simplify Tod Goldberg places himself in the company of such modern masters of short fiction as Dan Chaon, Rick De Marinis and Thom Jones, demonstrating a broad range of styles and moods that he manages to coalesce into a single and frankly, pretty disturbing whole.” —Scott Phillips, author of The Walkaway; The Ice Harvest

“Tod Goldberg is an amazing true original who plunges deep into the scary heart of our American life. Hilarious and unnerving, charming and creepy, dusted with a strange, ineffable melancholy, these stories made the hair on my head stand up and my eyes fall out. I recommend Simplify to everyone, everywhere. Read it right now!” —Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me; Among the Missing