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The Universe in Miniature in Miniature

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  339 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews

In this genre-busting book from award-winning novelist Patrick Somerville characters, stories, and stray thoughts revolve around the “The Machine of Understanding Other People,” the story of a Chicago man who is bequeathed a supernatural helmet that allows him to experience the inner worlds of those around him. Through his lonely lens we peer into the mind of an art studen
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 16th 2010 by Featherproof Books (first published November 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,190)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 02, 2015 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Thought: I really like the title, which is also a story. That makes it the universe in miniature in miniature in the universe in miniature in miniature. Mind? Is blown?

Jeesh, rating short story collections is annoying. I'm not even going to bore you with yet another ramble about that whole "what's written in my stars" thing, because it has been done. And done. And done. And I have done it. And you have done it. We've all done it all over the place. And am I channeling Michael Scott right now? Ye
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

(IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: I am a personal friend of Jonathan Messinger, a co-owner of the small press that put this book out. It should be kept in mind while reading this review.) There's a good chance that I'll be meeting Chicago author Patrick Somerville for the first time later this week, during the tsunam
Jun 28, 2011 Ranee rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sci-fi junkies
The Universe in Miniature in Miniature

A uniquely covered book with a large print of the word "universe" on its cover has caught my attention in Fully Booked. It was in the pile of the new releases, covered in plastic. Tricky, I can’t smell the book hence I have to rely on: 1) the cover design; 2) the blurb; and 3) gut feelings.

I waited for a month before I finally decided to remove the book from its packaging. The inspection was a fascinating experience. For starters, the book has a unique shap
Apr 22, 2010 featherproof rated it it was amazing
Shelves: we-published-it
In this genre-busting book characters, stories, and stray thoughts revolve around the “The Machine of Understanding Other People,” the story of a Chicago man who is bequeathed a supernatural helmet that allows him to experience the inner worlds of those around him. Through his lonely lens we peer into the mind of an art student grappling with ennui, ethics and empathy as she comes to terms with her own beliefs in a godless world. We telescope out to the story of idiot extraterrestrials strugglin ...more
May 12, 2011 Genevieve rated it it was amazing
I bought this book at a Borders sale, when everything was 60% off. It was there, sitting innocuously on a shelf, minding its own business, and I decided to buy it on a whim.

The stories in here are beautiful and varied. Some are short, some are long, some are funny, many are sad, all are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Each story has a unique and well-crafted narrator. They're wonderful to read aloud, to yourself, to your lover in bed. This collection of short stories and I were made for each
Zac Davis
Jan 10, 2011 Zac Davis rated it really liked it
Fantastic book of loosely connected short stories, some steeped in sci-fi and fantasy, others Munro-like slices of life with characters facing crises - some tiny and some enormous. Set in Chicago and written by a Chicago-based writer, geography is accurate and specific which, as a longtime Chicago resident, makes for delightful moments. If you like supporting small-press, somewhat off-the-radar authors check it out!
Roy Kesey
Jul 24, 2013 Roy Kesey rated it it was amazing
Delightful collection, and terrific design that takes it over the top. A terrific quiet sense of humor. Dark hope. Really proud to have blurbed this one.

A favored bit:

"Ululation. We got animals inside of us, man. We've got all this power."
- “The Son”
Mar 19, 2012 Gretchen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
The Universe in Miniature in Miniature is a collection of short novellas by award-winning author Patrick Somerville. I had to read it for my creative writing class because Somerville is coming to my college on Thursday to talk. After reading the book, I’m really excited to hear him talk.

Somerville has a fantastic grasp on how humans think and act. Every character is interesting and realistic, and Somerville add bits of fantasy to many of the stories that adds an extra level to the story. The sto
Oct 31, 2010 Tim rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Book publicity frequently is an exercise in the art (or artifice) of puffery. So, when a book is described as a "genre-busting" work, I tend to approach it with a bit of caution. Generally, though that term is a fair description of The Universe in Miniature in Miniature , Patrick Somerville's collection of short stories. Some of the stories could be described as science fiction while others defy categorization. Granted, genre-spanning could also be used to describe the stories. Despite their va ...more
Jun 25, 2013 Salathiel rated it it was amazing
As I have gotten older and my academic schooling has come to its seeming end, I have been asked on several occasions by my peers: Why do you still read? There are no more grades, or assessments, or papers to write... so why bother to spend your leisure time doing an activity that requires an active brain? The answer to that question will inevitably vary given time of season and mood, but this book confirmed for me in many ways why I still love the adventure of the written word... I read to get a ...more
May 08, 2011 Lucia rated it it was amazing
This book is A-ma-zing.
The best book I've read in a couple years.

Technically it's a collection of short stories (and a novella), but most or all of them are lightly linked.
I found it worked best to read it all in a row, as you would a novel; it's really kind of a "novel in stories." The stories all work alone, but work even better together.

Very inventive stuff. And he writes well as female and male characters of a variety of ages, which impressed me.

There's bits of sci fi and surrealism, but n
Blayne M
Mar 06, 2011 Blayne M rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Really fascinating collection of stories. I stopped reading after the second story, The Sun, because the apocalyptic vision therein was a little too frighteningly vivid, but it was so well written that after a couple days I had to keep going, and was well rewarded for doing so. Then I went on to read Somerville's two earlier books. Good stuff.
Jan 05, 2011 Tom rated it it was amazing
I've never read anything else like this. It's a collection of short stories, separate and interwoven, with eloquent and ridiculously fun storytelling. Any of my friends interested in reading this book, I will buy you a copy. Seriously. You HAVE to read this. I can't lend you my copy because I have to read too many parts of it again.
Dec 16, 2014 Borbality rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't realize this was a short story collection until the first chapter ended. OK, maybe this is introducing other characters. Please?? I hope. Aw damn it it's a short story collection!! I really wanted to read more about the universe in miniature in miniature! It was perfect! how could there not be more? i was so ready to read like a billion pages about these characters, and then poof, it's gone.

Good thing is that the other stories are good too. It's really great stuff. Smart but not pretent
Apr 07, 2016 Zachary rated it it was amazing
Out of this world!
Dec 05, 2015 Javier rated it liked it
Wow. This book would have been a solid 5 if it wasn't for the short stories. Let me explain this a little bit. The book is 65% short stories and 35% 2 mini novels which together end the book. The 2 mini novels are - by far - the best texts I have read this year, the problem is that to reach them you have to go through some really crappy short stories. Maybe crappy it's too strong of a word, as some are really good but have terrible endings. There was one case in which I couldn't believe what of ...more
Storyville App
Feb 25, 2011 Storyville App rated it it was amazing
Patrick Somerville grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin and earned his MFA from Cornell University. His books include two collections of stories -- TROUBLE (2006) and THE UNIVERSE IN MINIATURE IN MINIATURE (Featherproof Books 2010) -- and a novel, THE CRADLE (2009), which was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2009 by Janet Maslin of the New York Times. His writing has appeared in One Story, Epoch, GQ, and Esquire. His latest story collection has been long listed for The Story Prize.

Sommerville had
There's a tab that says "THIS BOOK turns into..."

and the inside cover says "a 15 planet mini-mobile!

And sure enough you can cut out the planets on the cover, and the inside jacket and back jacket and do various other things as per the instructions on the back jacket and you have a mini universe mobile!!! The beginning of the instructions: "Tired of trying to PUZZLE together the stories in this book into a coherent, life-affirming worldview? GOOD NEWS! You can now assemble a mini-mobile of the u
Apr 07, 2016 Karin rated it really liked it
This is such an odd little collection. The stories tie together in surprising ways. The final two longer stories are absolute knockouts. It's the kind of book that you don't really get to understand the big picture until you hit the end and then you can grasp how it all works. I'm glad I read this.
Stephanie Evers
Jan 15, 2016 Stephanie Evers rated it really liked it
For some reason Goodreads didn't save my overall review the first time I wrote it, so here it is for the second time.

Although I stand by my thoughts during the the update, the final story in the collection completely changed my mind about this book. It was beautiful, sad, and surreal. It was long enough to have well-developed characters and an interesting story arc, and it tied into other stories in the collection. The premise was interesting and the execution was lovely. It was the perfect shor
Oct 13, 2013 Matthew rated it it was amazing
The title of the book hints at the quirky nature of this short story collection. As a reader you quickly get the sense that a bigger story is being told, something that ties all the smaller stories together.

This is an extremely entertaining read and I recommend it to anyone looking for an inventive narrative. I will definitely be checking out other books by Patrick Somerville now.

One comment on style: the author loves his long, run-on, never-ending sentences. I read this book out loud to my wife
Oct 27, 2011 Gabbi rated it it was amazing
This book is terrific. The stories deal with metaphysical, emotional 'big-picture' ideas against surreal but almost prosaic backgrounds. Somerville asks you to make pretty big leaps of faith with his premises--for example, the Earth has stopped spinning on its axis and the main characters are packing up to a rural cabin like self-respecting apocalypse victims--but once there, his characters are deeply human. Sometimes dark and comic, sometimes tragic, always touching--I loved each of these stori ...more
Betsy Johnson
Jan 26, 2014 Betsy Johnson rated it it was amazing
Loved the unique book design. Kudos to the design/publisher. Loved the writing of a new writer. Wanted to read more.
Dec 15, 2012 KWinks rated it really liked it
I am not a fan of short stories, but I enjoyed this imaginative collection. I think it helped that the stories are sort of connected. The title story was excellent. While I did not like the others as much, they were so uniquely different (some illustrated) that they were fun. Mostly, I was impressed with all of the ideas presented here, there is a great deal to think about.
I have to give a shout out to the designers of the cover, it is a work of in itself.
Dec 03, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it
A collection of intriguing, and often challenging stories. Many of the stories here are haunted by the burden of self-consciousness, a sensibility the characters and the stories themselves share that make them hard to warm up to, but which doesn't make them any less significant. But there are lots of them here, and the collection as a whole might've been stronger or more "impactful" were it a hundred pages shorter.

A fuller review in a forthcoming DIAGRAM.
Apr 04, 2012 Alex rated it really liked it
A solid collection of short stories about characters facing insanity and evil, sometimes their own. *Very* surreal with great writing throughout.

Would easily have been star-star-star-star, but the most important story, tying together several of the previous ones, is not my favorite. There's also a stream-of-consciousness one I just couldn't take.
X-ray Iris
Jan 06, 2013 X-ray Iris rated it really liked it
heck of a set of interlocking short stories. light and funny, deep and dark. very reminiscent of douglas adams at the end - also echoes of margaret atwood, j.g. ballard, ray bradbury, stephen dobyns, kelly link, george saunders. i will reread. also enjoyed the book design.
Jun 05, 2013 Rob rated it really liked it
I made some illustrations for this ( along with fellow artists Mark Rader and Alex Kostiw -- What I read to do so, I must say, was indeed good, and I was not surprised. Way to go, Mr. Somerville, looking forward to the rest!
Nathan Helgren
Mar 15, 2012 Nathan Helgren rated it really liked it
I really liked the author's style of writing, he was able to grab my attention with the individual short stories and I liked how they tangentally pieced themselves together in a non linear fashion. I highly reccomend this to my friends.
Nov 16, 2013 Jonathan rated it really liked it
If you enjoy science fiction and the beauty of melancholy, you'll enjoy this short story collection. "The Universe in Miniature in Miniature," "The Son," and "The Machine of Understanding Other People" were my favorites.
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I'm a fiction writer from Wisconsin, living in Chicago.
More about Patrick Somerville...

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“I don't think of love in terms of relationships. It happens in terms of seconds, but it goes away like that, too. I pass a nurse, I love her, it ends when I go around a corner; at a restaurant I see a forlorn man at the table next to me, and I love him, and the conversation pulls me back, and it's ended. A patient comes in, and she is sick, and I love her, and then she dies, and I never see her again. This is what I live for. Don't think that it's sad.” 6 likes
“Nobody, anywhere, has any real sense what is actually going on." This doesn't seem to get a very good reaction from the crowd - no doubt I'm scowling as I say it, but still. I continue: "I don't either, but at least I know I don't. I'm sorry but you people aren't like me." This is me trying to take the edge off. Being friendly. "You haven't done the shit I've done.” 2 likes
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