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The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men

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�The men in this collection seethe with something close to rage or desperation or both while remaining recognizably and sympathetically human, and that rare combination makes the experience of reading The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men feel as dangerous as a knife fight.”
-Michael Knight, author of The Typist

�Woman can learn more from these stories than from thousands of issues of Cosmopolitan.”
-Ellen Gilchrist, author of Victory Over Japan and Nora Jane

�To read The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men is to know the power and sweep of what short stories can do. These full-bodied, full-throated stories show us men in trouble and men in love, and they show us how those are often one in the same. Prince is a profoundly gifted and muscular writer, a writer who understands the intimacy of violence and the violence of intimacy, a writer you read again and again and again.”
�Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi

�These stories scared the hell out of me.”
-Brad Watson, author of Aliens in the Prime of their Lives

214 pages, Paperback

First published June 19, 2012

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About the author

Adam Prince

12 books12 followers
Born and raised in Southern California, Adam Prince has since lived in New York, South Korea, Arkansas, Nicaragua, and Knoxville, Tennessee. His award-winning fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, and Narrative Magazine, among others. In 2011, Narrative Magazine named him one of the best twenty new writers. He is married to the poet Charlotte Pence and is currently at work on a novel that takes place in Jakarta, Indonesia. He will serve as the 2012-2013 Tickner Fellow at the Gilman School. And his first book, a short story collection called The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men, is now available from Black Lawrence Press, an imprint of Dzanc Books.

You can find a page for the book at:


And you can find Adam's official website at:


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5 stars
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23 (31%)
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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for Melanie Page.
Author 4 books84 followers
May 12, 2017
The largest lesson I learned in creative writing workshops: consider what the author is trying to do. Don’t judge the writer’s desires, but the quality of writing. This is the approach I take in book reviewing, too. However, in the middle of reading Adam Prince’s collection of stories The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men, I was perplexed. What is Prince’s goal, and how do I respond? The first seven stories describe women who are dependent, “feline,” or had the whole “virgin/whore thing down.” What does this accomplish for the story, and what does the reader come away with?


In “Tranquility,” we watch while a woman’s husband invites new, sexually attractive women to dinner each night. The wife points out, “That Miss Kim wasn’t wearing any panties, Rod. And she was all bald down there like she was pretending to be a little baby running around on the beach or something. Is that what men like? Woman-babies?” Given the word choices, the wife sounds like the baby, and an utter simpleton. So, is this what the author wants to achieve? Perhaps. She is obsessed with having babies, repeatedly drawing conglomerations of her and the husband’s facial features.

In the story “Ugly Around Him,” the 3rd-person narrator introduces Masky and his “fat wife” (she isn’t named for 4 paragraphs; she’s just “fat wife”) on the day their child has been killed in a hit-and-run. Down the street lives a sexual predator, and Masky called a hotline to confirm, not for the first time, that the man is a predator. He says, “That girl [the predator] sexually offended. Could be she was tempting him on purpose.”


Later, Masky goes to the predator’s house, but ends up drinking with and befriending him while the predator says a woman-driver killed the girl, probably while applying for make-up or headed to the store for tampons. The only way to make Masky feel better? Head to the next state with the predator because he needs “a lady on [his] boner.” Masky almost does, but changes his mind to go home, cry on the floor moaning his wife’s name (hoping she’ll take care of him??). At this point I hate Masky greatly and cannot pity his cries for his wife. Was this the author’s goal? Perhaps.

The overall theme appeared to be women waiting on men to make decisions for them: whether or not to have a baby, have an abortion, to be allowed to talk about the loss of a child. Author Amber Sparks posits a 2013 challenge to male writers: “Please write more women, fewer girls, into your work. I am so tired of the endless progression of manic-pixie nymphets in even my favorite writers' stories....Lit needs more real women, curvy and sophisticated and smart and, I hope, post-pubescent. Less slender young things with shining unlined faces and doe-like, adoring eyes. Please.”

For me, Sparks’s plea spun around this novel like clothes in a dryer.

The last four stories read like a different, stronger, more appealing collection. In “A. Roolette? A. Roolette?” a class reunion is held, and the attendees are now in their late 70s. The narrator comes from a strange place--I think perhaps it is the spirit of the class itself. At first I thought the narrator was a person: “...we hold our fiftieth reunion. Seventy-three attend, half our original number.” But, when the people are described, the narrator points out that men “wear navy blue or gray sport coats; our ties are tasteful and subdued...” Then, the narrator connects him/herself/it to the descriptions of women: “Some of us wear black dresses, and others silvery red....” The result is that the narrator appears to be a character in the story adding a personal connection to the attendees, but he/she/it also knows the thoughts of other characters. Of Caroline Archer, the narrator knows that “over the years, the disappointment of having waited for a certain kind of many who never came has been replaced by a pride in her virginity, though she sometimes has to remind herself that this self-discipline will only be rewarded in the life to come.” I fell in love with this version of Adam Prince, watching in the last four stories as unraveled the lives of men and women equally.

old people

Each character was allowed to be flawed and give the chance at redemption; whether or not he/she took it was an personal choice. I admired the ability to capture these people, especially the elderly in both “A. Roolette?” and “Bruises and Baby Teeth.” It is seldom those of grandparent age can appear sexy or real, because we can only see them as grandma and grandpa, but Prince did wonderful work. Perhaps a novel will come next?

Honestly, if I could give this book zero stars, I would. I threw my copy in the trash.
Profile Image for Joseph.
Author 12 books14 followers
August 3, 2012
This book could just as well have been entitled "Men Who Hate Women". With each story Adam Prince precisely chisels another feature of male psyches: male rage, male lust, male frustration, male anxiety, male disappointment. Yet with the exception of two stories--"Tranquility," with a women POV character who fails utterly as a convincing human portrait, and "A. Roulette? A. Roulette?", which carries off a two-step between first-person-plural and third-person-semi-omniscient with a grace and sympathy lacking elsewhere in the book--the angles of approach vary only slightly from story to story, remaining in the universe of men whose interactions with other men are mediated by women as objects of exchange and disdain. With few exceptions (e.g. "Tranquility"), each piece stands on its own and succeeds in its peculiarly disturbing way. Taken as a collection, it is grim with hardly any remit. Read it--but take it in small doses.
Profile Image for Charlotte Pence.
Author 12 books28 followers
August 5, 2012
Okay, yes, my husband wrote it. But it's just so good! This isn't light fiction like so many short stories I've read these days. It's work that really confronts something important.
Profile Image for Grady.
Author 52 books1,646 followers
July 13, 2012
'We're men, aren't we?'

This review is from: The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men (Paperback)
Adam Prince frightens me. His collection of short stories THE BEAUTIFUL WISHES OF UGLY MEN bring about that feeling of discomfort that comes with hearing a conversation you shouldn't be hearing just before you appear in the doorway, or inadvertently come upon a couple dry humping in the backyard away from the party you're avoiding, or that queasy feeling that arises when you see a couple who are obviously hatefully not talking while staring at the same road ahead that fronts your car, or that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are in a theater where everyone is laughing about the potty mouth jokes and obscenities except you because you won't admit we've sunk this low and in front of women yet. Prince is a powerfully fine writer and as he has mentioned in an interview 'The stories are all about men trying to negotiate this very primal, very elemental thing on the one hand with the expectations of everyday decency in the contemporary world on the other. At the time I wrote most of these stories, I had what in many respects was a really solid, wonderful relationship, but I couldn't seem to make it work because I was always panting after waitresses and actresses and women pushing their carts in the supermarket. It was a quality I disliked in myself, a destructive force I couldn't seem reason with.'

The stories in this brilliant selection hurt. Take 'Bruises and Baby Teeth' - a man in his sixties is invited to a funeral of his long-ago ex-wife, a woman who left him for another man, and he leaves his little abode and his failing old dog to attend a memorial service where he knows no one, is not included in the photos on the wall (a gap in the woman's life that represents the hole their marriage left), spills his ex-wife's baby teeth (his only relic of that marriage) he meant to give to her son by the man she ran away with, meets a strange woman who had been in their wedding who attempts to seduce him, but discovering she is married drives him away, only after seeing bruises where they shouldn't be, and later returning to look her up only to meet her abusive husband and endure the same physical abuse doled out to the wife. His stories range from a page or two to a novella in length and while there is terrific variation in the settings the stories all bear the same burden - men trying to find the hazy line between the fantasies of their mis-molded dreams and the razor cuts of reality.

That is not to say these are morbid stories: some of them are rich in humor - 'Kink' deals with dildos in a manner few other author can negotiate. There is the dark side of being unable to satisfy a woman or that worse fear, that imagined idea that you as a man are less than desirable. Prince writes with a straightforward gaze and while he handles words with great facility he doesn't dodge realities by letting technique override content. Like this: 'I think there's a moral there, but I'm not sure what. Something about how all men deserve punishment just for being what we are. Something about the close relationship between lust and danger, or the wonders of being tied down.'

Probably the thing that is frightening about reading these stories, as a man, is that someone is unafraid to let the secrets out. Or maybe it is just that Adam Prince is just so damn gifted that he makes you wonder why other authors don't pull these response form you. Read these stories. They are the first of many - obviously.

Grady Harp
September 12, 2012
This is the real thing. Each story is so carefully built. The collection reminds you what literary fiction should be, reminds you of Roth and Updike, and John Cheever. This isn’t just a bunch of light gimmickery, but something deep, something that tells us about ourselves. Plus, he’s super funny. Read it. Then read it again.
2 reviews
July 1, 2012
It's been a long time since I've read something so honest and entertaining.
Profile Image for Cathy.
149 reviews
October 7, 2012
Best book of short stories I've read this year. Exceptional writing.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
275 reviews
January 2, 2014
Very well written, but embarrassingly poorly edited. Blatant typos throughout.
Profile Image for Doug Park.
7 reviews
October 29, 2012
I knew Adam Prince when we were fellow students/teaching assistants in the University of Arkansas's MFA program (1999-03). I always looked forward to his stories in our writing workshops (i.e., a bunch of people sitting around a long table in a conference room critiquing each others' stories and poems)and, had we ever voted on which of us were most likely to "really make it big" as writers, I know he would have been at the top of my list and that of many others. One of the things that's always impressed me the most of about Prince's work is its range of settings, styles, conflicts, and all that sort of stuff. His general "voice" is quite distinct and inimitable, but at various times his writing has reminded me a little of everyone from Pearl Buck to Isaac Asimov to Vladimir Nabokov to Coraghessan Boyle to Robert Coover to Denis Johnson to Charles Bukowski to many others.

Even though I already knew that Prince was a very gifted storyteller, this recently published collection simply amazes me. Funny stories can be hard to write for today's rather jaded and demanding audiences, but the various puns and comical situations here are as unique as everything else about this book. I'm not sure the cover is the greatest: It may set off the "Porn!" alarm in many heads. Yet, while sex (another hard topic to write about these days) is a crucial ingredient in just about all of these 11 stories, it functions and is revealed so matter of factly and intelligently that it's hard to imagine anyone accusing "Beautiful Wishes" of being "gratuitous male fantasy" or anything similar.

If you're still wondering about the specifics, several of us have written more lengthy, detailed reviews of this collection on Amazon. Check there if you like, but what I really think you should be doing is reading these stories for yourself.
Profile Image for Robert Jacoby.
Author 4 books74 followers
November 23, 2014
I'm a big fan of short stories, from way back. Flannery O'Connor was my first great love. Until I'd read her, I did not know what a short story could do. How it could affect me.

So, I was searching for a collection of short stories to read, something done recently, by a writer who might affect me the same way, and I stumbled upon this collection by Adam Prince, The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men.

Some of these stories worked really well for me, others not so much. Some read like a vignette, or a tableau, not a fully formed story. But that's ok. That form can still work, when the writer's craft carries the form. And that's what happens here, mostly.

But don't believe the quote by Ellen Gilchrist on the cover of the book about this collection: "Woman can learn more from these stories than from thousands of issues of Cosmopolitan." Ladies, *don't* read this book to "learn" about men! Because these stories are not about "average" men. Anything but. What we have here is a collection of (mostly) misfits, outsiders looking in, and some trying to fit in. Others not.

There are a few stories here that are quiet, simple, purposeful reveals of humanity. These are little gems, for me, and include "Island of the Lost Boys" and "Tranquility."

Adam Prince has a gift for being able to use words to get to places few writers can. Recommended for those who enjoy the quirky side.

I hear he's working on a novel now. That will certainly be on my "To Read" list.

I liked it:
3/5 Goodreads
4/5 Amazon
1 review
March 25, 2013
This book is pure genius! I admit the last book I read before this was the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy. It was for research purposes (don't judge!). In one short story, Adam Prince had more content than the entire Fifty Shades trilogy! My mind was racing the entire time while reading about the different characters, comparing myself and others to them. I was making hypothesis on the correlation of all the stories. It was like I was reading it for a thesis, but it was enjoyable the entire time. The endings left so many questions, but I like the way it was set up for the readers' thoughts to create their own ending. I literally thought about the characters and the possible endings for at least a month after putting the book down. I highly recommend this book and look forward to more from this author!
Profile Image for Kelly.
1 review1 follower
September 4, 2012
Adam Prince has a skill for crafting a short story that isn’t easy to come by. The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men is one of those reads that gives the reader a satisfying feeling of closure at the end of each story, yet some of his characters are so profound they are left knocking around in your head and you get the sense their stories go on and on. I like how Prince blurs lines with a lot of his characters as well. You really want to write some of them off as pathetic creepers, but Prince does such a good job letting the reader into their psyches, you end up in their corner. I like how they are tragic, yet triumphant in a way at the same time. I think “Ugly Around Him” was my favorite. It really wowed me. Something about it reminded me of Carver or Cheever.
15 reviews12 followers
December 16, 2012
This book was a difficult read for me. It is short stories. Some were good but others I didn't like at all and found it hard to finish them. This was due to the fact I thought they were kind of boring, not because they were too "real". Also I had no problem putting this book down. It didn't hold my interest very much.
The stories were not bad they just weren't great.

I received a copy of this book for free through a goodreads contest.
Profile Image for John.
1,075 reviews27 followers
May 23, 2014
At its best these are beautiful stories of people flirting with disaster, at its worst it is cringe-worthy but compelling. There is not a lot to admire, but look at the balance of male and female inadequacy, all racing along in tragic spirals. It is often funny, but you won't read this for laughs. But you will be glad that a little levity breaks things up and it all isn't a dour race to those crossroads.
Profile Image for Terry Shaw.
4 reviews6 followers
May 11, 2012
I loved "The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men." I admire Adam Prince's writing and insight and am amazed by his ability to develop character with just a few sentences of description. Plus he's pretty damn funny.
Profile Image for Lynnell.
Author 7 books9 followers
May 19, 2012
Adam read from his new release for us at InKY in Louisville -- a terrific preview for a terrific book. He has a compelling, unique voice; these are honest stories that beautifully redeem the complicated lives of ordinary men. Fantastic!
August 31, 2012
Why don't more books do this? Why don't more books confront us with the way real people are? Funny, too. And be sure to read it beginning to end. I don't know if he meant to do it or not, but there's this sort of development from one story to the next.
Profile Image for Alex.
127 reviews7 followers
July 5, 2013
The first ("Big Wheels for Adults") and last ("A. Roolette? A. Roolette?") story in the collection are far and away the strongest. They left me with a feeling of deliciously sweet ambivalence in ponderering the fate of their characters.
1 review
November 8, 2012
Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. If you really want to learn about the male mind, and you're not afraid of the truth, read this. Best book I've read all year!
Profile Image for Dutch Rhudy.
Author 6 books30 followers
August 11, 2013
I enjoyed most of the stories. Some were a little rough on women. Overall, a great read.
7 reviews1 follower
June 15, 2015
Quick read. Surprised this book isn't more popular !
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews

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