Literary Fiction
Ted Gargiulo
4 stars

Author Ted Gargiulo's collection THE MAN WHO INVENTED NEW JERSEY contains stories that range from strange to vaguely realistic, from satirical to sad. And just when it seems that cynicism pervades this volume entire, something sincere shines through.

The highlights of NEW JERSEY are definitely the last two stories, namely the title story and the novella “On the Culver.” The former is a first-person narration from a dead-beat dad that starts off misanthropic, with as unlikable a narrator as you could imagine, and slowly transforms into a rather touching story of absentee fathers, that's beautiful and touching almost in spite of itself. This remarkable transformation is nothing compared to that of “On the Culver.”

“On the Culver” begins with a similarly cynical tone, with a narrator who speaks of the characters in condescending tones. But as the narrator's character and role in the story begin to develop, the novella begins to steer away from him and become a narrative about religion, class and family that is as well-written as it is thoughtful and well-plotted. It's an expressive voice, one that allows for the narrator's personality without drowning out the narrative: “There he stood, this farmer from Lawrence who hadn't traveled more than 50 miles from his place of birth, on what would one day be the apex of his existence, overlooking the town of his youth … past the site of the one-room schoolhouse his parents made him attend until he was old enough to man a plow … beyond the parish hall where he first met Mama … beyond the fallen down farmhouse in Beal where they raised the first of their four 'helpers' … beyond Teamont … beyond retirement … beyond tomorrow.”

As for the rest of the book, while there are some other great moments, it's a bit more mixed in terms of quality, though it should be noted that even the lesser stories still have a lot going for them. Some stories, like the satirical “Playdad,” “Virtual Holiday” and “Cell's Bells” have great ideas in them, and are great satires at least on paper, in practice just seem too cynical and too coy for their own good. Others, like the strange, sordid romantic noir “Candlesticks,” never really reach any sort of satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, there's the beautiful, understated storytelling of “Legend in Four Movements,” a story about a father-son relationship, structured like the four movements of a symphony.

THE MAN WHO INVENTED NEW JERSEY may have its ups and downs, but its ups go high enough where the downs aren't as noticeable, and overall, the presence of the title story and “On the Culver” alone make this book more than worth it.

Reviewed by Charles Baker for

Great title, many different "voices."
By Margaret
(Amazon) July 21, 2014

To start with, the title will grab you by the lapels. "The Man Who Invented New
Jersey?" you'll ask. "I've got to find out what this is about!" And the stories do not

Each story has its own "voice," and each is a different facet, a different microcosm, a
different perspective on this curious thing called human existence. If you're looking for
a good mix of entertainment and “Hey, I never thought of it that way!” look no further.
5 stars



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Gargiulo brilliantly directs each scene of this novella and has proven he is a master of this genre. The story swims with loads of psychological drama. As you enter the protagonist's mind a flood of intricate themes duel with one another to create a story riddled with reflection. Darkness, humor, and hope combine forces and take the reader on an exhilarating ride. This is not a book to miss; a surprise awaits every reader of this literary treasure.

Cindy Brodsky
Posted on
October 22, 2004

"a barbarian at the gates of civility"
Margot Petit Nichols
The Carmel Pine Cone

“HE IN ME”—a novella in 10 chapters by Ted Gargiulo, Jr.—is a story of an intellectual being driven to desperation in the apartment below where the stereo thumps maddeningly day and night. It is a story of a barbarian at the gates of civility.

The stereo’s blaring bass is accompanied frequently by screeching brakes and canned laughter of the neighbor’s television set. In desperation, Tim and Nan, the protagonist and his wife, take to running their dishwasher more frequently than necessary to drown out the stereo. Nan takes Valium and starts ironing, folding laundry and working on craft projects in their rear bedroom where the noise is somewhat muffled. Tim continues to go to work, always returning to the unabated noise. Nan listens to soap opera 12 hours a day as another ploy. On weekends Tim tries in vain to work on his unfinished novel—an allegory of “power, evil and self actualization” whose protagonist manifests himself in a strange way—ergo the title. Meanwhile, Nan goes shopping—just to get away from the noise, and the once happy couple spend less and less time together.

Their nerves become frayed, their perfect marriage begins to break apart. Their lives become ever more Kafkaesque as the insensitive, boorish neighbor ignores their desperate attempts to communicate with him.

The denouement is startling.

Ted Gargiulo, Jr. of Seaside is a fine writer, using an economy of well chosen words to bring the reader along with the suspense and anticipation of each new chapter. His writing style is urbane and literate as befits his protagonist.

Published December 10, 2004

Novella takes on plight of noisy neighbors
For The Salinas Californian

"He In Me: A Novella in Ten Chapters" by Ted Gargiulo, Jr.

Local connection: A Seaside resident, Gargiulo is a former stage actor.
Characters: The narrator of story is would-be writer Tim Bosch. Along with his wife, Nan, and adolescent daughter, Tim has to endure the musical mayhem created by Malcolm Missoula, Jr., his downstairs neighbor at the Primrose Gardens residential apartments.

Plot: Pretty much a faceless villain, Missoula's contribution to this tale is the pounding bass that permeates Tim's apartment and makes life hell for the Bosch family. As Tim explains, the new tenant wasn't in his flat 15 minutes before he began blasting his music.

Pleas to the manager, college student, complex manager, and the management company do no good. Although he fancies himself "a new voice on the American literary scene," the reader soon comes to realize that Tim's literary output mainly consists of a series of well-fashioned complaint letters. A passive individual by nature, rather than direct confrontation, he uses an epistolary approach to rectify the problem.

With the noise continuing unabated, the Bosch family's life is soon in shambles, and, eventually, drastic measures are called for.

Character quote: "All my adult life I wished that I could pop off short stories as easily as I popped off letters of complaint. The drawer marked 'HOME' was teaming with entries, tributes to my steadfast faith in 'The Rational Solution to Man's Problems of Coexistence,' to which I now added a carbon copy of this, my latest contribution. The other drawer, marked 'FICTION,' was practically empty. How often I was tempted to switch labels. Maybe one day when I had achieved the status of a Salinger or Hemingway, this distinguished body of early literature from the 'HOME' drawer would be in great demand. Might even win a cult following. Behold, 'The Collected Complaints of Tim Bosch: A Fat Testimony of a Thin Life.' "

Audience: Anyone who has had to endure noisy neighbors will relate to the plight of the characters in this novel. Be prepared for a surprise ending and one that is certainly understandable given the situation.

Published Saturday, December 11, 2004

Bob Walch
The Monterey County Herald

Anyone who has ever experienced apartment living knows how an inconsiderate, noisy neighbor can make life intolerable. Seaside resident Ted Gargiulo Jr. delves into how disruptive and life-altering this situation can be if the tenants from hell move into the apartment below you. Dubbed a novella in ten chapters, He In Me chronicles what occurs when this loathsome situation gets totally out of hand.

Posted on Sun, Sep. 26, 2004