The title of Benjamin Myers’ coruscating collection of stories, MALE TEARS is a play on words.
The tales are certainly male, muscular and masculine, but is the second word of the title, tears, as in rips or tears as in cry? The truth is both.
These eighteen stories are ripping yarns, with scenes of emotional and physical hurt that are sure to bring a tear. A tear to the eye. A tear to the heart.
Men who work with machinery are particularly vulnerable in the Myers universe. Tractors, fairground attractions, animal traps, tools, cutlery are an arsenal of ambush that lead to amputation, mutilation or annihilation.
Four of the stories are bite size morsels, running a mere page or two – a micro economy of prose suffused with a macro resonance of remembrance.
“His was a world of blood and snares, raptors and hares. His architecture was bog-bone and feather. Wind and rain. Grass and heather. Blade and gullet. Gun and bullet.”
The architecture of landscape looms large in these booming stories, juxtaposed with the internal cartography of men’s lives, desires, realisations, denials and dreams.
The final story, Snorri & Frosti, is the longest, a sixty page dialogue between septuagenarian bachelor brothers facing imminent redundancy of work, lifestyle and life. A receding past and future have the two shored up on a precarious present, the prognosis of progress a harbinger for a final diagnosis of an end of an era.
The stories in MALE TEARS set up a rendezvous with posterity for they are elegant, elegiac and eternal, an evocation, a fistful of the wistful, tearing and clawing, tooth and nail, sinew and bone. Blood, sweat and semen.
We live in an era of binge watching television but I argue that MALE TEARS will encourage binge reading, and once completed, far from depleted, you’ll want to dip in again, re-reading, revisiting and refreshing.
MALE TEARS by Benjamin Myers is published by Bloomsbury.