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|Print List Price:||£9.00|
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Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories Kindle Edition
|Length: 215 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unsurprisingly, I loved most of this collection. The stories are all speculative fiction of some kind (horror, fantasy, even a bit of SF). Almost all feature gay protagonists and antagonists, but the emotions they touch on and the life-moments they elicit are universal. Several take familiar stories and riff uniquely on them (for instance, "Bittersweet," which riffs on the story of the gingerbread man, and "Secrets of the Gwangi," which gives us a secret history of that great claymation dinosaur western "Valley of the Gwangi"). Only one, "Tearjerker," takes place in Berman's SF world The Fallen Area (visited previously in four of the stories in TRYSTS), a world I wish Berman would return to and develop more. "Tearjerker" is one of my favorite stories in the collection, alongside "Bittersweet," the disturbing "Well Wishing," which puts a different spin on the old trope of the lonely traveler who spends the night at a rural residence and is warned not to touch the farmer's daughter "or else," the longing-filled "Kinder," in which German brats infest a historical house and bedevil the live-in docent, and the playful-yet-dark "The High Cost for Tamarind," which takes place in an alternate London where the Fey thrive unseen among normal people.
There are thirteen stories listed in the TOC, but the book actually contains fourteen stories. Each piece of fiction is followed by an Author's Note, but even here Berman cannot resist tweaking the trope: the author's notes taken together tell a story with as solid a thru-line and building tension as any of the book's stories, adding a nice depth to an already full single-author collection.
This is the first work I have read by this uniquely-talented author, who is apparently known for these types of stories, and it likely won't be the last. Great escapist reads, more intriguing than scary. Give it a full five stars out of five.
Bittersweet: two very young boyfriends, one of the two is sadly ill and needs to have a serious surgery. The other one cheats on him during his absence, just a fling, but it's a way to loose all the tension he has on his too young shoulder. He is not the bad hero, he is only a 17 years old guy who, maybe for a time, wants to love as his age would let him.
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us as this story was inspired by a real guy he met once and as in the story, probably for that guy there was a happily ever after on his personal story, but not with Steve.
Secrets of the Gwangi: these are actually flashes of story with two couples and a man divided by time. Two lovers in the Old West, a director of some decades ago, and two stuntmen of the present. I would like to read more about the two lovers even if I think that there is not an happily ever after there.
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us of his first tentative sexual experience when he was still a child, and how it was a consequence of telling stories, quite right giving what he became after.
Kiss: this is the bittersweet tale of a guy who is in love with his roommate, but his can be only an unrequited love, since the other guy loves more and with too more people at the same time. I hoped for the guy in love to find something better, if he survives to his second kiss...
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us of his first crush and kiss, and one of the first time when he probably should have stopped to think and grasp the moment.
Always Listen to a Good Pair of Underwear: in this nice short story we meet for the first time Mike and young Steve, sharing an apartment as student, the place where Steve's love grew in strenght to probably never leave him after.
On the Author's Note, Steve presents us Mike, the man who will inspire him for so many story.
The High Cost for Tamarind: in an apocalyptic world two lovers are too young and tender to be together... I don't know but when you read about lover like that you know that they have no chance...
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us when he proudly sold his first story and how he presented it to Mike like a precious gift.
The Price of Glamour: this is a fantasy tale, probably the more light and joyous of the anthology, as you can expected when fey and faires are involved. A fairy and a changeling meet and tighten a relationship that for now is only a partnership but maybe in the future...
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us of his college experience, as he tried to socialize, but as, at the end, he cared only for Mike.
Tearjerker: truth be told, I didn't understand so well this story, other than it's really sad...
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us how he started to losing Mike way before he really lost him.
Well Wishing: a fantasy story about a salesman, a farmer, and his two sons, a boy and a girl. The salesman is more interested in the boy than in the girl, but he probably didn't do the right choice. Another story with a sad ending.
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us how it was hard to think to have really lost Mike and how he tried to replace him with another impossible love. Till they are far from him, it's easier to love them and to see them realize their dreams. One side note: who is the porn actor?
Caught by Skin: in a futuristic world where love is chemical and aseptic, someone realizes that maybe he is losing something when it's too late to grasp and hold him. But maybe there is hope to still have something real.
On the Author's Note, Steve plays.
A Rotten Obligation: an hustler is on the road to maintain a promise but he is derailed by love. Will he maintain the promise or will he finally seize his chance to happiness, burning all the bond with an horrible past?
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us his own personal hustler story, and as everyone who saw Pretty Woman, also him probably would like to find a Richard Gere for every Julia Roberts (male or female) out there on the street.
Hidden in Central Asia: a gay boy leaving country on a cultural trip, maybe thinks that so far from his real world, things could be different and he can really straighten himself. But what on vacation seems possible, in reality is impossible.
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us his own personal het story, and we also know as Mike was again Steve muse, being the lost boy on a dark night in Vintage. Mike with his repressed love and with his anger against life who didn't allow him to be what he would like to be. Mike so strong outside, and probably so scared of life inside.
Kinder: a man is so bound to the past that he probably can't see that he has a different future beside him. I didn't understand if, in the end, he seizes his chance.
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us as he always tries to save Mike.
A Troll on a Mountain with a Girl: in a fantasy world a man is chasing monsters... but maybe the reason why he is chasing them is not what you can expected.
On the Author's Note, Steve tells us why he is telling us stories...
This anthology is not accordingly to any standard a light anthology. And accordingly to me is not even something you can read one story detached of the others. It's a love declaration and like that you need to read it all together. Giving that the stories were originally published elsewhere and detached, it's also a confession on how the author probably pours all of him in his stories. Some of the stories I like a lot, some a bit less, but I absolutely love all the Author's Notes.
Some of the stories take place in well-described and exotic locations such as Tampico, Mongolia or Japan. (The story in Mongolia, a true one, is especially fascinating for the setting.) There are a lot of fairies and folklore characters populating many of the tales. There's also a futuristic story where everyone has frequent plastic surgery to fit the new trends, and an alternate reality story where Mexico had sided with Germany in WWI and took back Texas. Another wonderful moment involved meeting a character who was the caretaker of the absolute best museum of hats in all of Pennsylvania.
Berman used the word "dweomer" (dway-oh-mer), which, according to dictionary.com, is a magical aura. There is a dweomer of melancholy in this collection, largely because the author discusses a dead college roommate that he misses very much in many of the author notes. There's a motif of unrequited longing and loneliness. Many of the characters are trapped in some way - unable to leave a hotel or a farm or escape from a debt or a promise or a group of lookalike friends.
This is recommended, naturally, for fans of short stories and fans of speculative fiction. However, readers who enjoy intensely personal memoirs such as Alison Bechdel's Fun Home may also be captivated by this work.
If you enjoyed Tysts you'll love this collection!
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