Male Tears by Benjamin Myers reviewed

Male Tears Book Cover Male Tears
Benjamin Myers
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)
April 29, 2021

In Male Tears, a debut collection of stories that brings together over fifteen years of work, Benjamin Myers lays bare the male psyche in all its fragility, complexity and failure, its hubris and forbidden tenderness. Farmers, fairground workers and wandering pilgrims, gruesome gamekeepers, bare-knuckle boxers and ex-cons with secret passions, the men that populate these unsettling, wild and wistful stories form a multi-faceted, era-spanning portrait of just what it means to be a man.

Male Tears by Benjamin Myers reviewed

Male Tears is a collection of short stories from an author who I am a fan of. They have been written over a period of some 15 years and certainly some have been previously published. All of them feature men although the men are not necessarily the subject of the stories directly. A variety of men are involved and the stories are set in differing times. Some are very simple, some brief, some complex and some quite long. It will be no surprise to people who have read Myers previous books to find that many of these are dark or even very dark!

The blurb said these stories are about “what it means to be a man”. I guess that would make me quite sad about being male as far as some of these are concerned. They certainly don’t offer particularly positive views on men. That said I found some of these stories very powerful indeed. Taking as an example “An English Ending” this was very understated and, in a strange way gently, compelling. Most of the stories here tend to leave quite a lot unsaid and I do like that approach from a writer. It allows us to colour in parts for ourselves.

Some of the stories will probably stay with me for quite some time. The first one which looks at two lives – a farmer harvesting potatoes and a boy who explores an old dump – offered a vivid contrast of lives compared. Looking at the notes I made while reading this I see three in a row that worked well for me. The Whip Hand, The Last Apple Picker and Saxophone Solos were quite different stories but were in some ways whimsical and certainly entertaining. Equally I really liked “Ten Men” – the ending didn’t come as much of a surprise but it was a well worked story.

Other stories in Male Tears maybe had less of an impact on me. That is not to suggest they were not well written – this author is a very accomplished writer. However they simply didn’t resonate with me in the way that some did. I confess that there were one or two that I either didn’t see the point of or that I didn’t really understood. There is almost always a problem with short stories for me in the way that some you love and want more of and others simply don’t really grab you (and those will differ from reader to reader). Lovers of Ben Myers’s work will want to read this anthology and will enjoy it. People who are new to his work should possibly start elsewhere.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review