Trysts, subtitled A Triskaidecollection of Queer and Weird Stories, was a book I received from Lethe Press (www.lethepress.com) specifically for the Off The Shelf column. I really enjoy when that happens because it's nice to have a reviewable come into the office that isn't a CD. I love writing about music - but I love writing about books too. But enough of that.
Thirteen short stories populate the pages of Trysts. All written by Steve Berman, the stories themselves revolve around a darker theme and aesthetic. Some are a bit horrific, some supernatural, some more dramatic. But all revolve around a meeting, or tryst of course, that takes place within the story. The events and situations that lead up to these chance meetings become different each time, but the theme is strongly held to making the Trysts collection as a whole stand together perfectly with no story out of place. I really enjoyed this book. The stories moved smoothly, and they all leave much to the imagination. Some end rather abruptly, jarring in its format, but leaving a lot for you to figure out or ponder further yourself which I find refreshing.
A writer friend once told me, "There are millions of ways to describe something. There's only a few that are right." While I've read authors that can spend multitudes of time and piles of paragraphs describing one simple object, Berman on the other hand picks a few of those right ones and sticks to those and moves on. This makes the stories within Trysts move quickly and sweep you away in them rather than treat you like a mere observer. I also enjoyed his short Foreword about archaic words and such. An excellent essay that one turned out to be.
At the end of the book you'll come across a series of stories, loosely related, that revolve around a place called "The Fallen." Steve never really sits down to describe this amazing place, instead he thrusts you nonchalantly into the mix as people come and go from this area of the world. I can barely gather enough to describe it to you. I know that it's not only magical and fantastical, but strange and extremely different from other places I've visited in books. Steve's style doesn't allow for him to spend much time holding your hand, instead you have to walk with the people that come into the Fallen and just see what they see, being just as confused as they are. There's so many weird things within this milieu that I really hope to see more of it come up.
Besides the Fallen series of stories here, other favorites include Stormed and Taken In Prague, which is one of those that ended abruptly and will keep you wondering for hours as to what came next. The Resurrectionist meanwhile is more of a horror style, done with aplomb and really borders on outright macabre. A very twisted tale that has an older colonial feel and a Vincent Price style.
Overall, you'll find the work of Berman as found in Trysts interesting, strange, unusual and all that good stuff. You'll note that all touch upon darker imagery, homosexuality and the meeting points of all of this. I would be very interested in seeing Mr. Berman take the Fallen stories further - there's definitely one or more novels here that have the possibility of becoming as wonderful and intriguing as Carrol's Wonderland or Gaiman's NeverWhere. There's obviously so much in the Fallen that I haven't seen yet and I'd like to see them very much.
"Trysts" by Steve Berman
Published by Lethe Press
Copyright © 2001 by Steve Berman