Hallman, David G. “Book Tales”, iUniverse, 2016.
I must admit that I am not much of a short story reader and the only reason for that is personal choice. Sure, I have read and loved some short stories but if I have to choose between a collection of stories and a novel, I choose the novel. Yet every once in a while a short story collection comes along that bowls me over. “Book Tales” is such a collection.
I have always felt that the purpose of reading (for me, at least) is twofold—entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Now if you follow my reviews, you know that I do not always find intellectual stimulation in the books I review so I must rely on entertainment. Then along comes David Hallman who fulfills both requirements in one book of short stories. In this diverse collection of seven stories, there is something for everyone. Let me go a step further and say there is something special for everyone. Gay life, like all life, is filled with joy and heartache, pain and pleasure, drama and melodrama and the key is finding out how to deal with it all. Each of the stories here looks at aspects of life that deal with our social and personal relationships.
After all, is life not a relationship? I have just begun to look at it as such. The stories here are also gay stories but that does not mean there is no crossover to straight society. After all, outside of the bedroom we are all the same. Each of our characters is looking for something and is not that which we all do in life. Birth is a beginning, death is an ending and life is a journey that we all take.
David G. Hallman sees literature and sexuality as those forces that determine our identities and the kind of experiences we have. We see that in the different experiences of gays and straights. To reach his obvious goal of each story having something to say, Hallman brings together fact and fiction as well as literature and sexuality. This might not sound original but it is the way that he does so that is fresh and novel. There is also erotica here and there is literature. I base this statement on the literary and erotica works that I have read. Hallman takes on an expository mission looking at the connection between art and life and we sense his love for literature in what he writes. Each story is based on literature and the uniqueness with which Hallman integrates it into a story is nothing short of amazing. We have books that act as catalysts for action and we have books that serve as a way to introduce characters. We have a story about a writer and his famous gay novel in which we learn about how he came to write it and why it was so real for him. From the world of art we learn of sexuality and identity that we see reflected in the works of art that they produced. I have deliberately not named any of the stores and if you continue to read here, you will understand why. I do not like to give a heads up to a specific piece when the entire collection is so good. Some of you may find the sexual explicitness to be a bit too heavy and I am ready to disagree on that. The sex is not gratuitousness but there to help develop the character and the plot. We see the importance of sex in one’s identity and humanity. Stop and think if you have ever thought about yourself minus your sexuality. I cannot praise “Book Tales” too much and in fact, I am reading it for the third time. I originally got a copy before it was officially published and I was so impressed with it that I could not sit down to write about it. In fact it has taken me two weeks to write this and now I am determined to read it just for pleasure’s sake. But before I do I want to publicly thank David Hallman for writing this and for remembering me as a reviewer.