What is gender, and how is it shaped by a constantly changing world? HOW TO BE A MAN is a notable collection of short stories not only for its literary merit, but for its bold thematic presentation. The fourteen short stories by gifted author Tamara Linse tackle everything from growing up as the only girl on a farm full of men to a slowly failing marriage to the transformative effects of violence in rural towns. While some stories are far more refined than others, the overall quality is remarkable, and the theme is elegantly preserved in each story. “The Body Animal,” much like the titular “How to be a Man,” is told in a kind of forceful stream-of-consciousness, pulling the reader into an uncomfortable intimacy that is both revelatory and ultimately emotionally affecting. “Snowshoeing” is confident, acutely observed, and elegant in its use of detail. “A Dangerous Shine,” has a kind of Sherwood Anderson feel to it that quickly implodes into dark, fascinating territory.
Unlike a master of a short fiction like Jennifer Egan or Ben Loory, author Tamara Linse has not yet quite mastered the art of openings. While some stories, especially “A Dangerous Shine,” have incredibly powerful and intriguing openings, others seem to be fumbling with the door knob, struggling to present themselves appropriately. As a debut collection, however, the imaginative scope and ease in which Linse inhabits her characters is remarkable.
Linse’s wide array of believable characters, and her ability to return to the same set of themes without becoming repetitive or predicative, makes her a notable literary force. With greater refinement and focus on craft, there is no doubt Linse will one day be able to create a masterpiece.
HOW TO BE A MAN is a notable debut from a very promising writer.
Reviewed by Julia Lai for IndieReader.