Call me a Luddite but, when someone gives me a book of literary fiction, the first words that spring to mind are seldom, ‘Thank you.’
I don’t mind holding my hand up and admitting I’m not a literary fiction type of person. I enjoy stories that are exciting, entertaining and accessible. You don’t often get that with literary fiction. The words ‘literary fiction’ on a book cover are invariably an albatross tied around the damned thing’s neck, warning off those other poor damned souls who would potentially run the risk of being burdened with the tome. It’s like giving a DVD the accolade ‘Oscar winning’ which invariably means it’s a sleep-inducing crock of shite without any of the good things a person wants from a film such as near-nudity, car chases, serial killers or big explosions.
So I approached The Silent Hustler with a natural wariness. The back cover blurb describes the opening story, "Things I can’t Tell My Father" as ‘literary.’ It goes on to describe another story, "Burn the Rich" as ‘revolutionary.’ I described my reticence as characteristic.
But, on eventually delving into the book, I discovered I had no reason to be frightened away by the scary language on the outside.
"Things I Can’t Tell My Father" is a sensitive and erudite exposition of the stumbling relationship between Meriwether’s first person protagonist and an antagonist father. The language used is direct, realistic and uncompromising – yet the duality of the truth hidden beneath the words is still something of a revelation as Meriwether gives each brief entry his own distinctive interpretation. Good – yes. Literary – yes: but not in a bad way.
"Burn the Rich" is a gritty tale of brutal erotic realism, told in fragmentary snatches that mimic the central character’s libido-driven call-and-response arousal. Admittedly, "Burn the Rich" could be described as revolutionary because of its anarchic content, but please don’t let such epithets dissuade you from making a purchase of this book if you’re worried it’s wholly cerebral. Above all else "Burn the Rich" like every other story in this collection, is an entertaining, intriguing and well-constructed read.
Sean Meriwether is described as "The Naughty Harry Potter" because of his magical ability to create worlds with words. As nicknames go I have to admit this one is pretty cool. People used to call me "The Nasty Harry Potter" but that was only because I spent so much time playing with my wand, and the title didn’t have the same ring of dynamism that Meriwether’s name projects.
Those who enjoy literature in its traditional style (i.e. boring) probably won’t get much of a thrill from The Silent Hustler. Admittedly Meriwether does include stories that show his mastery of craft. "Knives and Roses" presents the story from an eerie second person perspective, making the narrative all the more compelling and convincing. The stream-of-consciousness interludes that demarcate episodes of "Into the Mouth(Becoming the Fly)" show a keen sense of character and its representation within literary forms. But the stories in this volume are also exciting, intriguing and enjoyable – far from the literary norm.
If you enjoy gay erotica that’s well written and presents a variety of challenging styles and interpretations, Meriwether’s The Silent Hustler is a title you need, to complete your current collection.