The Short Review: A strong collection, where each story builds slowly and challenges your ideas on masculinity and the ways men interact with the world around them.
The Long Review: Despite being a male, I’ve always found it difficult to understand men. You know that joke where men will never understand the minds of women? I legitimately have not ever been able to understand the mind of a man. I’ve tried reading about men in books, but they’re never explored in the same ways women are. Hanya Yanagihara even said the reason she wrote A Little Life, was to explore the idea of trauma in men because men had a smaller emotional toolkit. That’s why A Lucky Man is such a—surprising—welcome look into the unexplored complexities of men.
There’s something challenging about the way these stories are written. They unfold slowly and force you to slow down with them, take in the world before we dive into the minds of these characters. It’s beautifully done, and you can tell Brinkley has total control in each story. Without that level of control, we wouldn’t be able to stick with it. Although these' stories aren’t part of the thriller genre, they remind me of the slow burns that have us leaning in until the last moment, when the devil stares us in the face and we jump back too late.
My friend Annie always talks about being able to tell the difference between when a man is writing versus when a woman is writing, just in how they focus on things so differently sometimes and have such a different view of a similar situation. I agree with that, and I think these stories play with that expectation. The language is masculine, and the male gaze is present, but only long enough for us to acknowledge that it’s there, before we turn our gaze, as the audience, onto the male gaze itself and explore it from the inside out.
The men in these stories are hard shelled, layered in protective casing, and their interiors aren’t exposed until near the very end of these stories. They almost reminded me of when I tried to know more about my straight guy friends, tried to figure them out or know just a little bit more. They never allowed it until about two AM with too many beers and a pack of Marlboro’s split between us. Knowing men in an intimate way is almost a luxury. Reading these stories back to back felt like I was seeing more than I was meant to see.
There’s too much to unpack about these stories without getting into spoilers, and I honestly feel like I need to read it again just to get everything out of them. But if you haven’t read it yet, I hope that at least explaining my experience reading this book has been a little helpful. If you’ve read it, tell me your thoughts. I still have so many