I’m a big fan of flash fiction or short fiction and I always marvel at how writers are able to take brief, fleeting slice of life moments and bring them to life in this literary form. These are writers who have a very keen eye for detail who capture these snapshots of life and then thrust us, the reader, into the middle of them—writers such as Stuart Dybek, Michael C. Keith, and Robert Vaughn who are masters at their craft. Paul Beckman is one such writer and his collection of short fiction, Peek, is a powerful and poignant journey into the heart of the human psyche—filled with drama, heartbreak, triumph, and failure.
As the title suggests, the stories in this collection offer a “peek” into people’s lives and the dramas thrust upon them. Some of the stories in this brilliant collection of short fiction make you shudder; others make you chuckle. Like a doctor with a scalpel, Paul Beckman peels back the veneer of life to reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are so many gems in this collection that it’s hard to choose one or two as favorites. Some of the stories that stood out and resonated strongly with me were “Kosher Soap” about a son and his domineering mother who still has a control on the son after she has died; “Who Knew?” which ties in the overall theme and title of this collection, but more poignantly, the frailties of the human condition when the voyeur becomes the subject of interest for another voyeur; “Wrinkles” which is pure brilliance in how things are not always what they seem; and finally, the continuing saga of Mirksy and Elaine, told in a series of stories which becomes a common thread in this collection, which reminded me of Hemingway’s Nick Adams’ stories.
If you are a fan of short fiction, you are in a treat with this collection. Beckman is a true master at short fiction and I eagerly await his next book.