The writing community is much like a tennis academy on the first day. You’re all a little nervous and curious to who is better, but equally, you don’t want to give up too much too soon. You try and play it cool, you talk mechanics, influences, and maybe venture into your past achievements. But then comes the point you have to walk onto court. That’s when you see who has the grit. Gone is all the small talk and bravado. There’s no hiding now. Following this tennis analogy, one writer I had the pleasure of getting to know was
Peter Tieryas. Peter has natural talent; a strong arm, hard serve and endurance. I knew from his first collection Watering Heaven, Peter was special. Whereas most writers are all serve and no game, Peter was the full package. Case in point…
His novel, Bald New World, begins with a strange phenomenon where the entire population wakes up one day to find all their hair has fallen out. From that moment on you’re thrown into a world of espionage, wig-wars, faith-blind zealots that make Marathon Man seem like child’s play, telekinetic cricket fighting, and a friendship that stretches beyond life and into death. The world which Tieryas creates is rich in detail, from the grand architecture of the future to the smaller statements on the influence of mass advertising on modern society (I particular liked how a taxi cab fare could be subsidised if you are willing to watch adverts for the entire journey, and the coat that diminishes with the seasons). But like Watering Heaven, Tieryas’s brilliant short story collection, the real strength of this book lies is the intertwining themes of acceptance, love and an enduring quest for fulfilment. They say every author writes themselves into the characters of their books. Nick is a character who feels detached emotionally due to his past, and yet through his in laws he truly understands the meaning of family. I mention this because it adds a layer of emotion that fleshes out the character. Nick is not contrived in design, therefore you believe him in, and through all the pain he endures, you want him to survive. This is the test of a great writer, to give a little bit of themselves to the world, even if it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to dilute this book by comparing it to another. It stands alone and will measured that way for years to come. The storytelling and amazing detail added from Tieryas’s furtive imagination lend themselves perfectly to the silver screen. A fantastic read for anyone whose frustration in modern literature as reached the point where they’re pulling out their hair. There is a new world of great storytelling with us, and that world is bald.
In Watering Heaven, Peter successfully peels back the rind of life to exposure the sweet, and sometimes bitter, fruit that lies beneath, where chance meetings blossom into love, dialogue is so slick you fear your eyes may slip while reading, and the ordinary is a catacomb for a surreal beauty metamorphosing within. Being a keen fan of the short story, I found Water Heaven one of the best collections I have ever read. What Tieryas does in this collection is offer questions about love that many writers dare not ask, and those that have ventured close, have done so clumsily in comparison. His ability to exposure our insecurities and thoughts is nothing short of genius. Yes, if love is the thread skewering these stories together, then loneliness is the needle punctuating each. In truth, it felt less like a short story collection and more a novel. The narrator had many voices, the stories different but united, merged and blurred but unique too. It was truly inspiring to read. I could break down the stories and give my favourites, but to do so would dull the magic and perhaps force you to gravitate to some more than others. What you need to do is go into this book blind, and discover through the skill of the writer, all the colours of the world; light will merge from darkness, the prosaic will be rendered strange and wonderful. Existential, smart, magical and dipped into beauty, a collection that will forevermore stain the fabric of great literature.
Game, set and match.