Pages: 165 kb (eOriginal)
A couple of stories, bunched up together. There is no explicit links between them, but they leave you the impression that they happen in the same city, to a group of people that grew up together. Nine stories in all.
"Hey, Becky," I say back at Thirsty's. "Can I get you a drink?"
"Are you sure?"
I know why. She knows why. We haven't talked in twenty-five years. Still she looks good, decent. She had nice eyes, kind eyes. Plus the fact is my wife Marsha is fucking our friend Tommie and I am the last to find out.
Not expected. I've read Ben Tanzer before. I thought it was good, but it didn't "wow" me. That's the thing with literary fiction. It's about nothing in particular. Or maybe about how hard it is to carry yourself through life with strength and dignity, without ever giving up. So literary writers have to work extra hard and dig deeper into the human heart to offer their readers satisfaction, since they aren't looking for anything in particular except maybe being "wowed". I guess you can't really expect it. You just read and then it happens. SO DIFFERENT NOW left its imprint on me. Because that's what powerful stories do. They scar you and chip away at you, make you a different person.
The first story of the collection, titled SO DIFFERENT NOW is arguably the best one. It embodies really well the themes carried through the collection and it's an amazing display of Tanzer's talents with storytelling and dialogue. It's the story of two people who should have been together, but can't ever seen to find each other. I'll always remember, I finished the story standing in the subway with my computer bag over my shoulder and felt physical pain in my gut, like I've been punched. I probably felt as bad as the characters at the end of the story. SO DIFFERENT NOW achieved perfect transcendence. Very little stories can do that. It's the only one of the collection that reached that deep, but not the only high quality story in there. STEVEY, COOL, NOT REMOVED and GODDESS all had amazing visceral appeal.
What's admirable about this, is that Tanzer is playing in Haruki Murakami's territory of crafting stories to describe the most complex, wordless emotions in the most graceful way possible. Force is to admit, he's not doing bad at all. He really could be "that new American voice", given that his material falls in the right hands. He sure has the potential. Sure, some stories in this collections completely miss the mark. IN A SINGLE BOUND for example. When you reach for such extreme dramatic climax, sometimes you go over the top and fall into melodrama. It's all about getting as close as possible to the imaginary line between both without crossing it. Tanzer sometimes doesn't push hard enough, sometimes too hard, but he often stop as close as possible to that line. I appreciate his absolute emotional recklessness. I'm sure you would too.
FOUR STARS *
* This was not far away from a five stars review. I couldn't give it a perfect score, but it sure shows Tanzer has the potential to get one, somewhere down the road.