JULY 2007


Official Ben Tanzer Website

Official Manx Media Website

A Review of Tanzer's Lucky Man (2007)
By Jason Jordan, Jun 25, 2007
Structurally similar to Faulknerís As I Lay Dying, or Dillsís Sons of the Rapture contemporarily speaking, Ben Tanzerís debut novel Lucky Man (Manx Media, 2007) splits the narration among the four chief characters, who are otherwise known as Gabe, Jake, Louie, and Sammy. And as the back of the book aptly puts it, ďLucky Man follows four friends from their final days of high school through their first couple of years out of college. Each has personal demons they are battling Ė anger, substance abuse, sexual identity, and detachment.Ē Most of their travails appear to stem from father/son relationships gone awry, and by the end, only one is left standing.

Regarding the organization once again, there are four parts to the book, and each part naturally corresponds to one of the four characters. Each section, however, features a different narrator. It takes a little while to get used to since Tanzer doesnít include the name of the character thatís speaking, but through his clues in the narration and dialogue like name repetition, event recapping, and others, itís not as difficult as it may seem to become accustomed to, or even comfortable with, the style of delivery. Confusing at first, though? Yeah. Sure. Anyhow, the strength of Lucky Man is the characterization Ė hands down. Despite engaging in mundane activities such as school, work, etc., Gabe, Jake, Louie, and Sammy come alive via individual quirks, and when one after another kicks the proverbial bucket, thereís an actual sense of loss. Of course, as with any realistic coming-of-age novel, said characters are involved with booze, drugs, sex, and family problems galore. While not necessarily a realistic portrayal of every late teen out there, it surely encapsulates a lot of Ďem. One character in particular is fascinated with The Grateful Dead, and the drugs that accompany them, so the substance (ab)use isnít overblown or gratuitous.

Much of Lucky Man is believable, thankfully, although certain missteps detract from the overall package. The artwork is excellent, but the text isnít justified nor is there a table of contents. Also noticeable are the homonym problems from which the book suffers, as well as an occasional missing word or punctuation mark. Other issues that may irk some are the absence of quotation marks for dialogue, plus the fact that paragraphs arenít indented. Instead, a line break separates each while the first line is aligned to the left, similar to the text you see before you. A few comma splices here and there, too. Minor stuff.

All in all, Tanzer turns in a good read that does have its slow moments, but is on the whole a novel bursting with stunning characterization. Those who enjoyed Hillary Frankís Better Than Running at Night are encouraged to pick up Lucky Man for a glimpse into the male gender at that particular point in life. Either way, the latter is recommended.

Jason Jordan is many things. He is assistant editor and staff reviewer for this magazine. He was the host of the Bean Street Reading Series. He was an editor of The IUS Review. He has been a featured writer at the Tuesday Night Reading Series in Evansville, Indiana. His writing appears in The Edward Society and The2ndHand. He teaches college writing to college students. His book is called Powering the Devil's Circus and his website is located here. He is a writer.