Ben Tanzer Website
Official Manx Media Website
Review of Tanzer's Lucky Man (2007)
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.
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
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
He teaches college writing to college students. His book is called
Powering the Devil's Circus and his website is located
He is a writer.