I’m beginning to think Ben Tanzer is writing a fictional biography of himself through his novels. If you read them chronologically: Lucky Man, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I Go Mine, You Can Make Him Like You (which I had the good fortune to publish), and most recently the novella, My Father’s House, you will find a loose timeline of one man’s life (ignoring, of course, that along the way the characters names change, and some of the dates don’t arrive chronologically). And this isn’t necessarily important in reading Tanzer’s work, it’s just one of the many things that came to mind while reading My Father’s House, and realizing that more than just about any other writer I’ve ever read that Tanzer has a way of being so intimate with his fiction that you feel like you know the people, that you are talking with them face to face, that their pain is your pain.
I consider myself lucky to have had a small role in the glorious publication history Tanzer continues to compile. More than that I consider myself lucky to be able to call him a friend. To say that My Father’s House effected me emotionally would be an injustice. My Father’s House wounded me as if I were the main character who is losing his father. It spoke to me as if it were my own inner dialogue of dealing with my issues regarding my inherent, perhaps bred, need to be tough. Not for other people but for myself. That to let down those guards I have built up could create a spiraling to an unquantifiable extent.
And sure, there are differences from Tanzer’s other work. My Father’s House is even more personal, more intimate. Tanzer uses more dialogue to express the inner monologues of his protagonist, and while there were moments where the unforgiving editor in me thought the dialogue might be too much monologuing in the moment for a character I was never unaffected by what the character was saying. Which maybe makes me more compartmentalizing than Tanzer’s anti-hero. And how do I feel about that?
The bottom line is this: Tanzer is going somewhere with his novels. And I don’t mean that in a “gee, that kid is really going somewhere” way, though that is likely very true as well. But Tanzer is taking a journey in his novels. Whether consciously or not. With My Father’s House he has reached the point in this fictional biography where he decides that he must follow his ache to be a writer. Four novels in, one can only wonder what kind of masterpiece that means Tanzer has waiting in the wings of his pen.
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.