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Ben Tanzer


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Website: This Blog Will Change Your Life

Ben Tanzer lives in Chicago and is author of the novels Lucky Man and Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine. He is a keen blogger and also edits This Zine Will Change Your Life.

Short Story Collections

Repetition Patterns
CCLaP, 2008 (EBook)

Reviewed by Pauline Masurel

 Interview with Ben Tanzer

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Ben Tanzer: It depends how you define this. When I decided to start writing these stories, I had a group of them I wanted to work on and probably wrote all of them in my head in about 10 minutes. On paper though, the original group of the mostly completed stories that this collection was drawn from were written over maybe three months. There were additional rounds of edits and discussions with various editors after that however, and the stories Repetition Patterns and The Gift were written separately, but just seemed to hang with the rest.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

BT: Yes, I was being very grandiose and was inspired by collections like Drown or What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, When The Messenger is Hot, The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake and The Bridegroom, all of which feel interconnected to me in terms of time and place even if that is not exactly the case and even if we all know that my stories don’t compare to the ones being referenced here.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

BT: It’s funny, I had the group of pieces I had written, and I had an order in mind, and then Jason Pettus from CCLaP got excited about publishing them, but still threw some out and re-arranged the order as he saw fit. I just sort deferred all that to him, which may say something about my desperation to be published. That said my understanding is that he draws on a Magic 8 Ball to make these kinds of decisions. Well, that and peyote.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

BT:  I wish I had a really smart answer for you. I just wish I was smart. But to me, a story, is something that feels like it could almost be true, and maybe is, about people you sort of know, or maybe have heard of, doing something remotely familiar, and yet still somehow finds a way to kick in you the stomach or head and makes you laugh like hell, cry like crazy or curl into fetal position, sometimes all at once.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

BT:  President Obama. Jim Carroll. Patrick Ewing. And Diane Lane, of course. But outside of them, not so much, which would have driven my dad crazy. He was a painter and when I was just getting started he said you have to carve out a niche if you’re going to have any kind of audience. But I haven't, I write whatever comes to mind and whatever entertains me and I assume that if it's interesting to me it has to be interesting to someone else. Well, besides my mom and my wife that is.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

BT:Why, would you do that? That, and, do you happen to know anyone who works at Random House and has a jones for obscure short story writers?

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

BT: What’s great about this question, is that CCLaP released Repetition Patterns as a Radiohead-style, pay what you want, even nothing, download, and so people don't have to pay anything, but have been doing so anyway. So, how do I feel about that? It's great, really humbling, and very cool, though the fact that anyone even wants to read the collection, much less anything I write, is endlessly cool to me in and of itself. That said, Jason still owes me my share of the profits thus far and I need it. Badly. Have you seen him?

TSR: What are you working on now?

BT: This is sort of neat, I think, but we did a virtual blog tour for the collection and as I answered questions about the collection and wrote about it, I got a series of ideas for new stories I wanted to write, so I am currently working on a new group of interrelated pieces inspired and connected to that first group. I also have a collection of humor pieces that is going to be part of a larger collection of short story writers' collections, that's a lot of collection, coming out from Achilles Chapbook Press, and I am beginning to shop my new novel around as well. Wow, that sounds really pompous. Please say you misquoted me here. Thanks. Still, this has been a really rich stretch for me, and while I know I need to cut back on the Meth, I am trying to roll with it for now.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

BTI have been reading some really good stuff. Stories by Scott McClanahan, which I just totally consumed like a bowl of Cherry Garcia, yogurt of course; The National Virginity Pledge by Barry Graham, I saw him do this reading and as he did his tacos and prostitute thing I just got a big man-crush on him; and You Must Be This Happy to Enter by Elizabeth Crane, great writer, super cool chick. I would add, and I know it's cheating, sorry, but just before I read these collections, I also read The Love Book by Ken Wohlrob, and I especially wanted to reference him and this collection, because he's writing not so short, short stories, more like 25-30 page stories, which you don't see much, and he does a quite good job of it.