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Repetition Patterns

Ben Tanzer

" I said that he never taught me anything, but that’s not true. He taught me how easy it can be not to give a shit. And in this, he really has left me something I legitimately treasure.…"

Reviewed by Pauline Masurel

There are eight stories in this collection, stories in which things are falling apart, often repeatedly. Many are first person narratives, so we're right in there with the small town community, school class, or drinking in Thirsty's bar, seeing events unfold from the point of view of an insider. There are a lot of touchingly drawn parent and child relationships in these stories, but there are couples and singletons too. For the most part they are character-driven tales, rich in dialogue. Typically, we meet an interesting individual, or a few of them, they get neatly sketched and then they begin to interact. Before you know it a story is underway in the unfolding. Perhaps this is one of the repetition patterns of the title. 

Tanzer's pen portraits of people are one of the joys of this book. In The Gift, Fern is a woman who revels in soundscapes. 

"Fern liked motorcycle boots, black and scuffed, and she liked to wear them with long flowing skirts. She liked her brown hair short, with a slight part to the side, a few spare tendrils sneaking out behind her ears. She rarely wore makeup, but liked to pluck her eyebrows, the better for raising them Belushi-style when feigning surprise, awe, or self-mockery. She liked Hello Kitty. And the band Cake. She liked the movie Mermaids so much she saw it seven times.”

There are plenty of other curiously obsessive characters in this collection. There's George the video game hero, Billy who's dedicated to the pursuit of Amy's boobs, and the music teacher who watches his female students "like a panhandler staring through the window of a restaurant at a hot, open-faced turkey sandwich." 

Some of these stories might seem inconsequential. They're about tiny happenings or changes. People long for something, they grow up or move away. But the detail is beguiling, and often something dark or unusual is happening behind closed doors – the older sister who plays breathing games with the baby, the father who insists on giving visiting children a goodnight kiss, or the husband who sleeps with all of his neighbors' wives. 

I haven't so far mentioned the format of the collection. It has been published as an electronic download in .pdf format and the reader can name their own price. So you have literally nothing to lose by downloading this book and giving it a try. And you can do as I have done, download a copy for free and then go back and pay for it if you've enjoyed reading it. 

This book would only be forty A4 pages long if you chose to print it out but I found the collection ideal to read on my new netbook and never bothered to produce a paper copy. My main observation about this e-format production is that I was disappointed to find quite a number of quirky typos scattered throughout the book, or at least there were as it appeared on my screen. Given how easy it is to revise an electronic format, I'm surprised that this hadn't been corrected, particularly as a number of them appear in the first few pages. But push past this minor distraction and enjoy the book for all that it's worth to you.

Read an excerpt from this collection in the BluePrint Review.

Download this short story collection as an EBook from CCLaP

 Pauline Masurel lives happily ever after. She has golden hair that sports a few strands of silver. The dirt beneath her fingernails matches that on her knees. Her story Song Without Words is published in the new InkerMen Press anthology, Loss, and more of her writings hang out at www.unfurling.net.

Pauline's other Short Reviews: Erin Pringle "The Floating Order"

Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"

Mark Budman, Tom Hazuka (eds) "You Have Time for This"

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities

Carson McCullers "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe"   

Jeffrey Eugenides (ed) "My Mistress' Sparrow is Dead"

 Kasia Boddy, Ali Smith, Sarah Wood (eds) "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"

Publisher: Chicago Center for Literature and Photograpy

Publication Date: 2008

Paperback/Hardback/EBook? EBook

First collection?Yes

Author bio: 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.

Read an interview with Ben Tanzer

Buy this book (used or new) from:

The Publisher's Website:CCLaP

And...don't forget your local booksellers and independent book shops! Visit  IndieBound.org to find an independent bookstore near you in the US

If you liked this book you might also like....

Jody Lisberger "Remember Love"

Jim Tomlinson "Nothing Like and Ocean"

What other reviewers thought:

Time Out Chicago


mud luscious