Ben Tanzer. Curbside Splendor Publishing, $14.95 paperback (200p) ISBN: 978-0988480469
Tanzer’s disarming and addictive prose rules the day in this heartwarming collection of essays about fatherhood. Always seeking sleep yet always alert and being a father of two boys (one of whom, as a child, “had only one adult tooth come in, and it was enormous and weird, and awesome to behold when he laughed.”) Tanzer keeps watch so the rest of us can chill. Whether his senses are being pummeled by a colicky baby, or he’s trying to understand why a child is more concerned with the reason for half seasons of Glee than with the concept of individuality, or whether he’s giving himself a timeout to quell some inner rage with some Rage Against the Machine and shadowboxing—or with a run: “Because even more than writing, or escaping into a book, when the world is spinning just a little too much beyond what I can control or make sense of, it is running that usually allows me to get by.”—Tanzer’s desire to share his life and to impart his wisdom is unflappable. Pop culture references abound, parenting insights are gleaned from an episode of Mad Men, and though certain references might be lost on some readers it won’t matter: It’s Tanzer’s charm that shines through and carries the load. There are standout passages throughout this outstanding collection, and this particular passage about 9/11 and how life doesn’t stop really stood out to this reader: “And yet, it has barely been 48 hours. Unbelievable maybe, but true. Only 48 hours since the Towers fell and planes dropped from the sky, and the world in so many ways, big, small, and otherwise, has gone on. People are at work. The highways are crowded. Starbucks everywhere are making coffee. And as we whip along the highway, blue skies above, lazy clouds lolling about, playfully really, even the leaves are starting to change.” Beneath this collection’s levity, and also interspersed with it, are powerful moments that demonstrate a true ease of emotion when it comes to a parent connecting with a child or, as is often the case here, an author with a reader. Both yielding and relentless, the writing itself reflects the core lessons offered within the pages, that life does indeed go on and control is but an illusion. (March 2014)
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Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel FREIGHT. Visit his website at melbosworth.com