Ben Tanzer, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go MineRecently I've read two books by authors who were at first mere colleagues in the scuffling-writer fraternity and then became acquaintances, and now I'm proud and pleased to call each of them a good friend. Bear this in mind as you read my thoughts on their books, as I will make no claim to objectivity or impartiality. But even despite my bias I think both books are well worth your time.
The first book is Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine, the sophomore novel by Ben Tanzer. Like his debut Lucky Man, this one is funny, sad, touching and very true-to-life. But while Ben's first book involved four male friends who despite spending countless hours together remain emotionally detached from each other, Most Likely... tells of two young couples who are similarly detached, often intentionally so, as they struggle to communicate and relate to each other. While Paul and Rhonda avoid connecting emotionally by having copious amounts of sex, the main characters Geoff and Jen have endless conversations on pop culture to avoid connecting - and also to avoid exposing themselves to potential hurt. (Both characters have been missing a parent from a young age, a common formative experience that clearly scars their later relationships as adults.) Geoff and Jen's lack of communication causes a silly misunderstanding which threatens to wreck their promising but tentative relationship, and as the unspoken tension rises between them the reader sees the two could easily go either way, together or apart, and the story sensibly concludes with Geoff and Jen searching within themselves for what they really want out of life.
Ben draws his scenes very nicely, perfectly capturing the way guys talk (often crudely and callously) when they're together, which leads me to assume (since I’m not privy to the feminine realm) that his girl talk is similarly accurate as well. He has a great ear for language as well as an earthy humor that helps him recognize and gently pass along the human foibles of his characters. The scenes of Geoff shooting pool with his dad are also sharply written, showing two man-children (sometimes warm and close, sometimes silent and distant) who share both the love of the game and the emotional hurt of their family life.
Fans of Nick Hornby (whom Ben admires, as I do as well) and particularly High Fidelity will definitely enjoy this book, which has many echoes and parallels to that earlier novel. Most Likely... is another winner from Ben Tanzer, and I'm glad to have lived inside his characters' lives for a little while.
(Shameless promotion: Most Likely... is the debut release from the local indie Orange Alert Press, which is ably manned by the tireless Jason Behrends of What To Wear During an Orange Alert? blog semi-fame. During the month of November, Orange Alert is offering free shipping on all purchases of the book, as well as other free goodies. (Ask really nicely, and Jason might just send you the Where Were You in 92? mix CD that he put together of tunes from that era that the book's characters might very well have been listening to as the narrative took place.) Purchase info is here. Tell 'em Pete sent you.)
Many thanks for the kind words sir, most appreciated.
Posted by: Ben Tanzer at Nov 6, 2008 12:27:20 PM