The blank page, always a canvas with vocabulary a pallet and creativity the brush, is a daunting image; it is there though, hanging in the balance like a friendship on a tightrope. It is what can be done with such a task that matters the most. And Ben Tanzer emphatically delivers with an unapologetic stroke in his latest collection Sex and Death.
These nine stories serve as an exploration of human urges in order to aggrandize the infidelity in the point of view of the unjust. Is it wrong to give into sensationalism? Tanzer thoughtfully gives us nine stories to imply that not only is it okay, but that it's actually quite entertaining. In the story "Taking Flight," he weaves back and forth through the romanticism of the unknown by symbolically deriding the very essence of the mundane (Facebook). From a poetical perspective, and in the limited point of view of a wondering woman, he presents a counteractive stance to the monotony of relationships by being given the chance to peek into this mysterious world of possibility with just the right click of the mouse.
Almost all of these tales invoke emotional turmoil brought about through hormonal frustrations and the consequences that happen when we follow the wrong voice of consciousness. It is a treat when one becomes introduced to a writer as honest as Tanzer. His voice comes across as a sympathetic countenance of lascivious misdeeds.
One story stands out in particular in response to such consequences and that is the Bon Jovi inspired "Dead or Alive." From the opening paragraph to the final sentence, Tanzer draws parallelism between the Jersey rocker and the adolescent naiveté each person must experience before they officially come of age, a beautiful vignette of a platonic friendship walking along a thin hormonal line of shame. Tanzer takes the only real "cool" song from Bon Jovi's never ending songbook and provocatively depicts the foolishness of teenage greed over the importance of a meaningful childhood friendship.
Sex and Death is a short read, but what it lacks in pages, it undoubtedly makes up for in emotional profundities. This is not some arthouse troubadour trying to reinvent the wheel on provocative storytelling. With Sex and Death, Ben Tanzer is a writer rightfully taking his place upon the literary shelves.