You Can Make Him Like You

Ben Tanzer's story of self-obsessed Keith

Book review, Time In

Ben Tanzer
4/5

Enter Keith: a Chicago man pushing 40 and a self-proclaimed selfish idiot with an affinity to US indie rock band The Hold Steady, whose song shares this novel’s title. Between his job working on ‘marketing stuff for quasi-hipster corporations’ and dealing with hell-sent neighbours in his Gold Coast condo, Keith can’t control his constant fantasising about women. Early on, he bluntly admits: ‘I collect them in my head like I once collected baseball cards.’ Maybe his wayward desire wouldn’t pose such a problem if he weren’t married. Not to mention wife Liz’s ultimatum: either they have a baby or she’s gone forever.

In true Tanzer fashion, You Can Make Him Like You is littered with a barrage of pop-culture references. Told in a series of vignette-like chapters, the book chronicles the meltdown of a reluctant father. Readers are treated to Keith’s every thought, as his internal dialogue is often humorously interjected in conversations. Even when he’s on the verge of the big 4-0, our narrator faces a mountain of self-reflection and growing up before his child arrives. Had he not told us his age, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine him in his late twenties.

Compared to the protagonist, the supporting characters don’t get enough of the spotlight and consequently fail to develop into anything more than secondary figures in Keith’s shadow. But this coming-of-age story for late bloomers offers an erratic yet touching glimpse of marriage and fatherhood.

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