cover image The Age of Wire and String: Stories

The Age of Wire and String: Stories

Ben Marcus. Knopf Publishing Group, $21 (140pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42660-8

In these 41 fictions (most are only a page or two), Marcus guides us through the postmodern wreckage of our homes and social customs. Deformed structures call for deformed expressions; using a form pioneered by Gertrude Stein, the book's eight sections pull the everyday (``Food''; ``The House''; ``Persons'') through the looking-glass of language, coining new terms as necessary. The result is the combination of gorgeous, sensuous realism and disjointed action that has been coming together in the leading avant-garde journal Conjunctions, where Marcus is an editor. In these pages, which by turns read like a technical manual and like lyric poetry, one's wife and toaster can be connected on the same circuit, and ``only the lawns feeding upward afford the angels an exit.'' Marcus's clear eye for the suburban sublime allows his definitions--of the structures and categories we impose on ourselves, of the people in his life and of hidden ``natural'' phenomena--to resonate in a way that is much richer than, say, Douglas Coupland's inventories of pop culture. The shockingly abstract terms Marcus uses to describe our intimate selves (``the condition of corpse is achieved with a lotion, usually'') mock our attempts to understand and explain away our bodies and the things that happen to them. This debut collection may just succeed in sneaking prose-poetry to a wider, younger audience. (Nov.)