The Age of Wire and String: Stories

The Age of Wire and String: Stories

by Ben Marcus

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"A rare, genius-struck achievement . . . filled with great beauties, high themes, enormous sorrows."—Kirkus ReviewsSee more details below


"A rare, genius-struck achievement . . . filled with great beauties, high themes, enormous sorrows."—Kirkus Reviews

Editorial Reviews

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"A rare, genius-struck achievement... filled with great beauties, high themes, enormous sorrows."-Kirkus Reviews

Dalkey Archive Press

Times Literary Supplement
An extraordinary first novel. . . . The Age of Wire and String, a treasury of interconnected fables of violence and hope, stands out as an exhilarating work of literature.
Tucson Weekly
Marcus proves himself a renegade philosopher/writer who twists language until it bleeds new meaning, and in the process creates a truly audacious and wholly original view of life.
Dallas Morning News
Some things can be admired though not fully understood. . . . So it is with Ben Marcus Age of Wire and String. Here are stories so undeniably brilliant, so amazingly fresh, yet so strange.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
It's surreal, but not dada; fantastic, but not fantasy or sf; mysterious, but not a mystery; fiction, but almost totally lacking in characters, plot, or drama. It might be called "flash fiction" since most of the pieces are only a page or two, but unlike Barry Yourgrau's or Mark Amerika's "flashes," these are not complete unto themselves. The Age of Wire and String is a sort of metafictional parallel universe reconnecting elements of mass culture, personal experience, philosophy, law, and culture in obscure and mysterious ways. Over 40 snippets are categorized into sections on sleep, God, food, the house, animals, weather, persons, and society. Each section has its own glossary of terms, such as "CARL Name applied to food built from textiles, sticks, and rags. Implements used to aid ingestion are termed...the lens, the dial, the knob." This highly original work will appeal to ambitious readers who enjoy Joyce, Beckett, or other writers who confound our assumptions about language and perception. A potential cult classic; recommended for all medium to large academic and public libraries.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico

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Product Details

Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
American Literature (Dalkey Archive) Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

From Sleep: Intercourse with Resuscitated Wife: Intercourse with resuscitated wife for particular number of days, superstitious act designed to insure safe operation of household machinery. Electricity mourns the absence of the energy form (wife) within the household's walls by stalling its flow to the outlets. As such, an improvised friction needs to take the place of electricity, to goad the natural currents back to their proper levels. This is achieved with the dead wife. She must be found, revived, and then penetrated until heat fills the room, until the toaster is shooting bread onto the floor, until she is smiling beneath you with black teeth and grabbing your bottom. Then the vacuum rides by and no one is pushing it, it is on full steam. Days flip past in chunks of fake light, and the intercourse is placed in the back of the mind. But it is always there, that moving into a static-ridden corpse that once spoke familiar messages in the morning when the sun was new.
Snoring, Accidental Speech: Snoring, language disturbance caused by accidental sleeping, in which a person speaks in compressed syllables and bulleted syntax, often stacking several words over one another in a distemporal deliverance of a sentence. The snoring person can be stuffed with cool air to slow the delivery of its language, but perspiration froths at key points on the hips and back when artificial air is introduced, and thus the sleep becomes sketchy and riddled with noise. It is often best to cull the sleeper forth with apneic barks—sounds produced without air. The effect of the barks is to isolate each aspect of the snore sound by slowing down the delivery—riding the sleeper until the snore breaks into separate words. Decoders should sit on the bed and jostle the sleeper's stomach. This further dispatches the clusters that often form when the sleeper speaks all at once (snores). The decoder is then better able to decipher the word blocks. When analyzed, the messages are often simple. Pull me out, they say, the water has risen to the base of my neck.

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What People are saying about this

Donald Antrim
Utterly wonderful, wonderful and beautiful. A world appears made of birds, dogs, odd bits of the Self, and the ancient impressions of the very first thingsFather and Mother, strange foods, a storm in the sky outsideall the elements of ordinary life systematically recombined to give substance to feeling and sensation, our deepest and most hidden knowledge of home.
Robert Coover
The most audacious literary debut in decadeswitty, startlingly inventive, funny but fundamentally disturbing, language itself held together here by whimsical bits of wire and string. Ben Marcus is a one-of-a-kind stand-up phenom, a comic writer of power and originality. The Age of Wire and String marks the arrival of a unique new talent in American letters.

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