The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

thanksgiving reading: 1

vacation. Nice time to catch up on the reading. Even better when a bunch of cousins happily play with the boys--and seem to really like it!

Because of a game set of cousins, the boys had playmates almost constantly, which allowed me a bit of time to read. First up was Ben Marcus' THE AGE OF WIRE AND STRING, a novel foisted upon me by a writer friend when I was dismissing "realist writers" and complaining that not enough people were trying experimental stuff. Remind me not to do that again. THE AGE OF WIRE AND STRING is indescribable. It's written in a kind of nineteenth-century natural-history language, as if it were a series of small vignettes and lexicons of a strange world. It's not a novel, nor a short-story collection. Probably the best way to think of it would be as a Borges novel, or a Coover/Barthelme hybrid drained of all humor and life, but even that doesn't really describe the thing. It is strange and decentering, I will grant that. But it's also almost entirely antiseptic and alienating--not in the Borges way of making us think "hey, I'm watching a play!" but in a "wow, this thing is strange and unappealing and won't end." Well, that's not really true: it's short and a quick read, which is definitely a virtue in a book as humorless and lifeless as this. Interestingly, I think Marcus is quite talented, and his influences that are in evidence here (Borges, Coover, Barthelme, but also Beckett and Robbe-Grillet and even the Objectivist poets like George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky) are all people whom I admire. I'm interested in seeing what Marcus might do next, because this feels like an experiment or a tryout of a new technique.


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