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The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus

The Age of Wire and String (1995)

by Ben Marcus

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3691343,228 (3.67)22



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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I have a lot to say, but generally I write short reviews...

First of all, I really like the essay Marcus wrote for Harper's about why experimental and difficult novels are important.
I read it after looking up what the heck I was reading, somewhere in the middle of this book.
I didn't find anything useful out there, maybe this:
"The Age of Wire and String" shows us what we don't see. An unspoken story, apparently autobiographical, pushes in against the words we are given to read--a story of a father, a mother, a brother, possibly even a Midwestern farm, where "members move within high stalks of grass--cutting, threshing, sifting, speaking."
Because we never look at this family directly, it remains intact, even as we desire to know more about it. The result, for the reader, is a certain sadness, the sadness of nostalgia.

If you haven't had a look-see into this book, then you won't really know what that all means. Essentially, this book is very experimental. It seems like he took ordinary words, and has replaced their meanings with other meanings...making its deciphering nearly impossible. Which is ok. Because the simple act of reading these familiar words in a very unfamiliar way is fun and exciting and discomforting. Plus, as that review suggests, you do still somehow get the sense, just outside your line of vision, of some kind of meaning, or some kind of ...importance. A dead brother? A math-professor father... Is this in the future? Is the narrator insane? Or part of a cult? OR! Does this book take place in a dystopian future, wherein the narrator is part of a cult...and has lost his mind.

Solved it. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
It’s entirely possible that I am wrong about all of this.

The Age of Wire and String presents as a response in eight sections to an initial “argument” that sets the conditions of the piece. The sections have headings like “Sleep” or “Food” or “Weather”. Each has a ‘Terms’ section closing it off which appears to give definitions for words or phrases. But both individually and collective what we have here is a nonsense. Not in the frivolous fun sense of nonsense. Rather this is non-sense. None of these sentences, despite cohering to semantic rules, in fact makes any sense.

Initially you might think that Marcus has written something in an obscure code. If only you could work it out, then it would all make sense. I don’t think that is the case. On the other hand it isn’t gibberish. Unlike gibberish, this always has the semblance of sense. That must very hard to do. Imagine writing 140 pages that is utter nonsense but never devolves into gibberish or slides into frivolous sense-based nonsense. It must take immense effort. But then your next question is bound to be, “Why?”

Why indeed.

I suppose on some level this could be taken as a form of concrete poetry or sound poetry. That’s about the best option I have come up with. But I don’t really believe it. And so I’m left with thinking this is merely an exercise, remarkable perhaps in its execution, but with no further meaning. And that just doesn’t do it for me.

Of course, as noted, it’s entirely possible that I am wrong about all of this. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Mar 27, 2016 |
Ben Marcus employs an experimental playfulness in taking everyday language and subverting it to find new meanings. This is a surreal book, but there is a thread there to follow. In the book, Marcus has imagined a parallel existence and supplied a book of obscure rules and regulations for the inhabitants to follow. It’s all nonsense, but I had fun trying to follow it.

What I liked about this book was that I had to be willing to catch hold of something different and see where it took me. Kind of the literary equivalent of abstract art. Marcus might have one thing in mind as he writes, but it’s so abstract that the reader might imagine something completely different in order to make their own sense of it. ( )
  missizicks | Jan 12, 2016 |
Intriguingly distanced, confusing and wild. The idea and artistic vision greatly outweigh the actual book itself. Definitely more weird than interesting, the sort of book that promises more potential than it actually delivers. A slew of beautiful passages that amount to a vaguely familiar, and ultimately uneventful, whole. The sort of writing that is more interested in effect than impact. I'm certain some people would love it.

I appreciate the attempt, enjoy the words, and still find myself bored. Destined cult classic I'm sure, Martian revivalism, like a Burroughs world without the intriguing characters and striking scenes. Lost interest and stopped reading with 40 pages left. ( )
  blanderson | Mar 4, 2014 |
I need to find a bird that has eaten white air to give me light to write my review. No need for wire and string to cover my mouth since communication will be over laptop composed of rice and blood. If I whirl the dead leg of forgotten brother, perhaps enough song will emerge to allow formative sentences to escape.

Did I like this book. No, I loved it with all my skin and hair (more skin than hair, in my case as well as Marcus', I presume.) It will take another few readings to fully come to something of an understanding. What I have now is a brief glimpse, a squint into Marcus' first world. I could live in this book. If I didn't have to live in another. ( )
6 vote beelzebubba | Dec 16, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679426604, Hardcover)

A debut collection of short stories by Ben Marcus that draw on the familiar everyday world of food, the weather, shelter, and more, all radically altered in terms of their relationship to one another and the reader. A first collection.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:35 -0400)

"In The Age of Wire and String Ben Marcus welds together a new reality from the scrapheap of the past. Dogs, birds, horses, automobiles and the weather are some of the recycled elements in Marcus's first collection - part fiction, part handbook - as familiar objects take on markedly unfamiliar meanings. Gradually, this makeshift world, in its defiance of the laws of physics and language, finds a foundation in its own implausibility, as Marcus produces new feelings and sensations - both comic and disturbing - in the definitive guide to an unpredictable yet exhilarating plane of existence" -- Provided by the publisher.… (more)

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