12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2000
The "age of wire and string" initially strikes the reader as a wholly impenetrable onslaught. Words are detached from their conventional meanings, syntax is choppy and frequently highly ambiguous, and it is often difficult to discern quite what the subject of each chapter (or prose poem, of sorts) might be. However, perseverence does reap benefits. It soon becomes clear that, although to a great extent Marcus' apparent purpose is at least initially to disorientate the reader, the new meanings of his words do seem to have fairly fixed meanings. That is to say, they tend always to be used in similar ways with other similarly dislocated words, such that "Thompson" comes to denote some sort of godhead, "weather" a threat, a fear of violence or of exposure, and "the family" a subterranean refugee race.
Once these initial realisations are made, the import of the book becomes clearer. The peculiar style (a kind of hallucinatory collage of National Geographic articles, encyclopaedia entries and users manuals), the strangely brutal combination of spurious objectivity and occasional shocking instances where the reader is addressed directly, or an entry is written in the first person, and the stuttering nature of the book stemming from its series of incredibly short bulletins, makes a kind of sense. Indeed, the reader becomes more able to appreciate the humour and pathos of the book's concerns.
Its impact comes from the relationship between the aquired meanings of his words and the consequently alien landscape that they portray, and their conventional meanings which seem to denote some horrible family tragedy, possibly revolving around the narrator's brother, Jason Marcus.
The main problem with the book in my view is that it seems to rely too heavily on this one dynamic; the tension between invented language and the conventional usage of words. For most of the course of the books length the reader's interest is sustained by the slow revelation of the the book's logic. However, even despite later attempts to vary the formula, the idea's seem overworked, and the format repetetive. This is not to say that the book does not have considerable value, and it is heartening to see that there are till writers prepared to push the envelope, and publishers willing to support them. Not a masterpiece then, but a fascinating American curiosity. I look forward to Marcus' next work with high hopes.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 July 2007
The use of constraint and utter economy to produce intense feelings of sadness, triumph, awe and love in the reader. One of the best books I've ever read, so there...
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2001
I stumbled upon this book whilst rummaging through the back street shops in Richmond. The title struck me first as strange, although after a quick flick through before purchase I became aware that this was not the strangest thing about this book. Ben Marcus plunges you into an intricate description of society through the eyes of an almost clinical observer. Although the emotion drips from the page interspersed with random punctuation, the tone remains cold and detatched, something that keeps you alert to the images he is portraying. He never allows the reader to become too involved in the effect of the words, this allows a liberating and quite unique read. I found the book useful for inspiration. As a theatre director I often need to verbalise the images I have in my head, which are quite often as bizzare as Mr Marcus'. His form and language, although almost alien, commuincated more than conventional prose, it was magical. Ben Marcus has created his own language, his purpose - to create an image of society in the future - although this is never stated in the book. He leaves the interpretation of this book up to the reader. This is only my reading others will find new and exciting versions when they read this book. In that sense the work becomes like theatre. No two readings will be the same. I recommend this book to anyone looking for words, looking for a way to communicate ideas and passions that they feel restrained by. Go forth and be inspired!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2014
This book kind of reads like someone with a severe mental illness attempting to communicate their delusions in a completely lucid manner. It has its own logic which carries it along, there is nothing else out there really like this book to which you can reference it. This of itself would make the work interesting and noteworthy. The fact that such a strange, avant-garde piece is written with painstaking precision and moments of dreadful, odd beauty make it a compelling masterpiece.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2012
Don't get me wrong - the American avant garde is a wonderful thing; I'm just not sure these verbal constructs (to call them prose poems would be to do them too much honour) cut the mustard. They get a sympathetic hearing from agoraphobic Donkeye on US Amazon - but he hasn't posted a review since November 2002. Sci-po? (rather than scifi?)