The Age of Wire and String

by Ben Marcus

The Age of Wire and StringAlfred A. Knopf, 1995
Dalkey Archive Press, 1997

In The Age of Wire and String, hailed by Robert Coover as “the most audacious literary debut in decades,” 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.


“The most audacious literary debut in decades — witty, 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.” — Robert Coover

“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.” — Steven Poole, Times Literary Supplement

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

“Utterly wonderful, wonderful and beautiful. A world appears made of birds, dogs, odd bits of the Self, and ancient impressions of the very first things — Father and Mother, strange foods, a storm in the sky outside — all the elements of ordinary life systematically recombined to give substance to feeling and sensation, our deepest and most hidden knowledge of home.” — Donald Antrim

“In his entirely self-generated possible world, Ben Marcus immolates American notions about family, culture, and the domestic drama, and asks questions later. What remains in the epicenter of the conflagration are fragile, longing, and funny ruminations on the secret lives of objects and environments — written in some of the most breathtaking prose I’ve encountered lately.” — Rick Moody

“This book is a coolly lyrical, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, pseudo-scientific description of the Earth and the life of its various populations — as though Marcus were a sociologist describing the world in which everything is wired to everything else. . . . The Age of Wire and String anticipates a career devoted to intelligent exploration of major themes.” — Kelly Cherry, Chicago Tribune

“Simply put, The Age of Wire and String defies all the literary traditions we hold dear, more so than any other novel in recent memory. . . . [It] is raw ether, a work of literary chemistry that will soften your brain and sharpen your senses.” — Weekly Alibi

“Don’t walk into this world expecting to know which way is up; just sit back and enjoy the view from a completely new perspective.” — Details

“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 and the linguistic structures which give it substance. . . . In a book industry increasingly dominated by convention and the next sure thing, we can only hope that writers who dare to explore this inner vision will continue to find an audience.” — Tucson Weekly

“His stories, a series of interlocking definitions of strange new objects and principles, are a mix of gothic gargoyles and glassy ultra-modern surfaces, whether he’s describing an automobile from the ground up, or a nap in front of the TV with the family dog.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch