Marcus, Ben. “Notes from the Fog: Stories”, Vintage Contemporaries Paperback, 2019.
The Body, Sex, Death, Lust and Shame and All Of Human Folly
Ben Marcus, in this collection of short stories, “Notes from the Fog”, combines sharp brilliant literary prose, clever wit, and surreal ideas to struggle with “sex and death, lust and shame, the indignities of the body, and the full parade of human folly.” Each story is strange or better put, “quietly eerie with electric characters.”
When reviewing a collection of short stories, I always hesitate as to whether to look at the book as a whole or go through it and write about each story but that was not a real problem here because all of the stores are dystopian visions of alienation in a modern world. For example, we have a hapless, corporate drone finding love after being disfigured from testing his employer’s newest nutrition supplement; a father beginning to suspect that what was his son’s precocity has now become sinister; and two architects in a failing marriage thinking about the ethics of artificially inciting emotion as they construct a memorial to a terrorist attack. While the ideas are important, the stories are character propelled and in all of them exhibit Marcus’s compassion, imagination, and mordant humor. As one who relishes existential catastrophes, I had a great time with this book (especially laughing at and about things that probably should not be funny. The plots are both thrilling and disturbing but above all else, disquieting. Marcus imagines a future that is plausible, but different enough for us to understand that the ramifications of certain fates are becoming part of our current world.
Nightmarish scenarios are relaxed through the use of wit as each story is written in “lacerating prose threaded together by sentences that, like a marionette’s strings, bring the world to full, expansive life. This is a bracing, forceful collection.”
“Notes from the Fog” is packed with fascinating ideas and observations. Marcus makes his stories possess a disquietude by opening our psyches and exposing our secret fears and feelings, the ones we find it impossible to explain. Marcus finds those words and does so with style and elegant prose. We wince or laugh and experience a poke at contemporary life. The stories are fresh and original , dark and funny; a total reading experience.