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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

Bob, or Man on Boat, by Peter Markus

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Bob, or Man on Boat, by Peter Markus


Bob, or Man on Boat, by Peter Markus

10.00 13.95

Publication Date: June 1, 2008
Paperback: 142 pages
ISBN: 978-0-979312-33-5
Trim: 8.4 x 5.8


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"Markus has a remarkable ability to strip life down to its basics, to the point where the metaphors we manufacture as the looking-glass for our existence end up standing in for existence itself. Fish, mud, night and river come to stand in place of family connections as fathers and sons, by giving themselves to fishing, give themselves over to a lone search and to loss."—Brian Evenson 

"With spare but magical language, Peter Markus weaves a tale with the currents of a river, a family saga that spins through both the depths and the shallows. In Bob, or Man on Boat, recollections rise from the muddy river bed to be illuminated by starshine on the surface, only to be lost once more in the river mists that mingle with the wind-scattered ashes of a dead man, and finally, to sink again to the bottom. Like the voice of the narrator, Markus uses words that "skip across the surface like a stone", but take the reader to the depths of longing and loss, myth and memory." —Pamela Ryder 

"In Bob, or Man on Boat, Peter Markus creates an obsessive (and obsessively rendered) song about a man, a boat, and a fish—a contemporary retelling of Moby Dick." — Michael Kimball 

"Peter Markus, who wrote of brotherhood with rare wisdom and purity of style in the linked stories of The Singing Fish, now trains his extraordinary powers on the heartaching relationship between fathers and sons with even more enchanting results. Bob, or Man on Boat is a marvel of thrillingly limpid prose—a profound and unforgettable first novel." —Gary Lutz 

"In an unforeseeable counterpoint to Heraclitus’ dictum 'No man steps in the same river twice', Peter Markus offers the opposite wisdom: the river is always the same river, and we who step in it become the river, become the same. Only an innocent eye can see the river so. Only an innocent eye can see that in its muddy depths the river hides a secret whose nature is to be continually revealed. Here, in this river-world, where every character with a name is named Bob, where men turn into fish, where fish turn into men, where magic works darkly in the mud, where boys turn into their fathers, where dreams reveal the world, where the stars swim in the sky’s river, where hands are covered in fish scales, where the river sings to us of our origins and of our ends, to see is to baptize the mind in the river. Markus’ world is not old because it never ceased living in wonder. It is a mythic world and ever-new. When Markus sings his voice is chorus. Melville’s Ahab is in there. So is Hawthorne. So are the Brothers Grimm. So are Faulkner and Jung. But those voices return to, and harmonize with, some deeper, more sonorous Anonymity, that bodiless voice which utters every story, whose voice is itself a river, and who chooses, among countless thousands, one humble mouth to sing its story through. That voice is spoken for us by Peter Markus. And this novel is one of those songs." —Dan Beachy-Quick 

"Peter Markus gives himself a handful of humble words and, with them, makes a mesmeric song, a drug you can’t wait to slip into. His Bob—son of a hot metal man, mud man, dirty rat—beguiles the fish, the stars. I bet he’ll beguile you, too." —Noy Holland


"Peter Markus is obsessed with a few words: brother, river, mud, lighthouse, fish, moon and star. From this sacred vocabulary springs a body of work—three books of stories and now a novel—that is sometimes confounding, often beautiful, starkly spare and totally unique. Bob, or Man on Boat is an authentically avant-garde work, refreshingly absent of any trace of pretension or irony. It is pure incantation and fable: prayer by any other name." Paste Magazine

"Bob, or Man on Boat follows Markus' collections of short fiction:Good, Brother; The Moon is a Lighthouse; and The Singing Fish. The new novel uses the same sparse, poetic, almost primitive style that distinguishes much of Markus' earlier work. But, for the first time, it demonstrates his ability to prolong the dream, and to sustain the mythic song till the last note is sung." The Detroit Metro Times

"Though it is a novel that can be finished in one evening’s read, Bob, or Man on Boat is the kind of work that moors in your head and, like Bob on his river, never leaves. Markus makes myth so well that it seems like child’s play, like a humming game, but those who’ve tried to write so sparsely know that these kinds of creation gifts only come innate. If it is truly the inimitable that lasts forever, consider Markus going down with the ship." NewPages

"In this timeless tale of big fish eating smaller fish and fathers consuming sons, the narrator directly addresses the reader. He instructs, 'Look at Bob,' explains, 'You know this. I've told you this,' and later clarifies his use of' we': 'When I say we I mean this: me and you and the river and the fish. Us.' There is a sense that the reader is part of this story, part of this tale of generations and searching. The reader is Bob. The reader is a fish."  Bookslut

"One of literature's gifts is that it can refresh language for us. In Peter Markus's Bob, or Man on Boat, language is not only refreshed, it is utterly remade." --The Brooklyn Rail