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We Make Mud, by Peter Markus

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We Make Mud, by Peter Markus


We Make Mud, by Peter Markus


Publication Date: October 11, 2011
Paperback: 145 pages
ISBN: 978-1-982631-83-6
Trim: 8.4 x 5.4


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The brothers in Peter Markus's We Make Mud can't understand why cars drive through their dirty river town without stopping, why the people in those cars don't stop and stay. After all, there is a muddy river there, and in and around that muddy river there are fish to be fished for—fish, and a father who walks on water, and a house with a back of the yard telephone pole covered with the chopped off heads of fish, not to mention a girl that the brothers make out of mud, not to mention the brothers themselves, the many different brothers these brothers have become. In these fifty-three mythically-charged stories, Markus repeatedly riffs on and rearranges the elements of this dirty river town with this dirty river running through it, speaking its stories, its reinvented hauntings, with an entrancing cant, a new American language unlike that of any other writer, its vocabulary constrained but still big enough to make a world, to make any number of worlds revealing what lies hidden within the rituals of our own families, the landmarks of our homes.


“Markus has found, in mud, his monumental subject and, in the minute changes he rings on it, makes an incremental music that–hypnotic—transfixes us. We stand, as does he, in awe of the creation myths that we, as children, devise—for joy and as a stay against the darkness. In the slow accrual of his two narrators’ discoveries (mundane and earth-shattering, related by a twin, scarcely divisible intelligence), Markus builds a kind of novel from the humblest of materials–transfiguring them to make us a gift, again, of how it was to have been a child: a life newly formed and breathless with the rapture of being. He will remind some of Saroyan or the Thornton Wilde of Our Town, but in their—by turns, ecstatic and rueful–affect only; for Markus is an original. His art is one that embraces, affirms much; denies only that which offends the mind’s integrity and the heart’s sure knowledge.” —Norman Lock, author of Grim Tales


"Markus’s lexicon hinges on the juxtaposition of concrete words (fish, tree, mud) with more abstract titles (mother, father, brothers). The result is fascinating: supposedly concrete objects become malleable upon closer inspection, and the reader discovers that letters fall away upon repetition. This isn’t a literary parlor trick: the experimentation affects the content, creating a dizzying world where violence begets rebirth." —Rain Taxi

"We Make Mud is a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces that resemble one another, but somehow come together through its themes to form a single picture. Each story could be taken separate and leave the reader with no fewer questions about life and death, but the collection's success comes from each piece contributing to the whole. And putting it together requires a slow, meditative hand that is not unlike a hike through the muddy riverbanks the boys inhabit, and patient readers will leave it considerably less dirty and more enlightened because of it." —Diagram

"Peter Markus is a writer attuned to the power of language, like the mystics who once believed the universe was created with a word and that, just by naming something, it could be pulled into being. Or like a child just learning the power of language to evoke emotion or recreate the world. The brothers who narrate these stories of pulling dirty fish from the dirty river running through the middle of their dirty river town, chopping off their heads and nailing them to the crosoted telephone pole in the yard behind their house, revel in the words to describe the world they create for themselves nearly as much as they do the world itself. The river, the sky, guitars that become fish--Peter Markus builds We Make Mud from small elements such as these, simple stories with power that emerges slowly through repetition, retelling, and permutation." American Book Review


"Very little occurs in a Peter Markus story that does not involve a fish, mud, a brother, and, usually, a concluding act of brutality. Indeed, Markus's language is primal, even primitive, but his sentence structure is among the most perplexing and, ultimately, fascinating I have ever encountered. Markus serves up sentence after sentence of startling musicality. These aren't stories in any traditional sense; they are works of a prose stylist with the ear of a poet." —Peter Conners,American Book Review

"If it's not clear by now, Markus's use of English is quite unique. In a way it's not really English at all, or not the English we've learned to be comfortable with. It is instead a sort of ritual speech, an almost religious invocation in which words themselves, through repetition, acquire a magic or power that in this case revives the simpler, blunter world of childhood. In that sense, things are less depicted or mimetically represented than they are invoked. In theoretical terms, this is what Gilles Deleuze calls minor literature, a major language put to a minor usage. With all the possibilities of standard Englishopen to him, Markus opts instead for something slightly uncanny, and does so by refusal. By limiting his palette, by beating the drum of the same words over and over again, and by a deliberate paucity he transforms ordinary language into extraordinary ritual." —Brian Evenson, from the essay “On Peter Markus,” from Unsaid 3