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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.

We Make Mud, by Peter Markus

Dzanc Ebooks

We Make Mud, by Peter Markus

We make Mud Cover Final.jpg
We make Mud Cover Final.jpg

We Make Mud, by Peter Markus

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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.


“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. . . . 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

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

“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


Peter Markus is the author of a novel, Bob, or Man on Boat, as well as three books of short-short fiction, Good, BrotherThe Moon is a Lighthouse; and The Singing Fish. His fiction has appeared in recent issues of Black Warrior ReviewUnsaidDenver Quarterly, Puerto del SolChicago Review, and the New York Tyrant. He teaches classes in fiction writing at Eastern Michigan University and is the senior writer with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit.