May 9th, 2011 / 10:48 pm

“Intercourse with Resuscitated Wife” by Ben Marcus

I read Notable American Women before I read The Age of Wire and String, so despite my being somewhat familiar with Marcus and his interviews and his writing, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the kind of ‘language monsters’ he had packed into those 140 pages when I opened the book for the first time in the summer of 2006.

And although the book begins with a sort of prologue, or ‘argument,’ which describes the book as a ‘life project’ meant to catalogue the age of wire and string, I will always think of the opening sentence of “Intercourse with Resuscitated Wife” as the warning shot, a language bunch that reoriented my understanding of how a parcel of words might be arranged in unusual ways.

The dropped articles, the potential comma splice, the archaic tone, the oddity described by the text, all of these I might have seen before, but never in such a sustained and tightly controlled way as this, and not in a contemporary landscape. And furthermore, I hadn’t yet become aware of many of the precursors who made such a collection possible. So to read this first sentence was a bit shocking for me, but in a good way, and helped me take greater care in my reading and writing from then on.

Intercourse with resuscitated wife for particular number of days, superstitious act designed to insure a safe operation of household machinery.

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