Book Review: Peter Markus’s THE FISH AND THE NOT FISH

I’ve been reading Peter Markus’s work for a few years now, ever since he came and read stories at Central Michigan University. I can’t say if it’s the same experience of watching a movie a dozen times or if this book is truly rendered different than the others, but there’s a totally new kind of magic I feel added to Markus’s already crazy arsenal of word-glitter and mud-slinging. Unknown

First of all, Markus has never compiled this many lengthy stories together before. At least not the same way — there’s a sequence, some longer individual stories, and and overarching connection tying everything together in what feels like an A to Z order and making a reading from cover to cover incredibly rewarding. The new largeness gives his regular pitches of phrasing and repetition room to really breathe and gather more context. The plot also has time to create different shapes than the past stories, though all the elements of fables and folk tales are still strong as hell. The book, during my reading of it, got me thinking about identity more than with his past work.

There’s a duality in everything in this book — as the title might suggest. Death and life are not just classically pitted against each other, but they blur and dance and throw things at each other. There’s a more intricate exchange. Labeling, like his past work, is important in Markus’s latest collection, but the introduction of more than just two or three characters makes it all the more complicated and meaningful, swapping ‘We’ for ‘I’ and making pronouns proper nouns. What it is to be an alive individual is dissected and blown to bits and it’s nothing short of beautiful.

The immaculate Dzanc Books has the title waiting.

Full disclosure: I’ve reviewed Peter’s books in the past and Threadcount, where I am an editor, published a piece of his in our first issue.

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