Ben Marcus is one of the most playful, irreverent and linguistically exciting novelists at work today. I inhaled Notable American Women when it came out, was bummed when he swooped in and ran Columbia’s MFA program a year after I graduated, and have combed through his new album, The Flame Alphabet, as if it were one of the last vessels brimming with human thought, discovered in some post-apocalyptic wasteland–so I was ebullient, no, floored when he selected something I wrote for his online fictional gallery, Smallwork.
“The Auto” is excerpted from a longer thing I’ve been working on, which may or may not work as a single, novelistic whole–and, like one third of that new thing, it’s written in Germanglish, narrated by a Swiss-French teen named Johan.
The Auto—how had she managed to obtain an Auto? She was thirteen Years, I about to turn eleven. The middle of Winterpause, late Januar. Thick Schnee blanketing the Hinterhof of the Chalet, the desolate Straßen. I remember for three Tagen it had snowed, and another substantial Schneesturm was predicted. Early that Morgan before we awoke, Opa hiked into the Stadt to go to the Metzger, the Bäckerei, the Bauernmarkt, leaving only me and Gertrudis, who was meant to be preparing for a Tag upon the Skigebiet. I forget where Vater and Mutter were, either their Honeymoon on Hawaii or Beirut visiting Mutter’s Broder my Onkel, the Spielzeughersteller. And I forget also if Gertrudis disappeared before Breakfast or after, only that while I was consuming Müsli here came Gertrudis outside, piloting an Auto through the Schnee, honking the Autohupe until I arrived at the Door, wearing only a Pullover and Winterkappe.