The Infernal Republic – Marshall Moore (Signal 8 Press)

To purchase go to Signal 8 Press

I’ve always admired short story writers who color outside
the lines. It’s also admirable in novelists but more difficult to pull off as
the length of a novel dictates firmer grounding. Short stories, however, can be
bite-sized bits of bizarre you can re-read if you find them particularly
toothsome or move on to the next morsel. That’s what makes Marshall Moore’s
latest smorgasbord, The Infernal Republic, so damn tasty.

From the two young women anxiously awaiting the suicide of a
jumper (“Urban Reef, or It’s Hard to Find a Friend in the City”) to the
motivational speaker held accountable for her crimes (“In Springtime, You Can
Hear the Swallows Screaming”) to the pull-apart boy who can’t stop trying to
kill himself (“Flesh, Blood, and Some of the Parts”) most of Moore’s characters
have suffered some societal disconnect that has alienated them from their host
communities, setting them apart and enabling them to see themselves and others
more clearly. Their outsider status is as enviable as it is refreshing in its
clarity.

One of Moore’s recent Facebook posts indicates an unnamed
reviewer returned The Infernal Republic, claiming it wasn’t “gay enough”
to warrant a review. While its true that some of Moore’s stories are about
straight women, some about straight men and others examine the world of
relationships between the two, others are about houses of indeterminate gender
and, yes, even gay couples. Their aforementioned outsider status trumps sexual
orientation in terms of what the story says rather than who populates
it. Just read the news if you don’t think we’re still considered outsiders. In
that respect, there’s not a story here that’s not gayer than “Glee.”

And if that’s your reason for skipping this book, understand
that you are missing a magnificent writer at his darkest and most mordant. Only
an author as warped as Moore would take on a second-tier superhero love affair
(“Filth and Splendor: A Love Story”) between a boy who has the power to make people
leak and a girl who can kill as quickly as she can resurrect. Or tell a haunted
house story from the house’s point of view (“215”). Or enable us to witness the
Savior and Satan betting on whether or not a million monkeys sitting at a
million typewriters would be able to reproduce Shakespeare (“The Infinite
Monkey Theorem”).

Moore’s talent for finding normalcy in the oddest situations
comes to the fore in nearly every entry here. His prose is sharp and his
characters deftly drawn in thought as well as deed, and even his shortest
pieces have unrepentently powerful punchlines. Moore focuses his talent at
well-chosen targets and obliterates the center of each one. Highly recommended.

But be warned, once you read “215,” you’ll think twice about
your next remodeling project.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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