“It is a moving piece of satire on the arbitrariness of the everyday, rivaling the best of Douglas Adams” —The Guardian
This was my big find of the year. Each of Us (and Other Things) is a small, inexpensive book by actor Ben Moor. While the two short stories Please Wait Here and Sartorial Mastermind and the poems are good (especially the poems), the real gem here is the title piece Each of Us. I wouldn’t call it sci-fi so much as I’d call it literary fiction that happens to take place slightly in the future where every new bit of tech, political atmosphere, or fad feels entirely plausible. The bees are dying because they’re intercepting too much information in the air–GPS, texts, selfies. Terrorism is more prevalent and yet somehow more passive. The “narrative gene” has just been discovered, a piece of the biological sequence which harbors the human soul.
At just 38 pages, Each of Us is narrated by a man whose job it is to offer bad ideas and be the scapegoat, but his ideas are sometimes successful and he is fired. But the story does not center around his job so much as it centers around the gaping hole left by his ex-wife Radium–an appropriate name, as the funk her exit left him with feels toxic to both himself and others. Without much intention, he fills this hole with a new group of friends who he hasn’t decided whether he really likes or not. They have embraced a new fad, carrying around a month’s worth of facsimiles of their experiences, to later be added to the year ring, then a life ring, then a world ring. This fad has all the B.S. justification behind it as any new trend. But his new friends, Alice, Nemo, and the others, are up to something, as suggested by the fact that Alice seems to have tracked the narrator down for a reason. We are left with all the clues and an ending forcing us to figure out their intentions for ourselves.
More than anything, the story is written with poetic prose. Moor apologizes for the melancholy tone, which he shouldn’t apologize for. It’s exquisitely Joycean: sad but beautiful. Moor not only invents new concepts, like paragraphi lasagna (the logical descendant of alphabetti spaghetti) but also new words like drinkdozing, albumatically, and wrength (measure of wrongness). Here are a few of my favorite lines:
- “She had the class and bearing of a semi-colon; rare, occasionally in the wrong place, but when you saw her confidence, you knew more would follow.”
- “England is ending slowly, politely, like a shared pudding no one can quite bear to finish, as taking the last piece would just be unseemly.”
- “One story had been about LittleRedLightCo, the leading manufacturers of LEDs–now trying to get standby lights installed on all manner of objects when not in use: bins, chairs, shoes. Pencils. Coats. Doors. Toilets. Books. Consciences, imaginations, hearts. A scarlet galaxy at pause. The universe asleep.”
- “We move between the retail units like bees, touching fabrics, picking up gadgets, sensing a future if we owned these things, being noticed by assistants, buzzing on.”
- “my memory had been semi-erased by the smudgy rubber of time and experience.”
- “I pass a row of bikes outside a college, fallen into an accidental orgy, wheels uncomfortably intimate with the next frame”