In The Infernal Republic, Marshall Moore’s darkly amoral short story collection about contemporary relationships and their unforeseen endings, happily ever after isn’t always what it’s cracked out to be. Dirty and deafening. Satanic.
What would you do for love? The question abounds the opening of Moore‘s second full volume of previously published stories including “Town of Thorns,” in which a man is haunted by the abrupt and unwelcome loss of his distanced lover, Michael, who in the aftermath of a Portland gay bashing, feels more like himself than ever before.
Through the slums of Los Angeles to the angelic red light district of Amsterdam, Moore sums up a gritty world in which “you stop being desirable. People stop treating you as if you can think for yourself,” where flesh becomes something of commercial market value as in “Putting the Damage On,” when a woman surgically borrows, preserves, and wears the features of younger assistants in order to upgrade her physical and corporate appeal.
The Infernal Republic is just one of four books published by Moore since 2003 although this collection in particular throws a hand at the absurdly moral themes which depict a gruesome romanticism portrayed in stories like “In Springtime, You Can Hear the Swallows Screaming,” and “Certain Shades of Blue Look Green, Depending on the Light.”
Moore’s characters deal with the consequences of finding balance in a chaotic world and in doing so, it seems that nobody is left untouched. A self help coach forced to choose her own form of physical torture in “In Springtime,” is not unlike the limbless, suicidal teen in “Flesh, Blood, and Some of the Parts”: disabled by their peers, yet validated by their disability.
In one of the collection’s shorter works, “The Physical Impossibility of Death In the Mind of Someone Living,” a man is caught in a love affair with a shark while visiting a Damien Hirst exhibition. In “Toast, Belladona, and Heat Death of the Universe,” a pair of ex-lovers comes to terms as part of a cross-assassination.
The characters in Moore’s stories are each psychologically affected – if not alienated by the flesh, they are driven to understand their purpose in a world tossed upon them – questioning the reliability of his subjects to co-exist, Moore suggests that “Time snuffs everyone and everything: the brontosaurus, the pterodactyl, the Antarctic tern, the dodo. Mothers, fathers, girlfriends, total strangers… infinity swallows them all.”
In the concluding story, Yahweh and Lucifer make a bet in “The Infinite Monkey Theorem” on the time it will take for monkeys to compose the original works of Shakespeare. As told by Beëlphazoar, “Infernal Ambassador to the Simian Republic,” for whom “misery loves company,” the piece exemplifies both mythic and philosophical qualities of Moore’s prose.
These stories delightfully turn fiction into theater – without being asked, the reader is presented with an absurd and gut-wrenching fate that jolts the imagination. At times the book reverts to a more suburban prose, involving the reader in a safety net of reality before diving into another round of lusty horror. The Infernal Republic is a remarkably discomforting yet therapeutic prescription for a daunting coexistence.
Josie Elizabeth Davis is an artist and editor based in Chicago, IL. Visit Josie online at www.josieelizabeth.com.