I think, in terms of capturing real suffering, Brooks writes best about heartbreak. In many ways, the narrator of Fences seems to be evacuating all the thought in the book to overcome the loss of his lover, even the things he writes about that are unrelated to it. It all comes back to the distance apart from her and the slow breaking-down of their hypothetical future. And even if the narrator is determined to give up on that, his mind can’t help from bubbling up with thoughts of her or sudden primitive exclamations of “I fucking miss you.”
Fences is definitely a dope book. It’s described as an “emotional montage” and no matter how many words I put in this I don’t think I could sum it up better than that. A full-throated reconsideration of the world and a photograph of the mind when stuck in the clamps of loss and depression.
Brooks's first, Fences, was published last year and its "emotional montage" style sent ripples across the Atlantic....The unbound quality of these visual crescendos and diminuendos is echoed in the style of his imagery: all torrents of poppies and floods and liquid gold.
--Hermione Hoby, The Observer
...Within its few pages it manages to overturn centuries of literary tradition without apology, pretence or verbosity. A concise, thoughtful, clean form for the modern age. The text takes the form of a combination of prose, disembodied philosophical statements and provocative, yet eminently quotable, sound bites. But if on first viewing the book seems to be made up of random thoughts, when read through a story is immediately evident, or at least the retelling of the authors emotional thoughts invoked by a passage of events...[that] weaves around a small cast and their personal connections, apocalyptic world view, mainly failed relationships, and a European road trip....In the same way that earlier religious writings were allegorical and designed to provoke thought, such as the New Testament parables or the Zen Buddhist Koans, I see the purpose of Fences to move beyond mere language and inspire powerful sentiment for the reader to meditate on. Possibly an agnostic Book of Revelations for a postmodern End of Days?...Such a new approach is brave enough, but Brooks is more than happy to take literature into the world of graphic art. Its pages, paragraphs disjointed, in seeming random font and format, take a step into the visual realms, any one of which could be framed and exhibited in its own right....Like all good philosophical works, you come away with many more questions than answers. It is thought-provoking, fresh, innovative, immensely brave and possibly a whole new step for the modern literary form.
This book absolutely slays. The language completely destroyed me in the best way possible, and I considering immediately starting the book over upon finishing it. The narrative that moves through here is terrifying, but there is abject humor that serves to heighten the intensity of narrative even more. yes yes yes.
--Mike Kitchell, Goodreads
"fences contains some of the strongest lines i have read in a while...you can feel the filth of solitude from the very beginning where the narrator is 'in a hole' where 'nicotine eyes' stare at him. the book then seems to progress by branching off endlessly into different tracts of hopeless love, self-hatred and general dismay. this book is the message left by a burning tree blowing ash against the side of a garage where inside a man huffs gas to feel like a king. the biggest success of this book to me was how disconnected it was while remaining engaging. fuck. good job ben. don’t kill yourself yet."
--Sam Pink, htmlgiant
An impressive new literary style of prose and poetry. The pages read like a diary, the heartbroken writer journaling his private thoughts as he jumps from one emotion to another with no apparent design....Russian in style, Brooks' slim volume presents a tale of depression, love gone wrong, and human desperation. This is a dark story about relationships that fail, told amid a story of a European road trip....for those who enjoy "on the edge" poetry or prose...breaks with literary tradition with no apologies.
--Joyce Rice, Curled Up with a Good Book
Deeply Russian in its sense of life, bitter, very funny, and shattered in its love of beauty, Fences by Ben Brooks shows what happens when the art of poetry and the art of the novel get in a head-on collision. Told in flashes and fragments of compressed emotion, this novel tells its story through glimmers of an intense personal narration: about a Russian girl, a librarian and an Italian man's mysterious wife, a hopeless car trip across Europe, judgement, inadequacy, God in his drunkenness, death at the end of time, and the fury of an apocalyptic search for meaning.
Ben Brooks has invented an involving new form for the novel - emotional montage like experimental film only wishes it could be - but more importantly has cut human desperation into pure form and made it go 180 miles an hour.