The Guardian reviews LEAVING THE SEA


“Ben Marcus is one of the most stunningly original and profoundly unsettling writers of his generation. His subtle kinks of syntax, his daring choices of individual words and combinations of them, which seem a quarter tone out but somehow wholly right, the reiterated concerns – a pervading sense of guilt, the surrealism of sexuality, dangerous but necessary generational relationships – do not make for easy reading. That is not to say that he is a difficult writer; merely that he deals with strong emotional material in a unique and experimental style. Reading Marcus is liable to induce a kind of literary vertigo.”

Read the review.


The New York Review of Books reviews LEAVING THE SEA


“Marcus’s early writings strike me as extraordinary feats of transposition; their goal appears to be to create a linguistic simulacrum of a new medium or unknown dimension of being, in which familiar words and scenarios take on radically different kinds of implication, of weight or lightness, as if the laws of gravity had suddenly changed.”

Read the review.


The New York Times reviews LEAVING THE SEA


“Ben Marcus achieved the startling visions of his first story collection, “The Age of Wire and String,” and the novels “Notable American Women” and “The Flame Alphabet” largely by placing the reader in strange and unfamiliar worlds that turned out to be our world after all. The stories of his new collection, “Leaving the Sea,” still contain peculiar linguistic and perceptual tics, but he has added to his arsenal narratives that are less relentlessly unfamiliar, less rigorously dis-enchanted, populated by characters full of longing and visible regret…”

Read the review.


The Oregonian reviews LEAVING THE SEA


“”Leaving the Sea” includes some of the best stories I have read in years. If you haven’t yet read Marcus, “Leaving the Sea” is a magnificent, and magnificently discomfiting, place to start.”

Read the review.


The Toronto Star reviews LEAVING THE SEA


“The stories in Leaving the Sea range a great deal in terms of style, from a fairly realistic portrayal of intergenerational domestic conflict to a ribbon of metafiction consisting of a single run-on-and-on sentence. Underlying all the diversity, however, is a consistent set of anxieties surrounding the alienated figure of the contemporary middle-aged American male. What Ben Marcus offers is a sort of literary shock treatment for these shut-ins.”

Read the review.


The Daily Beast reviews LEAVING THE SEA


“It’s a recurring theme in Leaving the Sea that violently destructive forces lurk both inside and out.”

Read the review.




“As the book progresses Marcus tears up the rulebook completely. And it works beautifully. Words are rearranged on the page and meanings are deconstructed. The world we have entered into, Marcus explains, is “dreamlike, with artificial colors.””

Read the review.


The New Yorker blog reviews Leaving the Sea


“The protagonists in Marcus’s new collection of disturbing and excruciatingly funny short stories (several of them first published in The New Yorker) are socially inappropriate, alienated from their lovers and relatives, anxious, bitter, mortified, lonely—“you could pretty much go shopping from a list of adjectives,” as one character puts it.”

Read more.


I Can Say Many Nice Things — A new short story in Harper’s


From the forthcoming story collection, Leaving the Sea.

“Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had alwaysdreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.”

Read more.


Granta reissues The Age of Wire and String, with illustrations


The Age of Wire and String

To be published soon in the US.  For now, some reviews from the UK:

The Independent

Art Forum



We Love this Book

A review in Dazed & Confused, by Stuart Hammond:

‘A brain rattling collection of experimental fictions … There are shades of Beckett in the playful obsessive language twiddling, and although the text is 18 years old, The Age of Wire and String still seems cutting edge.’

And from Design Observer, a review by Rick Poyner:

The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus, first published in 1995, is one of the strangest works of fiction I have read. What and where is the world it describes with such dedicated observational precision? The language has an almost biblical sonority, and these brief “stories” might seem to offer a set of rules, or a guide to living. Large parts of the book sound like a report on a field trip written by an extraterrestrial anthropologist about a planet where life has evolved in ways that resemble our human existence in key particulars while being utterly unlike it. Or it could be that we are the subject and a visiting alien ethnographic entity cannot make sense — at least not a sense we can fully grasp — of what it has found.

Read the whole review.