“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.


The Dark Arts — A new short story in The New Yorker


“On a dark winter morning at the Müllerhaus men’s hostel, Julian Bledstein reached for his Dopp kit. At home, he could medicate himself blindfolded, but here, across the ocean, it wasn’t so easy. The room stank, and more than one young man was snoring. The beds in the old gymnasium were singles, which didn’t keep certain of the guests from coupling when the lights went out. Sometimes Julian could hear them going at it, fornicating as if with silencers on. He studied the sounds when he couldn’t sleep, picturing the worst: animals strapped to breathing machines, children smothered under blankets. In the morning he could never tell just who had been making love. The men dressed and left for the day, avoiding eye contact, mesmerized in the glow of their cell phones.”

Read more.


The Guardian reviews The Flame Alphabet


“What I found fascinating about this book, after its remarkable premise, which both invites and strongly resists allegorical interpretation, and the cold beauty of its prose, was my own reaction to it. I can put it no better than to say that this book got to me, and I started worrying whether Marcus had in fact achieved something darkly magical: the creation in readers of the very reaction he describes his characters having to language.”

Read more.


New Short Story in Granta


grantaIn the world of the future, people exist in a perpetual state of rehearsing evacuations, and one man’s rehearsal involves leaving his parents behind.

A firespotter knows all too well that where there’s smoke, there’s fire – but fails to spot the blaze that consumes half her family.

Then there’s the Custer impersonator who takes his role in a re-enactment too literally, and too far. The massage therapist who struggles to help a veteran who’s biggest regret is tattooed in living detail across his back. The retired CIA operative, now a mother of two, who is still packing heat for the just-in-case scenario that has her trigger finger itching…

With award-winning reportage, memoir, fiction and photography, Granta has illuminated the most complex issues of modern life through the refractory light of literature. Feel the sting of betrayal via new writing by Ben MarcusJanine di GiovanniKaren RussellSamantha HarveyColin RobinsonJennifer VanderbesCallan WinkJohn Burnside and a host of others, including debut author Lauren Wilkinson, whose heroine moves through decades with the forward lean of Richard Yates and the grace of Garcia Marquez.

Granta 122: Betrayal


Granta UK to reprint The Age of Wire and String


Coming in May, with images by Catrin Morgan, Granta Books will reissue The Age of Wire and String.


Readings in October


I have a bunch of readings coming up in October. More details soon, but here are the basics.

9 October – The Guggenheim Museum, New York
10 October – The Paris Review, The Strand, New York
12 – 14 October – The Southern Festival of Books, Nashville
16 October – University of Pennsylvania
23 October – Seton Hall University
24 October – University of Richmond, Virginia
26 – 27 October – The Boston Book Festival


The Financial Times reviews The Flame Alphabet


“A similar disquieting sensation of old words taking on new and terrifying forms, of the visceral and the conceptual blending together, can be found in Ben Marcus’s funny and scary and all-out astounding new novel.”

Read more.