The Flame Alphabet – UPDATES

Available on 17 January, 2012

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Readings:
KGB, Philadelphia, Book Court, McNally Jackson, Austin, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles – UCLA Hammer, Los Angeles – Skylight, Chicago, Iowa, Syracuse, Ithaca… Complete List of Events

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Early reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly, Vanity Fair, Bookforum, HTML Giant, Booklist (see below), Library Journal, HTML Giant 2, Kirkus

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Excerpts:
Harper’s, Bomb

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Audio:
Poets & Writers

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Facebook

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Pre-order:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, IndieBound, McNally Jackson, Powell’s

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Interviews:

Harper’sThe New YorkerKnopfWe Are ChampionHTML GiantThe Man Game

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Early comments:

“Language kills in Marcus’s audacious new work of fiction, a richly allusive look at a world transformed by a new form of illness . . . Biblical in its Old Testament sense of wrath, Marcus’s novel twists America’s quotidian existence into something recognizable yet wholly alien to our experience.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred review and Pick of the week)

“Echoes of Ballard’s insanely sane narrators, echoes of Kafka’s terrible gift for metaphor, echoes of David Lynch, William Burroughs, Robert Walser, Bruno Schulz and Mary Shelley: a world of echoes and re-echoes—I mean ourworld—out of which the sanely insane genius of Ben Marcus somehow manages to wrest something new and unheard of.  And yet as I read The Flame Alphabet, late into the night, feverishly turning the pages, I felt myself, increasingly, in the presence of the classic.”
—Michael Chabon

The Flame Alphabet drags the contemporary novel—kicking, screaming, and foaming at the mouth—back towards the track it should be following. Ben Marcus makes language as toxic as it is seductive— a virus that comes from  much closer to home than we suspected.”
—Tom McCarthy

“Ben Marcus is the rarest kind of writer: a necessary one.  It’s become impossible to imagine the literary world—the world itself—without his daring, mind-bending and heartbreaking writing.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer

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BOOKLIST (Starred Review)
Issue: December 15, 2011

The Flame Alphabet

Teenagers can be described as toxic, no doubt about it. But in Marcus’ speculative tale, teens are literally poisoning their parents each time they speak. This ingenious and provoking premise enables the boldly imaginative Marcus (Notable American Women, 2001), recipient of a remarkable array of major literary awards, to explore the paradoxes of family and how the need to communicate can go utterly wrong. As this confounding, heartrending plague spreads from Jewish families to the general population, gravely ill adults flee; teens, who take to terrorizing adults with megaphones, are quarantined; and society breaks down. Claire and Sam, the ailing parents of virulently weaponized Esther, belong to a secret sect of “forest Judaism,” which involves listening to mysterious transmissions emitted from the earth. Their tiny, sylvan synagogue becomes the focus of an aggressive stranger, who directs a grim work camp hastily assembled to find a cure for this catastrophic affliction at any cost. Marcus conducts a febrile and erudite inquiry into “the threat of language,” offering incandescent insights into ancient alphabets and mysticism, ostracism and exodus, incarceration with Holocaust echoes, and Kafkaesque behavioral science. Ultimately, the suspenseful, if excessively procedural, apocalyptical plot serves as a vehicle for Marcus’ blazing metaphysical inquiry into expression, meaning, self, love, and civilization.

— Donna Seaman

 

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