In The Flame Alphabet, the most maniacally gifted writer of our generation delivers a work of heartbreak and horror, a novel about how far we will go, and the sorrows we will endure, in order to protect our families.
A terrible epidemic has struck the country and the sound of children’s speech has become lethal. Radio transmissions from strange sources indicate that people are going into hiding. All Sam and Claire need to do is look around the neighborhood: In the park, parents wither beneath the powerful screams of their children. At night, suburban side streets become routes of shameful escape for fathers trying to get outside the radius of affliction.
With Claire nearing collapse, it seems their only means of survival is to flee from their daughter, Esther, who laughs at her parents’ sickness, unaware that in just a few years she, too, will be susceptible to the language toxicity. But Sam and Claire find it isn’t so easy to leave the daughter they still love, even as they waste away from her malevolent speech. On the eve of their departure, Claire mysteriously disappears, and Sam, determined to find a cure for this new toxic language, presses on alone into a world beyond recognition.
The Flame Alphabet invites the question: What is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love? Both morally engaged and wickedly entertaining, a gripping page-turner as strange as it is moving, this intellectual horror story ensures Ben Marcus’s position in the first rank of American novelists.
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2012: From the dark, curious imagination of Ben Marcus comes another brain melter of a novel. The Flame Alphabet has a pandemic premise--children are slowly killing their parents by speaking--and only gets stranger and smarter from there. When Sam leaves his decaying family behind to seek a cure for his daughter’s lethal condition, he winds up in a government think tank that casually eliminates human subjects in its quest for an antidote. Stories don’t get much more horrifying than this, but Marcus’s absorbing, conversational style makes his twisted bildungsroman as difficult to put down as it is to accept. In an unimaginable situation, Sam takes the only steps that seem possible: He submits, he works, he dreams of his wife and child. This cruel, insightful meditation on societal dysfunction and individual resilience comes from a mind that must be appreciated, even if you find yourself relieved that it’s not your own. --Mia Lipman
Featured Guest Review: Jonathan Lethem on The Flame Alphabet
Jonathan Lethem was born in New York and attended Bennington College. He is the author of seven novels, including Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn and two short story collections, and he has edited and contributed to several anthologies. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, McSweeney's, and many other periodicals. His latest book of essays, The Ecstacy of Influence, explores the role of writers in contemporary culture.
Ben Marcus is one of the rare inventors in our literary language. We already knew this, from the outrageous stories, and from Notable American Women. When I call him an "inventor," I'm seeking a little working distance from the bland (and often dismissive) term "experimental"--for if Marcus is conducting experiments, he's conducting them out of view, and then unveiling the results as a fait accompli, like an Edison or Tesla or some other secular magician emerging from a laboratory. Marcus's work, with its powerful kinship to the visual arts and music and perhaps even pharmacology, should less be copyrighted than patented. His devices can enchant and wreck your mind. Like I say, we already knew this.
What we didn't know, and I suppose possibly he didn't either until he blew the wrought-iron clawfeet off his own prototype and replaced them with white-walls and a souped-up engine, is how thrilling it would be to see Marcus apply his gifts to something closer to traditional narrative. I say that as if it's some drab operation ("apply" and "traditional") but in fact what The Flame Alphabet has done is open up a kind of wide-screen view of the sort of crazy Ben Marcus movie that was likely always playing in his brain but which he has now taken out for wide release.
It appears that all the giddy anxiety and sorrowful vertigo of Marcus's language was only the leading edge of an implicit sense of pure story, the kind where figures in a landscape struggle to negotiate outrageous danger, loss and mystery. The book is an urban ironist's reply to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, yet in a way I think it is braver and more wrenching even than McCarthy's book (as well as, as you'd expect, more peculiar and funny, and less infused with wearisome machismo) because of the greater degree of complicity it admits, complicity with the disasters that flow through our collective world but are also locatable in each and every one of us if we're ready to meet them there.The Flame Alphabet explodes with human drama without for one single line relinquishing Marcus's lifelong commitment to the drama of a sentence making itself known on the page. In fact, and this is surely the most brilliant thing about the book, it fuses those two notions of drama into one immutable and bizarre whole. That's what's known in show business as a spoiler, but I couldn't resist. About the Author:
Ben Marcus is the author of three books of fiction--Notable American Women, The Father Costume, and The Age of Wire and String--and he is the editor of The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories. His stories have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, the New Yorker, the Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Conjunctions. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and awards from the Creative Capital Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York City and Maine. www.benmarcus.com
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Descripción Granta Publications Ltd, 2012. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Good. Ex Library Book with usual stamps and stickers. A slight tan to the page edges. Good reading copy. Good condition is defined as: a copy that has been read but remains in clean condition. All of the pages are intact and the cover is intact and the spine may show signs of wear. The book may have minor markings which are not specifically mentioned. Most items will be dispatched the same or the next working day. Nº de ref. de la librería mon0008361374
Descripción Paperback. Estado de conservación: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. Nº de ref. de la librería GOR003944076
Descripción Granta Publications Ltd, 2012. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Used; Good. Dispatched, from the UK, within 48 hours of ordering. This book is in good condition but will show signs of previous ownership. Please expect some creasing to the spine and/or minor damage to the cover. Nº de ref. de la librería CHL2407185
Descripción Granta Publications, 2012. Estado de conservación: Good. First Edition. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Nº de ref. de la librería GRP76386749
Descripción Granta Publications, 2012. Estado de conservación: Very Good. First Edition. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Nº de ref. de la librería GRP72673953
Descripción Granta Publications, 2012. Estado de conservación: Very Good. First Edition. Ships from the UK. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Nº de ref. de la librería GRP68958172
Descripción Granta Publications Ltd 07/06/2012, 2012. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Good. Shipped within 24 hours from our UK warehouse. Clean, undamaged book with no damage to pages and minimal wear to the cover. Spine still tight, in good condition. Remember if you are not happy, you are covered by our 100% money back guarantee. Nº de ref. de la librería 2341-9781847086228
Descripción Granta Publications Ltd 07/06/2012, 2012. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Very Good. Shipped within 24 hours from our UK warehouse. Clean, undamaged book with no damage to pages and minimal wear to the cover. Spine still tight, in very good condition. Remember if you are not happy, you are covered by our 100% money back guarantee. Nº de ref. de la librería 6545-9781847086228
Descripción Granta Publications Ltd, 2012. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Very Good. The Flame Alphabet This book is in very good condition and will be shipped within 24 hours of ordering. The cover may have some limited signs of wear but the pages are clean, intact and the spine remains undamaged. This book has clearly been well maintained and looked after thus far. Money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. See all our books here, order more than 1 book and get discounted shipping. . Nº de ref. de la librería 7719-9781847086228
Descripción Granta Publications Ltd, 2012. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Good. The Flame Alphabet This book is in good or better condition. It has no tears to the pages and no pages will be missing from the book. The spine of the book is still in great condition and the front cover is generally unmarked. It has signs of previous use but overall is in really nice, tight condition. Shipping is normally same day from our UK warehouse. We offer a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. Nº de ref. de la librería 9053-9781847086228