Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA
The Flame Alphabet
published by Knopf
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.
Ben Marcus is the author of three books of fiction, Notable American Women, The Father Costume, and The Age of Wire and String. His stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Believer, The New York Times, Salon, McSweeney's, Time, Conjunctions, Grand Street, and Tin House. He is the editor of The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and for several years he was the fiction editor of Fence. Marcus is a 2009 recipient of a grant for Innovative Literature from the Creative Capital Foundation. In 2008 he received the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and he has also received a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction, and three Pushcart Prizes. Marcus is an associate professor in the School of the Arts at Columbia University.
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