Ben Marcus
Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA

reading from

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.

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.

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.


Books related to this event:

Product image
The Flame Alphabet
Ben Marcus
2012 Edition
"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...