❮PDF / Epub❯ ☆ The Flame Alphabet Author Ben Marcus – Transportjobsite.co.uk

❮PDF / Epub❯ ☆ The Flame Alphabet Author Ben Marcus – Transportjobsite.co.uk chapter 1 The Flame Alphabet, meaning The Flame Alphabet, genre The Flame Alphabet, book cover The Flame Alphabet, flies The Flame Alphabet, The Flame Alphabet 28b5654c9432e 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

10 thoughts on “The Flame Alphabet

  1. says:

    70 pages in and this is the most boring thriller I ve ever read The premise is amazing, language that kills , and apparently it s a true story because reading this is a slow painful death I m not usually a quitter when it comes to books, but I don t think I m going to make it I keep skipping whole, useless paragraphs Ben Marcus is clearly trying too hard There s a point where flowery prose must end and make way for an actual plot, but apparently Marcus doesn t agree.The Jewish subplot, if you can call it that, is completely unnecessary, unless the author s point was to simply alienate most of his audience In that case, he has succeeded marvelously I have no idea what all the religious subtext has to do with the story, and since I don t know a lot of Jewish mythology, I m left wondering what of this is based on fact and what of this I have a feeling most is bizarrely exaggerated fiction.Maybe it s just too heady for me Either way, there are so many better books to be read Why should I waste any of my time on this one

  2. says:

    The novels Nineteen Eighty four and A Clockwork Orange are dystopian, and about language The Flame Alphabet falls into that category as well The dust jacket promises much, 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 And the little promo video is very intriguing But alas, the book fails to deliver It is not a bad book There is some good writing, and the basic idea is one I could totally believe in It s the everyday human stuff that I could not buy into For one thing, their relationships were just so unhealthy Who needed a language apocalypse when everyone is already so fucked up And I don t mean in a good way Their lives and thoughts just did not make sense Our daughter seemed not to care who was listening, and we were ready at hand, ready to service her needs We stood up to it and took it like parents, because doesn t the famous phrase say shit on me, oh my children, and I will never fail to love you No It does not.This daughter, Esther, I would gladly let die, even if she were mine Oh, that s a bit harsh but you need to meet her And the narrator, her Father If only he would just shut up Right He was supposed to But even this sickness couldn t cut through his bullshit.I did not like the total earnest tone of the writing I did not like the characters The writing is so noisy I did not like the overuse of the word small The italics are masturbatory I couldn t even stand the typeface Caslon Bah humbug The cover is overrated I got a crippling paper cut from the sharp edges The ISBN is phony Ben Marcus has no tattoos or piercings There are almost no references to Star Trek I guess this is not the book for me.

  3. says:

    Wow So, I tend to not read reviews for at least a moderate span of time before I dive into a book in order to avoid the accidental epiphytic absorption and potential regurgitation of other people s views phrases biases in my own review, and to keep myself away from being a naysayer or overly emphatic fan of something solely or largely for the sake of being a brat or a bully defense shield In the case of this novel, however, I wasn t concerned with post read review skimming because I really didn t think I was even going to review it Actually, I sorta decided that a long time ago, because I feel odd about screaming my thoughts in a crowded room as in the goodreads world, not literally I m a total yeller interrupter babbler in real life, so I would probably kill a LOT of people very quickly were I a character in this novel or a person in this scenario , and this book had been all kindsa talked up on this site way before I read it You know what, though The excessive praise Totally deserved However, if you want to read about how great this book is, read the dozen or so fantastic reviews which have already pinned those pretty lil butterflies down, shadowboxed them, and hung them on the wall with a leveler Rather than properly review, I m only commenting right now in order to complain how does this novel have such a low GR rating Further, why do my fellow GR friends like it so much, while the rest of GR seems to a not get it, b think it s boring, or c just mindlessly shit on it Discuss Also, to the naysayers did you pick this up because the cover is so goddamned sexy I admit she s purdy, but how did you even find yourself checking her out in the first place if your review is essentially Uh, wut How did this land in your lap to begin with I am actually curious, as it s not like this book is an Oprah selection, or even has a proper wikipedia page I mean, I have my petty gripes mostly just that the daughter is a bit too sage and intricately cynical for her age, and I say this as a woman with definite r sum worthy experience as a teenage cynic , but 2.89 out of 5 C mon 50 Shades of Who Gives a Fuck is currently rated 3.8 or something Having never read it, I assure you that book is not better than this one Anyway, I only know about The Flame Alphabet because my GR friends praised it all up and down the block Thanks for that, folks However, I also only know that the above mentioned SM book exists because of GR, soI guess my point is that rating averages are pointless Actually, I may not have a point Maybe for once I will shut up early, and stop making people sick with my toxic verbosity As Marcus points out, it s an epidemic.

  4. says:

    This is undoubtedly the magnum opus of the three books Ben Marcus has released through the porous borders between the self and the world The Age of Wire and String 1995 left me baffled and pretty impressed by its unique indexical acrobatics and budding vision of where to take the avant garde programme Notable American Women 2002 detonated in my brain and dazzled me senseless with its maturing grip on how to show and not tell, and transfigured the form of the metafictional autobiography with both dynamite and surgical incisions The Flame Alphabet 2012 ascends to magisterial heights, melding the mindfuck detailings that he d previously coerced into a second nature with a form of storytelling as ancient as the first primordial grunts of mythology It embeds a staggering amount of content concerning The Human Experience in its deceivingly spare frame 289 pages and plotline, and does this through deftly swept together piles of kindling for potential blazes of deep thought rather than direct philosophizing Characters almost never pontificate and the narrative point of view is about struggling against the ravages of disease than uncovering and tying together the essential natures of big ideas and difficult questions It s as deep as you want it to be And all this flows through the plot s main artery Language is literally a virus that can strangle and bludgeon and infect the deepest reaches of human biology with horrific decay and there are various ways different factions of people try to remedy or not the problem In the beginning, only the children wreak this havoc upon the adults and this set up alone is remarkably nerve shattering to follow From there, things get decidely dark and strange beyond all strained reaches of language to say the least An Anxious InquisitionI may ve just been having a random explosion of anxiety, which wouldn t be totally uncharacteristic, or maybe I just had to pee or needed to put on a sweater or turn up the heat, or some combination of these and many other possible culprits of causality, but there were times during my navigation of the masterful slowburn of suspense and transcendently eerie foreshadowing that made my heart race and my palms fall atremble and clammy with cold sweat which rather uncoincidentally brought to mind the whole central idea about language having direct effects on human physiology Urgency and Yearning and Seeking are so tightly and expertly threaded through this from open to close manifesting a finely tuned dread married to a wide eyed, page flipping curiosity This is a book that ll make terrified but forward marching explorers of many who engage it.A Few Words on the Words Sastrean Cerebral Materialism Words are memes that can be pronounced Daniel C DennettMy wiser elder brother from another mother Chris Sastre was kind enough to look over some infant stage writing of mine and one of his points caused me to try to further form words for what exactly it is I m trying to do or am doing when writing in a certain style that seems to flow unconsciously sometimes against better instincts from my head to the screen a style and tone which he whittled down to the words cerebral materialism.CS There s a cerebral materialism to your stories that keeps me at a chilly distance upon first exposure but they invariably warm and reward the with each subsequent go through.JN M Part of the cerebral materialism is that I like breaking things down, through slow motion, zooming in on them, etc, because it gives me a deep warmth of greater understanding, I guess Basically, I m compelled to do this when I try to write Same goes for the clinical or baroque or purple language I think the point isn t to alienate or show off, it s to cast things in a different light than normally seen, because it s novel and because it s oftentimes funny, and because it makes me rethink things in a way that gives them gravitas It s the whole idea of making the strange appear familiar and making the familiar appear strange that I think has some real emotional intellectual value and that s the whole point of sometimes casting things clinically or purple y or whatever.I feel that this snippet of an exchange partially gets at the effect of the tone and style that Marcus pulls off so flabbergastingly well, and has or less molded into perfection in this most recent effort In other words, I found it inspiring to see someone doing something I struggle and aspire to do, giving me some sense of hope that it can be pulled off and not merely be an alienating or derivative disaster, as I often self loathingly worry about when I make my little unhoned fictional fragments of late It made my attempts look weak and sloppy as they very well should, considering the lack of time and effort and the brand newness of the whole enterprise but in a tough love kind of way that I m a big enough boy to be able to appreciate Thank you sir, may I have another As I gazed into the gorgeous abyss of turning pages, Sastre s incisive comment about cerebral materialism gazed back at me, over and over again, each time I found myself stunned by the impressively economical and varied sentences, the elegant precision and the soothing hum of the tuning fork Marcus dings summarily upon every page To breathe one breath of symbols at describing the nature of this cerebral materialism It has the effect of making the normal way we re usually unknowingly immersed in language and perception seem comforting and appreciated by contrast, like jumping from ice cold lake water into a hot bath the shivers of the insightful estrangment melting into a newfound sedated bliss of the familiar Rinse, repeat.Unfolding Themes This is the kind of book that is, in a counterintuitive way, about Everything Not in the way that the gigantic, 1000 page, information dense postmodern classics are about Everything, but in, again, that show not tell way that Creative Writing 101 courses preach about with regards to scenic descriptions and character traits but The Flame Alphabet does this with underlying themes and in an ingenious way Speech is civilization itself The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact it is silence which isolates Thomas MannThis seems to all flower out from the fact that its central and most explicit theme is language itself and language is all encompassing than tends to meet the casually observant eye Once this organizing principle was latched onto it made it hard not to be jolted by nearly every other sentence instantaneously, vast networks upon the map of Human Experience lit up before me The struggles and triumphs of striving to communicate exactly what we mean and how we feel to others, or even to ourselves within our own language saturated inner monologues the evolution of human beliefs and knowledge through religion and science certitude v uncertitude the relentless mystery of consciousness the building up and breaking down of social bonds from the family unit to the whole of global civilization the ills of dogmatic authoritarianism however well intentioned the dangers in having too much available information or not enough.Despite all these grand, sweeping things being blared through my current mania and ecstatic praise, it should be pointed out again that this is not a book of brittle intellectual curiosities, instead it is one that plunges deep into the heart of the most central human concerns with a highly focused and sharpened plot It is not meandering in any way shape or form Every letter and punctuation mark feels essential and carefully plotted It is not a philosophical wankfest at all the author strategically creates space where such wankery is possible and the subtext brilliantly juggles the big important themes, but the story is still very much a story, packed with suspense and drama as good as any Even in its perpetual Lynchian strangeness and White Noise like familial dynamics, we can see our own experiences of being alive, which is basically the point of fiction and art generally, if forced to comment on that ol X is all about Y scenario.Solitary Confinement Dr Lester I ve been very lonely in my isolated tower of indecipherable speech. Charlie Kaufman There s an interesting fact to consider about prison Even in the relative hell of such a place, solitary confinement is used as a punishment Human beings are rather reliably shown to react in a less than mentally healthy way when isolated from other people for extended periods of time There s an analogous phenomenon to be seen in the individual human mind itself it is by its very nature a place of isolation, because despite all attempts to bridge the chasm between itself and others it ultimately cannot be shared, only approximations can be given as to its contents through two basic means language and non linguistic behavior This troubles people who think too much and makes for great film premises e.g Being John Malkovich but it also has broader effects Everyone knows what it s like to feel misunderstood, whether it be through a casual conversation, a work of art, a book review, or whatever And most people also know what it s like to feel lonely, whether through actual social isolation or a complicated kind of loneliness usually found through mental health problems like clinical depression, in which the sense of loneliness only increases as people gather round The fixation on language in The Flame Alphabet carries itself into a concern with these issues as well There s a kind of palpable ache to be felt here in the yearning to connect with others as seriously and fully as possible I ve had the image cross my mind before when feeling this combinaton of frustration and longing of wanting to bash my skull into anothers and let our brains comingle, finally achieving a full, glorious, mutual understanding Of course this is grotesque, but as a symbol it gets me one step closer to accurately attaching a series of words to a powerful feeling So while our minds are inherently private things there are still degrees of feeling isolated and connected to be sought out and experienced it s not an all or nothing situation The most isolated end of the spectrum can actually drive people to true madness, while our strongest feelings of connection, however imperfect, are the most important and healing things in our lives The Flame Alphabet brought all of this into a new focus, with a new heft, and all counterintuitively, again through its dark chambers of incredibly inventive narrative, largely drained of sentimentality and optimism To quote a line that struck me as a teenager while watching Chris Nolan s debut flick, a little indie arthouse effort called Following You take it away, and show them what they had A View From The Beginning of The End of The WorldSo it s 2012, the Year of Our Lord Conspiracy Theory Fuck the Mayan calander bullshit humanity is than capable of carelessly dethroning itself into oblivion or being consumed by natural forces beyond our defenses and this has nothing to do with an old collection of arbitrary dates written by people who would be stunned by technology such as the butterchurn or the printing press But importantly, who needs boring and wackadoo theories when our planet has been graced with two infinitely superior and mesmerizing apocalyptic minded tales at the front end of the year Ryan Boudinot s Blueprints of the Afterlife and The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus Both are extremely unique in their own right but are bonded in their profoundly effective explorations of humanity s capacity for self annihilation Flame is an inexorable crescendo of dread and entropy, a merciless savaging of the human experiment, whereas Boudinot gives one room to breath while contemplating the prospect of humanity s final wave goodbye Both are jaw droppingly great books to kick off yet another year that end times prophets have marked as our last If it must be so, at least we got some good reading in beforehand.

  5. says:

    I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today, of which maybe 25 are important David Foster WallaceWords kill John 1 1 might be a mythological fabrication, but in the end there will be the word, some word and then the end Lights out humanity Some hateful word, or rhetoric, or bottom line on a profit report, or words about imaginary superiority, mis perceived threats, words from fictional gods passed down through books filled with words, words that poison and kill People die everyday from words, stupid things said, things thought in words, yeah, there are lots of other ways to go, but maybe almost everything that is really fucked comes down to words All those fucking words.Just about anything in the world taken in too high of a dose is bad for us What if this were literally, I mean medically, true of language, what if we passed a point where we became drunks with the DT s on language That s what this book is simplistically about How do we live in a world where we have to be post language, post meaning, where members of our family have the ability to poison us with their language Language kills Maybe I m in a minority, maybe I m an anomaly but I m the only person I personally have experience about what actually goes on inside the head of I m not privy to anyone else s thoughts thankfully I can barely bear my own Everything, aside from some physical pains and future aliments most likely , that is wrong with me is because of words Words that have fucked up my way of thinking, words that defeat and cut me down, words that have warped my perceptions of the world, the words my brain taunts me with, the words other people have said, words in songs, in books Sticks and stones might break my bones but words have seriously fucked me up Thinking is the first poisonWhy the person himself not gutted of thought Who cares about the word made public, it s the private word that does lasting damage, person by person The thinking should have stopped first The thinking Perhaps it is next in the long, creeping conquest of this toxicity, another basic human activity that will slowly be taken from us Oh, I fucking hope so.And even if they don t fuck up directly there are just so many of them out there, so much language screaming at you from all kinds of sources An almost white noise of endless chatter with mixed levels of meaning Endless strings of warnings, and news and attempts to call your attention to them, half heard conversations in public places, deliberate words you seek out and all the ones you can t avoid Words written with random bits screaming out boldly saying, LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME PAY ATTENTION TO ME I M MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE WHO THE FUCK CARES IF I HAVE NOTHING WORTHWHILE TO SAY, JUST FUCKING PAY ATTENTION TO ME HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE just shut the fuck up already and stop your constant bombardment on trying to get my attention And here I am contributing to words More pollution of bullshit bits of information that I m asking you to slog through to see if maybe there is something important, something worthwhile contained in it How fucking vain of me A worthwhile message Ha Spreading messages dilutes them Even understanding them is a compromise The language kills itself, expires its host Language acts as an acid over its message If you no longer care about an idea or felling, then put it into language That will certainly be the last of it, a fitting end Language is another name for coffin Lines like this show up frequently in the book I ve read this quote over probably fifty times I ve been slogging about this review for weeks now Looking at the quotes I culled, trying to figure out what I mean to say about them, what I think they mean Read it over again, I just did and it s a quandary, what is the message without language The primordial, or a priori, or whatever the fuck big word you want to use, message that comes before the word The feeling unthought, the thought that flutters without being cognizant, the moment of doing versus thinking I think about how to do something and become frozen in inactivity unable to move Too often I find myself muttering to myself after a pitiful performance in fighting that I started to think too much When I don t think everything just flows, incredible shit happens, when I think, it all falls apart, I find myself muttering excuses that have to do with thinking Ben Marcus couldn t have meant this, could he Understanding itself is beside the pointDo not make of it a fetish, for it pays back nothing That habit must be broken Understanding puts us to sleep The dark and undesired sleep Questions like these are not meant to be resolved We must never believe we know our roles We must always wonder what the moment calls for We want stories with nice endings We want mysteries resolved I can remember spending most of one day in September about ten years ago watching endless tv, probably doing what most of America was doing, and I wanted to stop, I wanted to go do anything else, I was tired of seeing the re runs of destruction played back over and over and over again, I wanted the images out of my own head, but instead I was having them further embedded, changed by the seemingly endless repeating shots of personally witnessed destruction I kept watching because I wanted answers, I wanted someone to tell me this is who did it, this is why, I kept watching like I d watch a movie to the end that I d grown tired of just because I felt like I needed to be rewarded with some understanding, to know why I thought I needed these words to put everything in order, to put back together what lay broken and destroyed, not on the streets of downtown but in myself, to let me know that the words that ran through my head didn t make me a total shit, that there was a reason, even if it were a bad one but a reason for what had happened With understanding there came no difference Socrates, or Plato or someone writing with those names blabbed about Know Thyself, understand yourself I ve spent at least two decades of my life trying to understand myself, trying to self analyze, look for answers to the why questions, figure out this and that, and all I ve done is drowned myself out in the feedback of self consious and self referential noise It would have been better if I never gave myself a thought, the unexamined life might not be worth living, but the examined life is fucking hell Understanding Ha When Esther was finally old enough to walk to school by herself, she still wanted approval for things that were to basic to be considered talents Eating an apple Standing on one leg Soon she d want to be congratulated for waking up, leaving a room Once she sat on our windowsill she must have been eight or nine already She was very pleased with herself, swinging her legs back and forth.Do you know, Dad, that I can do a trick Oh yeah Yeah I can make my legs to this way and that, that way and this I see that.Do you see I do.You re not looking Why aren t you looking I m looking I see it.You re not, though You re not.I should have congratulated her Who was to say this wasn t extraordinary What did I really know about extraordinary things I joke sometimes about children and the things they are congratulated for doing, the simple things like walking, standing up, speaking a word, shitting in a toilet, the things you and I do everyday without much fanfare I joke that I want this kind of praise, I want to be made to feel good about myself with kind words for doing the unspectacular, and I joke that kids shouldn t be praised for things like this, because they aren t that difficult, they will eventually figure out how to do all those things, so save the praise for really worthy deeds, like solving world hunger or curing cancer or something I think I m joking.It made me smile and even laugh a little bit to find this passage in the book Maybe the joke isn t that we should hold off praise for the important things, but that just living and being able to swing your legs like this deserves some praise Maybe those kind words are just an antidote to all the shitty words out there that we have to do nothing at all except to continue breathing to encounter I don t know I m probably just an asshole for my joking about wanting to be praised each time I succeed in not shitting myself and holding in a bowel movement till I get to the bathroom I should have congratulated her Who was to say this wasn t extraordinary What did I really know about extraordinary things This fucking review has been haunting me for a few weeks now It s not the only one, I have four half finished reviews I can see on my desktop, all opened with their words taunting me to add words to them to make them mean something and maybe get read and earn some much coveted goodreads votes I meant to say big important things in this review but then other words got in the way, I meant to use some carefully chosen quotes to spark lines of thought that would be interesting to myself and hopefully other people as well, instead I got into a narcissistic rambling, using the book as a springboard into the most boring topic imaginable Fucking words Blame them I m walking away scot free on this one.Below are a couple of other quotes I was going to do something with You should read them, and if they inspire any kind of thoughts they are probably better ones than what I would have written Because restoring language to a people was only one small piece of his work Child s play, I bet Smallwork is right In the end it s too small , isn t it Easy enough to shoot everyone with a fluid so they could shout insults at each other again, launch their campaigns of vocal blame Easy He would do than that LeBov would also erase a belief system, remove love from the air as if it were only an atmospheric contaminant Love was just a pollutant you could blow clear of a person, right, LeBov If only you had the proper tools. If you listened so intently into nothing, using gear like this, you might hear anything you desired It made you think we were still being sickened from some language we didn t even know was out there Inaudible, sub whispered, mouthed by an enemy from so far away, it could not even be measured Still it pulsed some toxic on us that made us all crawl on our bellies and choke.

  6. says:

    I managed twenty five pages of this recent GR fave, but too many aspects of the style infuriated me to want to carry on Compiling a mental dossier of things you dislike about the book as you re reading it, in my experience, ends in messy disaster Some of these points are personal niggles but some must surely stand as legitimate annoyances First page sound abatement fabrics anti comprehension pillsDr ger Aerotest breathing kitLebov s needlecopper powder for phonic salting bootful of feltnoise dosimeter facial calipers p1 I understand the need to establish the otherness of this other world in the language and description on page one, but this belch of invented technical terminology seemed unnecessary It s a list of cool sounding phrases than a successful situator in this strange fictional landscape Some of these terms don t make sense except within the parameters of Marcus s poetic phrase licence, which he keenly abuses throughout, i.e phonic salting putting salt in someone s mouth to shut them up , plus having both a German with umlaut so it must be German and Russian faux scientific names is trying too hard Style nitpicks 1 These I sealed in the woollen dossier because I could not look at the writing any without feeling what I could only call the crushing. Pain is too soft a word for the reaction. Crushing was accurate, an intolerable squeezing in the chest and hips, though I didn t have measurements to support the claim. p2 Seems like an attempt to get in the phrase the crushing pain and excuse its clich to me This business with measurements doesn t quite work as pain wouldn t reduce his waistband Plus, what claim 2 The style is peppered with nifty little phrases, some on stand alone paragraph lines, that have that frustrating slick feeling This is problem I have with Marcus as a whole, especially in The Age of Wire and String a whole book of words that sound nice together For example Conversations from the museum of the uninformed. p15 Making mimes out of all of us. p9 But our neighbourhood was failing to foreshadow. p9 3 The Narrator Tone Having opted for first person narration Marcus restricts his book to one voice, one register The narrator here comes across as extremely bland and unfocused His narration is larded with rhetorical questions and there s the throbbing logical problem why is he choosing to narrate this story with such self consciously poetical language If you d been besieged by a language plague, would you put such effort into crafting poetic sentences, or wouldn t you write in frantic shorthand You may ramble, I concede I also find his tone inconsistent he fluctuates between a clinical, smart Ballardian narrator and some sarcastic dude whose swears are awkward These seem at variance with each other One should not look too closely at a spouse s back p14 Do the math on that. p11 maybe this was the quiet before the really fucking quiet p23 so they could take her away for a while and we could fucking breathe p22 4 Word choice and lyricism blacklisted claims of weakness p18 our bodies cleaving into fuzz p17 noxious oral product p16 sweetly deluded phase of recovery p22 her lips dragged across my back like a rough little claw p24 she shuffled through the house with the clownish features an undertaker smears on his bodies p17 a plague of deafness, as if an unseen bunting smothered everything, drinking noise, so we could hear nothing p9 I don t see the attraction to all these little phrases How does a body cleave into fuzz exactly Do undertakers smear clownish features when embalming bodies Most of these feel like failed attempts to create an original poetic language I concede this dislike might stem from my lack of immersion in poetry, but I have read bagloads of poetic prose The trick with musical, poetic prose is to sweep the reader along in its euphonious wake Not leave them questioning the logic of your imagery How can a phase of recovery be sweetly deluded, exactly And as if unseen bunting smothered everything is simply weak In that quote there s also a tic of Marcus s, which is to tack on two additional clauses to string out the poeticism of the preceding clause, or add an wholly unnecessary clarifying detail, i.e if you re written a plague of deafness smothered everything do you really need to add we could hear nothing 5 Appended snarks white noisery p1 felt unterrible p24 so her head, did not look, in her words like a tube p23 Invented words that aren t better than their dictionary alternatives Why, if he s written in her words, does he need to put her words in quote marks Why not simply put her words in quote marks He also overuses the simile favourite as if I didn t mean for this review to sound so snarky, but this thing is crawling with problems and I haven t even finished chapter five But the plot works, right Did I miss anything else Will I be burnt at the stake for this heretical slapdown Hope so.

  7. says:

    I m not sure how to write this review sans spoilers, so here s the spoiler free version This book is one of the most original, intriguing novels I ve ever read and if one person gives it 1 lousy star I will find them, pin them to the ground and scream in their face until they keel over convulsing from the crushing Of course I m over 18, so that means I would probably die too, but it would be worth it Okay.So The Flame Alphabet Man, what a great concept Read on for the actual review with some spoiler ish details The first chapter is jammed with important information, so pay close attention It is here that we are given an idea of what the world has come to as a result of speech toxicity In the beginning, it is only children s language that is toxic, and it is only toxic to adults However, not only is sickness caused by speech, it also comes from reading what children write and being around children who are lost in thought.Imagine the scene All children are kept in fenced off locations Radio stations have gone mute and white noise is being pumped into the streets from huge sound systems Officials who are in charge of keeping the peace are swathed in foam padding Newspaper bins are now filled with anti speech agents Adults roam for miles from their homes in order to breathe in the absence of children, lugging oxygen tanks and breathing apparatus behind them Like most plagues, the language sickness starts off in isolated areas Adults with children begin experiencing vague symptoms such as lethargy, tingling limbs, strange red marks on the body The book focuses mainly on one particular family Samuel, Claire and their 14 year old daughter Esther Esther, they notice, is unaffected The doctors and scientists don t know what to make of this illness so they blame it on animals, allergies, pollutants Soon, researchers are forced with facing the undeniable the illness is caused by something coming from the children s mouths Marcus really makes the reader feel like they are part of what s happening His language is sickening. The porridgy loaf oozing over his plate like the inner mush of an animal The gelatinous bird sounds The small wound on his leg opened like the mouth of a baby from the gash came the faintest wheeze of a soundLet s get back to Sam, Claire and Esther for a moment They are members of an obscure Jewish sect who worship alone in huts in the woods In these huts, they Sam and Claire listen to broadcasts of the mysterious Rabbi Burke s sermons They are not allowed to talk to one another or anyone else about the content of these sermons This is a place of enforced silence I enjoyed this idea of not being allowed to discuss what they heard As Marcus says, there was nothing to debate, nothing to say, and the experience remained something we could share that would never be spoiled with speech ..When Esther goes away to camp, Sam and Claire experience a remission of symptoms Sam seems skeptical, maybe this was the quiet before the really fucking quiet When Esther returns, Sam knows that things are about to go from bad to worse The kids made the camp counselors sick not only that, Marcus s descriptions will tell you that the sickness goes beyond humans Birds are sick Trees are sick Evergreens hung skeletal and brown, with sick branches that looked burnt by wind Without giving too much away, there is a fantastic character, LeBov, who is sort of the premiere researcher into the language toxicity If there was a film version of this novel, I would cast Phillip Seymour Hoffman to play the role of LeBov He has just the right amount of cocky, sarcastic cynicism to play the role nicely LeBov is a bulldozer of a man, and Sam is a pawn in his game, or so it may seem Dun da duuuuuuuuuuuuuun Famous last words if you like a dark, macabre, mind fuck of a novel like me, you will love this.

  8. says:

    No children were harmed in the production of this review.

    One for the apedotropic, or apaedotropic, if you prefer One for those of you who, like me, think children should be raised on collective farms in Montana and returned some time after they ve reached the Age of Consent or Voting Age whichever is greater , have learned at least ONE manner, have had their vocal chords nicked, understand that cute isn t enough, shun driving with appliances and or food in both hands, and are otherwise well past thinking On the Road is the greatest fucking book in the world, man

    Should I go on Do I need to Must I speak to issues of those who only read novels that aren t think graphically or listen to music that isn t think rapsodically not a typo and then at a volume that must be shared with all surrounding counties Go on Enough Enough.

    TFA is a thinking person s horror story not a genre driven horror story found in the Horror section of your local bookstore if you re lucky enough to have one , but a frightful horror story of the Literary sort big difference, at least to me The Road and Never Let Me Go twisted into a grotesque nightmare with Holocaust images at every turn where language kills, family matters differently, and society, well screw them It s interesting in a novel where language is so important, the language Marcus uses is so, well, functional functional and appropriate to the first person narrator, but not exactly what one thinks of when one thinks of poetic or aesthically pleasing and, I think, this is as it should be Part of what makes this novel successful, for me, is that one can hardly read it without considering Hate Speech that motivated, e.g by race, sex, sexual orientation, et fucking cetera what a nice surprise seeing that phrase turn up in the text , cyber bullying, or the language of arrogance, none of which are themes, but rather, by implication, related to what is going on here I don t want to imply in any way that Marcus language is pedestrian, it s definitely not, but it s used the way one would expect the narrator to use language Marcus is absolutely in control, tight control.

    Somewhere between 4.5 and 5 stars rounded up For a smarter, thoughtful, real review, let me suggest JN M s which deserves 5 stars itself if you just want the shit scared outta you, see TFA There s a lot going on in this one well worth the time Haunting

    Oh, Oh, I forgot to mention the birds there s a hell of a lot em check it out, you ll see.

  9. says:

    WARNING The following has spoilers almost from word oneBen Marcus wrote an outstandingly cerebral, uncomfortable, and moving novel with The Flame Alphabet factor in that chromatically angular cover, of whose fiery upthrust I simply cannot tire of beholding, and it approaches that rare point of fictive perfection So when I survey its remarkably low average rating, the legion of single and double stars ranged against it, I m left at a loss for an explanation GR friend Knig calls it Jewish Sci Fi, which seems as apt to me as anything, though, within a relatively short span of pages, Marcus covers a fair bit of genre ground elements of the horror, thriller, and dystopian apocalypse raise their heads while eminently fitting and adapting themselves to the coherent and harrowing drive of the author s unique, intelligent, and searing vision Aware of those poor reviews though set against near universal acclaim amongst the members regularly appearing on my update feed I will admit to entering this tale with a backwards lean but it mattered naught Almost immediately I was sucked into the confusing, but tantalizing, intimations of an America ravaged by a linguistic virus, one which rendered the word spoken or written a lingeringly fatal construct for adults through some awoken or arisen venom within its meaning And by the time, just over a score of pages in, of the interplay between father Samuel, mother Claire, and precociously radical and honest daughter Esther, at a family picnic near the mysterious hut of the Reconstructed Forest Jews, I was smitten by the entirety and in like Flynn.Every aspect of Marcus depiction of this mysterious and lethal incursion which morphs language from being a vital constituent of human communication to an airborne assassin armed with sonic or visual toxins is first rate I particularly liked the physical deterioration that accompanied the loss of the ability to speak the facial skin emaciated and tautened in around the skull the LeBov Mark, a hardened bump that develops beneath an atrophied and sluggish tongue the production of saline crystals that sweep across a dying world like the arid sowing of a vengeful god the reduction of parents to invalids hiding away from their children, while the latter immune to meaning s fatal turn range about their environs like packs of feral creatures, unleashing a torrent of words upon whatever adults they come across, a barrage of uttered ruin that lays the mature victim out upon the verge of death And the brilliance of the Forest Jews and their guardianship of outlet points for the bundled strands of coated wire that, spread across the country in subterranean tunnels of unknown size, carry the frequency bound sermons of a sect of radical Jewish sages who have seemingly anticipated this speechless calamity serves as the spinal cord for the religious and mystical elements the author parlays Though I lack the depth of knowledge about the Jewish religion to have felt comfortable in parsing all of its meaning within the novel, that does not diminish my appreciation one iota for how the entirety unfolded.At first, anti Semitic strands appear to be developing, in that, at the onset of the language virus, only Jewish children are believed to be the carriers and Sam and Claire, in greater and lesser degrees of faith, as members of their unusual sect using saclike, gelatinous listeners as tools for accessing the cabled messages serve the dual function of being both Jews set apart from regular society, and an exclusive minority within their own Judaic religion There are also the portents of the ills of the spoken word in the Torah, and the wrathful, sudden onset of a confusing affliction, with its similarity to the crisis of Babel of old, seems to set the Old Testament God up as a focal point for an evolutionary development metastasized into lethal proportions And yet, the truly isolated element are the children their shrill, energetic vocalizings bring a death they need not fear their very tones undergo a transformation from cherubic to malevolent and they are the minority who, under the auspices of a desperate government, are rounded up and confined to camps muffled against the spread of their spoken toxicity Bereft of their parents, left to their own devices, their immature bodies probed and exercised, their fluids forcibly extracted by agents seeking in flesh and bone both source and cure for the viral spread, they must pass the years in a strict, adult barren environ until they arrive at the point when, already weakening from their newfound susceptibility to the deadly fruit of meaning, they are released to an outside world of predators and manipulators awaiting the opportunity to make use of their freshly emerged forms Indeed, in a brief portrait of Esther, caught on camera and seen by her father, all of this reality is crystalized by a forlorn pose and head buried in hands.Then there s LeBov, one of those authorial creations who set off a charge whenever they grace the pages A mysterious redheaded scientist who apparently warned of the virus potential ere it broke out, LeBov is an energetic and enigmatic presence, both helpful and sinister, utterly ruthless in his determination to uncover the foundations of the disease and thus effect a cure His manipulations and revelations to Sam shock the latter out of the smallwork with which he has both been passing his precious time, and estranging himself from wife and child, though that began far earlier The way Marcus depicts him late in the novel at the Forsythe facility where the intense work of solving this linguistic nightmare reaches its amoral apex oiled up, aching, attended by technical and medical suitors, is just fantastic In a way, I deemed LeBov as an updated version of Dostoyevsky s Grand Inquisitor, aware of the game that is afoot and striving to maintain hope when the latter seems utterly unfounded, while using morally questionable means in the furtherance of that cause And in Sam, Marcus subtly portrays how the loss of language brings about a corresponding diminishment in one s humanity While Sam uses the same calm, measured tone to portray the catastrophic events of which he is a part, the actions they are describing harden and set in stone before the reader s very eyes His reunion with Claire within the confines of Forsythe is simultaneously touching and appalling.Indeed, the reduction of everything and everybody to complete silence is eerily set against the inner voice of Sam that, of necessity, carries on as if nothing had changed whatsoever It is quite amazing how much of the experience of human life requires communication, and how strikingly Marcus captures that aspect while yet recording the myriad ways that humankind, an adaptable species if there ever was one, manages to maintain the old routine by the adoptions of a new And the oldest component of that overwhelmed routine is family and perhaps Marcus greatest achievement, in a book flush with many, is the depiction of the intimacy and interconnectedness and vitality of the nuclear family, even as he ranges about its inherent tensions, abrasions, and repulsions, the conflict between spouses who form a united core of separate, straining parts, between parents removed from the immediacy of urgent childhood and the ways in which comfort and routine can replace the honesty of addressing the immediate within its very presence Esther, though with relatively brief page time, is a potent creation on her own, conveying her striving spirit and rational outlook and unshielded, quailing immaturity in passages where she is forced to be silent, struggling mightily against unleashing her poisonous voice in crippling barrages towards her mother and father The separation between this familial trio that comprises the second half of the novel is beautifully and poignantly conveyed and never than in the chilling final paragraphs, where Sam s changed nature and tunneled vision are enshrined in a steel set as barricade against the incursions of grief and loss.Finally, there is the virus itself Adept as ever, Marcus manages to endow its onset with both a biblical force that demands faith, contemplation, and inner struggle if it be solved, and one coeval that is fully explained and explored within science Will the solution be found in the thrumming, cloaked voices alive within the orange jacketed wire, or through the thorough investigation of biological change and alphabetical restructuring It seems that perhaps neither suffices on its own Early on, LeBov remarks to Sam that Since the entire alphabet comprises God s name, since it is written in every arrangement of letters, then all words reference God That s what words are They are variations on his name Whatever we say, we say God. God is in every particle of language And yet he remains most specifically of all in the Judaic belief unknowable, even unapproachable How can we then know whether, from the very start from the very first instantiations of the mythologies in which we compressed the vital element of our primordial, language birthed condition that we haven t been misusing language altogether At cross purposes to how its least component and entirety, which is God, would fain have us do And this corruptive pride, engorged as our communications have encompassed every aspect of our lives, might perforce require that it be made malignant and deathly that we be purged of this misappropriated, meaning imbued giant Or perhaps, in the evolution of our brains, the neural configurations for a toxic reaction to an increasing bombardment of parsable vocalized and written codes have been set in place, to be set off by a chance chemical reaction that set fire to the wick of a millennia forged mass of explosive.Two curious omissions that I detected in The Flame Alphabet were that the internet in which our linguistically based interconnectivity reaches its highest and most immediate level was nonexistent and our own inner voices which, at least for me, conduct their circular bombardments in the English language were non lethal Though Marcus stressed that it was meaning which laid adulthood low, do not our thoughts coalesce and enchain themselves with a meaning as discernible as that which we them compress and infuse into our spoken and diagrammed words I don t know why these two components were not explored or used to the degree their potential implies But what matter that This is still fucking dynamite as far as novels go, and one that begs to be reread, and then reread again This is a book made to be studied some of the disparaging reviews have remarked, like that was somehow a bad thing When the story that propels it is as magnificently carried out, as fully realized as this one is, studying it becomes but a further pleasure, and an anticipated avenue to a greater understanding the sort of thing you would expect from a near perfect book.

  10. says:

    Possibly because I m engrossed by and grossed out by The Walking Dead now there s a dystopia worthy of the name possibly because in the last couple of years I ve stumbled over a bundle of great American writers with beautiful styles Smith Henderson, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Alissa Nutting, you know round up the usual suspects possibly because I just read two whopping novels Fourth of July Creek, The Book of New Strange Things which effortlessly demonstrated what novels are capable of gee, so that s how it s done, why doesn t everybody do that possibly because another deadly ironic black humour dystopia based on a gigantic metaphor the actual spoken language of our children is killing us slowly is overly familiar to us from J G Ballard High Rise, Concrete Island, Cocaine Nights and really, do we need any giant metaphors , I dunno possibly because I found The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories edited by Ben Marcus to be mostly composed of the opposite of stuff I like to read and possibly because no bout adout it Ben Marcus can string an unusual sentence together, and can infuse a sense of morbid dread into his prose which I ve previously only encountered in HP Lovecraft and some of Ted Bundy s interviews, but which, only too intensely successful, escaped the book itself, permeated my entire house, and made it advisable to read The Flame Alphabet wearing an ebola style space suit, I found the idea of continuing with this intentionally dreary deliberately nonsensical beautifully contrived concoction frankly unbearable Don t shoot me, o ye slightly avantgardist fans So, in the time honoured manner, when giving up a novel I actually have a lot of respect for, I did not hurl it but reverently propped it against the wall 1 star represents the fun I had with this novel i.e none Note If you are looking for gonzo absurdist futurama wild gorgeous bad craziness with a whack fol the diddle oh I recommend Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot.

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