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The Flame Alphabet Hardcover – 17 Jan 2012


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Hardcover, 17 Jan 2012
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group; First Edition edition (17 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030737937X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307379375
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 3.1 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,412,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A measure of the book's success is that it enforces not just a suspension of disbelief, but for a while total surrender of the faculty of reason ... The drama of parental obsolescence is sharply articulated, as is the condition of terrorised parental love --Guardian

An unforgettable experience. This is, quite simply, one of the most powerful works of fiction it has ever been my privilege to read ...
As I approached the final pages I felt tearful, nauseous, shivery, exhausted, terrified and short of breath ... It is a novel which has profound things to say about matters metaphysical but does so in a way that creates a physiological response ... The Flame Alphabet is a revelation and a castigation ... literature that makes sense of our age and will be read in ages to come --Scotsman

Ben Marcus s new novel is an eye-burning high-literary encounter with science fiction ... The Flame Alphabet is abuzz throughout with the kind of scorching prose that we d expect from such bona fide American literature hot stuff --Dazed & Confused

Larded with creepy metaphors, the author's own wayward language destabilises the reader s sense of linguistic propriety. --Independent

The most unsettling novel of the year. Hitherto known as an experimental writer - The Age of the Wire and String fascinated, delighted and baffled me in 1995 - his orbit has gradually been approaching Earth over the past 18 years, but he's still out there. Horribly vivid... It looks from a distance like a sci-fi dystopia but is, in fact, far more interesting than that. --'Best Paperbacks of 2013', Guardian

The Flame Alphabet gets into your head and under your skin and stays there. --'Books of the Year' chosen by Josh Cohen, The Big Issue --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ben Marcus is the author of three previous books; Notable American Women, The Father Costume, and The Age of Wire and String. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Believer, The New York Times, and McSweeney's. He has received a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction, a grant for Innovative Literature from the Creative Capital Foundation and three Pushcart Prizes. He is an associate professor at Columbia University.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Simon Yates on 9 Aug 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well it wasn't what I was expecting.
I thought it was going to be an easy, pulpy sci-fi, dystopian, post apocalyptic novel. Perhaps with a peppering of philosophy about the use of language.
Oh, boy. This is not that.
I was constantly amazed by Marcus's inventive cleverness. I have never read anything like this, and I'm not sure if I've ever been quite as affected by a book as much as this.
Normally, if a book gets its hooks into me, I end up constantly thinking about the characters. Or, to a lesser extent, the world or the central theme. This was like plugging a raw emotion into my mind. Unfortunately, the emotion was akin to disgust or perhaps despair, so this will never be my favourite book.
But as a work of fiction, it is incredible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jw1951 on 8 Jan 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Yes they will! In this dystopic future words spoken by children (and later, it seems, by everyone, even written ones...) induce devastating illness in those who hear or see them, although the children are immune up until a certain age. This is the main thread of this (very strange, but interesting) novel, but there are others too. One is that of "forest Jews", of whom the narrator is one, who worship in tiny home made synagogues, using a Cronenbergesque living device as a conduit for the words of distant rabbis. Strange idea, or what? Marcus doesn't lack them, as his "Age of Wire and String" novel (?) illustrates. The present book is much more conventional, and even has a plot, as adults struggle to find some way of avoiding language-based extinction, which they do partly by carrying out gruesome Mengele-like experiments. You've got the idea that this isn't a feelgood book, but it's consistently interesting, and full of very odd notions, most extremely creepy. The book makes most of the recent "new weird" look like Enid Blyton, so if you're interested in new and strange things, read it. Marcus is obviously a strange talent who ploughs his own furrow remorselessly.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Verve on 16 Jun 2012
Format: Hardcover
I like this writer, I like him a lot - so if you are also a fan you will find something in this - but if you are coming to Ben for the first time I recommend you to read his Notable American Women: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries Original) first - which offers far more and which sets out this guys stall in a way that will allow you to go with Flame here without giving up on him. This novel does however contain something of this guy's colossal literary talent and intelligence, and even something of his wit - and the premise of the first half sucks you in so hard and is so finely crafted it exaggerates the silent hiss of the somewhat disappointing second half. What to do? Give it a read, certainly worth it for the ideas alone - but I would check out his earlier work. I also recommend Jayne Joso's Perfect Architect.
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Format: Kindle Edition
From the literary perspective I think this practically a flawless novel. Taut, often poetic prose constructs a haunting and menacing landscape, deeply sad family relationships, and descriptions of the bizarre utensils which are a big part of the story.
Without giving too much away, the plot concerns a virus that’s sweeping society which is caused by language. Only the children are immune, and their ordinary speech can inflict horrible reactions in adults.
I’m not a fan of the science fiction genre, and this is not the sort of book that I would normally read, but I was recommended it by someone whose judgement I trust and I was glad I did. It is an imaginative and original novel despite the bleak subject matter, and I was interested enough to see it through to the end. Communication, philosophy of language, identity, deceit, family bonds and religious dogmatism are all subject which are explored in the text.
I had to give it five stars. It is a very impressive piece of writing and I intend to explore more of his work. If you like experimental challenging writing then I recommend this - but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a nightmarish story told urgently, and it’s relentlessly odd. There’s barely a chink of light shining through the impenetrable queasy cloud he creates.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Bowden on 10 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is one of the most fantastic books I have ever read
It challenges the nature of language and relationship and the fundamentals of life
the prose is fantastic
it wouldn't appeal to many people but if you want to be challenged read this
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jo Brookes on 27 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Good basic premise spoilt by pretentious writing style and incoherent plot. Also studded with those gratuitous bits of bubblegum philosophy that many contemporary authors throw in presumably to fool a casual reader into assuming the book is deeper and more literary than the usual offerings in the genre. Looking at the quotes on the front & back of the cover I can only assume this is a case of the emperor's new clothes. That's 3 hours of my life I'll not get back. That said it did have a kernel of something that held my attention because I did actually manage to finish it.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Queen Bee on 16 May 2013
Format: Paperback
I am amazed by the talent of this man and am humbled by it. I am equally amazed that some rednecks here have the chutzpah to dismiss this work.

It has to be one of the best pieces of prose I have ever read.

Buy it. Support this guy. I got the book out of my library but I am going to stock up on his other work now.
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