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on 16 June 2012
There are few writers that I can read over and over, but some force you to do so, and in doing so your reap the rewards - this novel is a challenging read - but that is what I favour... being able to return to a novel and in each reading coming across elements I had not found before, or which had not hit me quite so intensely in the earlier reading(s) - making the work somehow new again, deeper, more fulfilling...
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on 14 September 2015
This book is maybe the best starting point for people who want to enter the strange universe of Ben Marcus. Most of his usual obsessions (cloth, air, birds, holes in the ground, and particularly the dangerousness of language) are well represented. The basic premise is that a group of women, led by the formidable Jane Dark, take over a farmhouse in Ohio (home of the Marcus family, who initially consent to this), to conduct experiments in a sort of behaviour modification system involving language, gesture, and movement. A principal aim is to avoid dangerous disturbances of the air, which engender storms, by promoting a consonant-free language, gestural stillness, and ultimately silence. The text of the book is in three unequal-size parts. The first is a short introduction, largely a rant, by (the fictional) Ben Marcus's father, apparently imprisoned in an underground chamber on the farm. The last is a revelatory epilogue by Marcus's mother. The bulk of the book is taken up by Ben Marcus's own description of the extremely strange activities at the farm, interspersed by invented histories of the "Silentist" movement. Part cult, part almost alien-like cognitive modification program, the movement's prescriptions amuse, revolt, and fascinate in equal measure. The book is beautifully written, with a haunting strangeness. You won't forget it in a hurry. I should finish by saying that this is definitely a work of fiction: Marcus claims never to have even been to Ohio! But what his mother and father say to neighbours who might have read the book is hard to guess....
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on 19 November 2014
Another surreal take on the novel by Ben Marcus. Though I think this may be his first novel (thought I could be wrong about that) but I've got to it last. Wouldn't be to everyone's taste - the author writes very well but the content and how the story is told is very far from your average usual novel. A great 'modern' writer and a very good story.
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