News & Stories

Project Premiere: Ben Marcus's "The Flame Alphabet" Is Published by Knopf

January 17, 2012

Ben Marcus's (2009 Literature) Creative Capital-supported project, The Flame Alphabet, is published today in wide release by Alfred A. Knopf. Audiences will have a chance to hear the author read from the novel at upcoming events throughout the country.

In The Flame Alphabet, 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. The Flame Alphabet invites the question: What is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love?

The novel has already received wide critical praise, from Booklist to Jonathan Safran Foer. From the Publisher's Weekly starred review: "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 recognizable yet wholly alien to our experience."

Watch The Flame Alphabet book trailer, animated by Creative Capital grantee Erin Cosgrove (2008 Film/Video)

Back to Listing