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Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since 1960 (20/21)
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James Wood
The Flame Alphabet - Ben Marcus

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, more 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.