Author Ben Marcus read excerpts from his newest novel, The Flame Alphabet to students and faculty at St. Francis College. The event was held on Thursday March 8, 2012 in Founders Hall.
Marcus is the seventh writer to come speak to the college as part of the Walt Whitman Writers Series.
Currently Marcus is a professor at Columbia University. In 2009, he was the recipient of a grant for Innovative Literature from the Creative Capital Foundation. He also received the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008.
He read various sections from his novel that highlighted the central theme of The Flame Alphabet. The Flame Alphabet is about how children's spoken words, their language are causing the downfall of society.
They have caused all of the adults to become sick and seek an escape from their home. It is a novel that discusses how far one man will go in order to protect his family.
As an author Marcus said his inspirations to write came from German author Franz Kafka and Australian novelist Thomas Bernhard.
After Marcus was done reading he fielded some questions from the people in attendance. He was asked who inspired him to write this book. Marcus discussed how language can become a weapon within a family. Spoken words can ruin one's life, especially if they are in a close-knit relationship. A simple expression such as "I hate you" can change a person for the worse.
Marcus said, "Language can be a drug and can affect your mind chemically."
Marcus also gave advice for aspiring writers during his speech, "Writing is used as a tool we use in a way to express ourselves. It can be used to unlock thoughts that we didn't know we had."
One interesting point that Marcus spoke about was how sleep can influence a writer.
Marcus said, "Those little sleep dreams that a person has as their laying down are thoughts that produce information to entertain you." A writers imagination is sparked as they are about to go to sleep. He stressed that writing is the only tool that can channel ones imagination into something express full and meaningful.
Literature professor, Theo Gangi, who was a former student of Ben Marcus's in graduate school, was asked on what it was like to see his old professor come back and speak to his students.
Gangi said, "The most interesting part of the speech was that afterwards my students came up to me and said they saw were I got my style of teaching from."
The speech was very informative due to the fact that Marcus isn't a conventional author. The Flame Alphabet makes one think about the worst possibilities and poses questions that are more interesting to the mind.
He jokingly said he wrote this book so it would never happen to his children in real life. Marcus pictured it as a bad dream so if he wrote it, it would never come true.
To quote the insert of The Flame Alphabet "What is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love?" This novel is very apocalyptic in nature and takes the reader on a journey, searching for an answer to that question.
Ben Marcus thanked the crowd for attending and talked to some faculty members when he was done speaking. His book is a must read as it challenges the contemporary novel.