Fiction leaving the sea

Published on March 16th, 2014


Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

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Blurb: The stories in Leaving the Sea take place in a world which is a distortion of our own, where strange illnesses strike at random and where people disappear without a trace. Ben Marcus has created a labyrinth populated by disturbed, weary men; from the frustrated creative writing teacher to the advocate of self-inhumation; from Paul, whose return home leads him further into his isolation, or Mather, whose child is sick, to an unnamed narrator who spends his lonely evenings calculating the probabilities of his mother’s imminent demise. (Granta, March 2014)

Jim Krusoe, The New York Times

The stories of his new collection, “Leaving the Sea,” still contain peculiar linguistic and perceptual tics, but he has added to his arsenal narratives that are less relentlessly unfamiliar, less rigorously dis-enchanted, populated by characters full of longing and visible regret, though for what is not always clear. For fans of the old style, like me, there are still plenty of messed-up points of view, and we can be reassured that while most of the work in this collection begins on familiar ground, it happily disintegrates into confusion and dread.

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Randy Boyagoda, The Financial Times

Leaving the Sea would be a very good work of conventional literary fiction if it simply offered such smart and tart observations. Yet Marcus has little interest in conventions, except to undermine them … the middle section of the collection showcases Marcus’s skill and interest in playing with language and storytelling structures. Alas, the skill is greater than the interest it generates: these stories read too much like the result of a writer too wrapped up in his own curiosity about the experimental possibilities of writing.”

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Clare Wigfall, The Observer

“Neither experimentalism nor dystopianism have ever made for easy reading, but what makes these new stories compelling is the humanity at their centre. They explore the relationships we have with those we most long to protect – partners, children, parents.”

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Jeff Turrentine, The Washington Post

“With the exception of the excellent final story, “The Moors” the second half of “Leaving The Sea” comes across largely as fiction for the Age of Theory: narratives constructed in anticipation of their own academic deconstruction. Indeed, if you are planning to go the full distance with Marcus, it would be nice to have an MFA to show for all your hard work at the end. If you’re not reading these self-consciously difficult explorations of epistemic modality (or whatever) for class credit, then maybe it’s best to think of them as a literary tax on those of us who don’t know our Derridas from our derrieres. Marcus writes so well that it’s still probably a tax worth paying.”

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