BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Reading from his new novel, The Flame Alphabet, at St. Francis College, Ben Marcus painted a horrifying picture of a world where the sound of children talking causes the death of their parents.
As the latest speaker in the Walt Whitman Writers Series, sponsored by the college, on March 8, Marcus went on to explore the question, “What is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love?”
Marcus said that The Flame Alphabet was a way for him to express the importance of language.
“It has the ability to show us to ourselves and to deepen our experience. It’s insanely powerful,” he said.
At the same time, Marcus says he’s not concerned with the way language has been transformed by social media like Twitter or by texting.
“I think the language has a lot of facets; people want to have fun with it, they want to be silly with it, they want to be serious with it. I think it’s all, in some sense, wonderfully out of our control. We should use it the way we like to use it,” he commented.
Marcus, who also authored Notable American Women, The Father Costume and The Age of Wire and String, is a professor at the MFA writing program at Columbia University. He was also on the jury of the first St. Francis College Literary Award. His stories, essays and reviews have appeared in many publications, including Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Believer, The New York Times and Salon.
Marcus is the seventh writer to visit St. Francis for the Walt Whitman Series, which continues to bring top contemporary authors to Brooklyn Heights to share their work and writing experiences with students, faculty and the entire Brooklyn community. Previous authors include Dinaw Mengestu, Kate Christensen, Julie Orringer, Jonathan Lethem, Darcey Steinke and Rick Moody.
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights. Since its founding, the college has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.