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Leaving The Sea

by Daniel Scheffler
Contributor
Saturday Feb 1, 2014
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With this selection of short stories brave (and funny) man Ben Marcus bites off a mouthful and some. "Leaving The Sea: Stories" starts off rather simple, and starts to progress to something much more experimental and refreshing, albeit slightly unpleasant for the characters.

What makes Ben Marcus worth reading is the fact that even when he is at his darkest times in this collection of stories he manages to break free of himself by making the reader laugh, or at least laugh on the inside. Marcus has that black humor down, he tickles it vaguely and then gives it all his juice questioning the very reason that black humor exists. Are we inherently funny or do we as humans laugh when the pain, or emotion, becomes unbearable to handle? It does therefore inevitable feed into our human flaw that is quite simply -- anxiety. The stories progressively feed into that anxiety, cruelly scratching the scabs off anxiety and letting the wounds bare themselves as much as possible. Everything is real, nothing is fake -- or is everything fake and nothing real?

The characters are recognizable as the worst, or best version of yourself. Never just simple, every single one of the characters manages to wink up at you the reader as if to say, "don’t worry, I’m just like you". You question the human condition (what is that exactly you might be asking after the first page?), but in the end you’d forgotten that you questioned this, because you’ll be so confused about your role in all of this, but the waters will part even if its not right this minute says Marcus.

Are we inherently funny or do we as humans laugh when the pain, or emotion, becomes unbearable to handle?

Ben Marcus, known for "The Flame Alphabet", "Notable American Women," "The Father Costume," and "The Age of Wire and String", has been published all over including Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Electric Literature, Granta, The Believer, McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, and Tin House. He has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction, three Pushcart Prizes, the Berlin Prize, and awards from Creative Capital and The American Academy of Arts and Letters. If that wasn’t quite enough he has since 2000 been on the faculty at Columbia University.

The man has the credits, his latest will frustrate you and then the mist will clear and the value will pour out on your lap -- impossible to clean up the gladdening mess.


"Leaving The Sea: Stories"
Ben Marcus
$19.68
Random House/Knopf

by Ben Marcus

Based between New York and Cape Town, Daniel Scheffler writes about socio political and travel matters and is working on a memoir. Follow him on Twitter @danielscheffler.

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