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Leaving the Sea: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 7, 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
Many of the sentences have a grammar to them that make them stories within the stories. "The Moors" has a hyper-anxious character Thomas, who navigating precariously at work, reminds me of some of the bumbling characters in Thomas Berger's best novels including Neighbors.
My second favorite story "What Have You Done?" features the ne'er-do-well and hyper-caustic Paul Berger who returning to visit his family after a mysterious absence finds his parents and sister have such low expectations of him that he cannot get them to believe what kind of life he has made for himself. The narrator's descriptions of the bratty children at the family reunion are priceless and speak to the thread of humor that extends through all the stories.
My very favorite story--and this story alone is worth the price of admission--is the lugubrious comic masterpiece "I Can Say Many Nice Things," which features creative writing teacher Fleming who is trying with pathetic futility to recharge his teaching career by offering a creative writing workshop on a cruise ship to students full of narcissistic ennui. Fleming sees his students "as if they were corpses who had been fed some rejuvenating pulp that would allow them to release a few more sentences before dying again."
The caustic writing is buoyed by wisdom and humor. What's remarkable is that most sarcastic humor writing features stories that are flat with characters who are stereotypes. Not so with this Ben Marcus collection. The characters are fully rounded and the stories resonate, so I am compelled Leaving the Sea five stars.
All four stories in Part 1 have male sad-sack protagonists, out of shape, no longer young, unhappily married or divorced. Not cheerful reading. But I liked the second, "I Can Say Many Nice Things," about an professor teaching a fiction-writing class on a cruise ship. Marcus' skewering of the students and the pedagogical balancing act required of the professor is so accurate that it made me laugh out loud; I should have treasured the moment, for it would not happen again. Part 2 contains a couple of stories in the form of interviews with sociologists doing work on childhood and hermit behavior respectively. The content is chilling, but the language is such a perfect parody of academic discourse in the social sciences that I have to quote it:
"The term 'adult' is problematic, I think, and it's too easy to say that my childwork is directly divisive to Matures, particularly Rigid or Bolted Matures.Read more ›
Paul is a thirty something at an agonizingly awkward family reunion, Professor Fleming (in a more humorous turn by Marcus) teaches Creative Writing on board a cruise in "I Can Say Many Nice Things"), a young man named Julian suffers from persistent hypochondriasis, and "My Views On the Darkness" gives perhaps the closest peer into the author's psyche that we really get.
What impressed me most about this collection was Julian's tale, which is one of the most realistic portrayals of what it means to be a hypochondriac that I've read in fiction, along with the protagonist in Kinglsey Amis' novel "The Green Man". A worthwhile new voice.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
After reading other of Ben Marcus's books, I was interested in this one. I am a painter so also noticed that the cover of this book must have been designed by the same person who... Read morePublished 1 month ago by elaine bagley
Reading this collection was a strange experience. The first half of the stories were very well written and quite engaging. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jim Marquis
This book started great and ended so bad I was angry. For shame.Published 6 months ago by Jane Polyakov
I rarely rate books here, but I wanted to write a few words about this book of short stories. It was a frustrating read. Read morePublished 7 months ago by anapurna
Ben Marcus's first short story in this collection is a real gem. Most readers will really like the main character, who having been a loser for so long, simply cannot be recast by... Read morePublished 11 months ago by A. colbert
Great collection of stories. You go from laughing out loud at the humor to being stopped in your tracks by the brilliant and insightful writing. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Bookaholic
You will wonder, I suspect, why I have given this five stars when I didn't finish reading some of the stories. So let me start with that. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Eric Selby
Felt like the author was trying to be Kafka. The first couple of stories were very promising. Around the fifth one, the whole style became annoying. I could not finish the book.Published 20 months ago by James E. Mcvoy
Mixed feeling about this one. Some of the stories are interesting and thought provoking. Others it was difficult to to stay interested. I could have skipped this read.Published 24 months ago by MAJ