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Notable American Women: A Novel Paperback – March 19, 2002
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The strange and fantastical novel is composed primarily of the fictional Marcus's explanation of the leaders, rules, and history of the Silentists, as well as a description of his youth spent in the group's Ohio compound as a test subject and sire for a planned "emotion-free" society. Most accurately classified as science fiction (though often darkly humorous), Women maintains an unsettling balance between absurdity and horror, shifting its subject from the academic to the domestic. Yet throughout, the narrators maintain a cold distance between themselves and the events they're describing, reflecting their lack of emotion through an objective tone and placing the reader squarely in the emotional vacuum in which the fictional Marcus is raised. The effect is akin to viewing the world from behind glass, or from behind a layer of shed skin, as the fictional Marcus does when he wears the empty husk of his sister. A heart can be found in the novel, however, that is well worth discovering: beyond its detached creepiness lies an allegory deeply concerned with the dangers of conformity and the maniacal pursuit of human advancement. --Ross Doll
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
It is not for people who like happy endings or, for that matter, endings.
Ben Marcus's prose glistens darkly, heavy and slug-like, subtle, sublime and subliminal. You may have to read it aloud to yourself to understand its full weight. If you do this in public, you will be arrested.
If you thought "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" redefined the scope of what a novel could be and threw down the gauntlet to modern writers, then you are unlikely to get beyond the sixth page of Notable American Women. But you're welcome to try.
Not as good as The Age of Wire and String, but the moon is not as good as the sun.
But I welcome Marcus as obviously one of the most gifted postmodern authors of his generation, perhaps the most innovative, and often the most hilarious. Now that Beckett and Gilbert Sorrentino are both gone, it's important for serious literary art to be fueled by a sense of humor, and preferably a ferocious one. A mark of general awareness of the human condition? You decide.
Marcus has a huge and varied vocabulary, obviously a feel for the sound of words, and chisels his sentences like a modern-day Flaubert. This is part of the glory of his writing here, and also cause for effort on the reader's part. I didn't find the writing settle into a rhythm that pulled me along, as happens with so much literature, even Beckett's, but a staccato series of sentences and paragraphs, self-consciously hewn. But this is certainly worth the trouble: as with modernist and postmodernist writers from Joyce onward, slowing one's reading pace is well worth the rewards of originality , certainly of Marcus' verbal pyrotechnics.
Other reviews here will make up for what I've omitted in this description, but I wanted to add my own encomiums. Few of the younger generation have risen to take up the challenge left by Beckett, Perec, Calvino, Sorrentino and others; but we have Marcus, presumably at the dawn of a long and rich career, and, happily, writing in our own American idiom.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There are few writers that I can read over and over, but some force you to do so, and in doing so your reap the rewards - this novel is a challenging read - but that is what I... Read morePublished on June 16, 2012 by Verve
The Age of Wire and String
Notable American Women
If, in the `postmodern' canon David Foster Wallace made claim to the footnote and Mark Z. Read more
A surreal manifestation of the brilliant, twisted mind of Ben Marcus, who powers his prose with the dark heart of a poet. Read morePublished on March 23, 2008 by Book Duck
This may very well be the strangest book I've ever read. (I am excluding work with photos or art.) The language Marcus uses has a very simple pattern, in the way he habitually... Read morePublished on November 12, 2007 by Denver Dilettante
Marcus is one of those contemporary writers who thinks that "challenging" prose is somehow a substitute for a good story. Read morePublished on January 14, 2007 by Jeremy Holmes
Like 1984, A Clockwork Orange, and (oh, why not say it) Rush 2112, Notable American Women is a dystopian fantasy. Dystopian is basically the opposite of Utopian. Read morePublished on April 28, 2006 by MichelleFromPA
This gorgeously writtenl mind-bender of a novel is not for people who are afraid to think. Read it and savor the delicate, bracing flavor of brainpops made of cognitive salami. Read morePublished on December 5, 2005 by Roger Carlson
Just didn't work. Instead, read Kafka, Beckett, Borges, anybody with soul and adult concerns. There is something silly and insulting about the use of Ohio, as if name dropping a... Read morePublished on October 10, 2003