Ben Marcus & Keith Ridgway: Cuirt 2013

Posted: April 25, 2013 in Cuirt
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Event: 26 Apr 2013 18:30 -20:30

Venue: Town Hall Theatre


Realism and Surrealism in the Novel

Chairperson Mike McCormack will lead a discussion with the authors focusing on the form and themes of their most recent novels: The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus and Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway.

Ben Marcus

Ben Marcus

Ben Marcus is the author of three previous books; Notable American Women, The Father Costume, and The Age of Wire and String. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Times, and McSweeney’s.

He has received a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction, a grant for Innovative Literature from the Creative Capital Foundation and three Pushcart Prizes. He is an associate professor at Columbia University.

The Flame Alphabet

Both morally engaged and wickedly entertaining, The Flame Alphabet begs the question: what is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love? The speech of children has mutated into a virus which is killing their parents. At first it only affects Jews – then everyone.

Living quietly in the suburbs, Sam and Claire’s lives are threatened when their daughter, Esther, is infected with the disease. Each word she speaks – whether cruel or kind, banal or loving – is toxic.

Radio transmissions from strange sources indicate that people across the country are growing increasingly alarmed. As the contagion spreads, Sam and Claire must leave Esther behind in order to survive. The government enforces quarantine zones, and return to their daughter becomes impossible.

Having left his family and escaped from the afflicted cities, Sam finds himself in a government laboratory, where a group of hardened scientists are conducting horrific tests, hoping to create non-lethal speech. What follows is a nightmarish vision of a world which is both completely alien and frighteningly familiar, as Sam presses on alone into a society whose boundaries are fragmenting.

‘The Flame Alphabet drags the contemporary novel kicking, screaming, and foaming at the mouth back towards the track it should be following.’ -Tom McCarthy

Keith Ridgway

Keith Ridgway

Keith Ridgway is a Dubliner. He is the author of the novels: The Long Falling and The Parts and Animals, as well as the collection of stories Standard Time and the novella Horses.

His books have won awards and acclaim in Ireland and internationally and are translated widely. He lived in North London for eleven years and now lives in Ireland.

Hawthorn and Child

Hawthorn and Child

Hawthorn and Child are mid-ranking detectives tasked with finding significance in scattered facts among scattered lives. It’s North London, where everything presses up against everything else, and no-one is really no-one.

They appear and disappear in the fragments of this book along with a ghost car, a crime boss, a pick-pocket, a dead racing driver and a pack of wolves. Policemen and criminals, their families and lovers, the strange and the troubled and the disconnected – all of them are trying come up with a story that might make sense. The mysteries are everywhere, but the biggest of all is our mysterious compulsion to solve them.

‘The novel that has impressed, mesmerised and bamboozled me most this past year is Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway. It begins as a police procedural, then spins outwards, never quite coming back to explain the mystery.

Along the way we learn that a secret cabal of wild animals may underpin life in contemporary London, we hang out at art exhibitions, visit an orgy at a gay sauna, and wallow in gorgeous (if unsettling) writing. A novel or a series of loosely connected short stories? I don’t really care. Whatever it is, it’s great.’
– Ian Rankin, The Guardian

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