Ben Marcus - Leaving the Sea (4 stars)

Absorbing short story collection marks out author as eclectic and valuable talent

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Ben Marcus - Leaving the Sea

(Granta)

2012’s critically acclaimed The Flame Alphabet may have established Ben Marcus as a novel writer of note, but this new short story collection reminds us that he’s still one of the most innovative writers of the concise form around. Leaving the Sea (his first collection since a 1995 debut with The Age of Wire and String) is a fascinating showcase of Marcus’ stylistic range, though the stories are all linked by a heady mix of dystopia, absurdity and detached male protagonists.

At first, we’re plunged into a series of straightforward tales: Paul tries to reconnect with his family after a violent episode in their past; Mather attempts to balance caring for a sick child with going to work; Edward is chastised by rigid officials for trying to save his parents during a town emergency drill.

As you wade further in, the collection becomes more experimental and sometimes quite challenging, but Marcus balances out the darker, more intense moments with a few well-placed comic lines. It’s certainly an absorbing collection, and marks out the author as an eclectic and valuable talent.

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