Silence is my drug of choice. I wish I spoke of pure, deep, clean silence, the kind in alpine meadows or anechoic chambers. The silence I refer to is nothing more than context for birdsong, traffic noise, muted conversations of neighbors strolling past an open window, and the tiny peculiar snore of a cat.
It is the silence both readily available and affordable to me. I cherish it. Revel in it. Anticipate it welcoming me at the end of the day more so than a lover, or a good meal. It is defined by the absence of language, and it makes me whole again.
Perhaps this is why The Flame Alphabet, by Ben Marcus, is one of the most meaningful books I’ve read this year.
Language has become toxic, and only children are immune. As a result, the story takes place in an increasingly silent world. Dialogue, as you may expect, is scarce. In it’s place the first person narrative relies on description and exposition heavy on the narrator’s state of mind. About fifty pages in I decided this needed to be an un-silent film.
Not a syllable of dialogue. Just gorgeous camera work, exquisite lighting, and a symphony of incidental and ambient sound. The rhythmic crush of gravel under boot heel with counterpoint of rustling leaves and ringing phones, all punctuated by slamming doors and squeaking floorboards. And maybe a cello, because cellos are fucking awesome. Mr. Aronofsky, if you’re interested, I can have treatment & storyboard ready in a month.
So who would this book appeal to? There are themes and tropes familiar to science fiction, but very little science. The children are the powerful ones, the agents of change, but they are not heroes, so it’s not a fairy tale. Is it literature? Well, there’s symbolism and metaphor, and insight into the human condition and all that meaningful inta-leckchewal stuff.
I guess what I’m advocating is that this is a book for people who like language and stories, and recognize the power of both.
Marcus is a bit of an architect with language, and there are likely whole pages the late Elmore Leonard would have rewritten because ‘they sound like writing.’ Fair enough, but the craftsmanship resulted in a tight, articulate, and thoughtful three hundred pages that made me think, feel, and choose my words (and my conversations, for that matter) more carefully.
Before signing off, a tip of the hat to SJ over at Book Snobbery for recommending the book in this post.