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Notable American Women by Ben Marcus
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Notable American Women

by Ben Marcus

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From the first few pages, I knew this would be one of the weirder books I have ever read -- and I am a reader of weird books. Equal parts disorienting and invigorating, this book is about an America very different from the one we know, and yet weirdly familiar. Everyone in the book has very strange ideas about the best ways to eat, move, and talk to improve the self, but... don't we? You could call it the American condition.

But it would be misleading to represent this as simple satire, though it does that well. Marcus is also doing strange and troubling things to language throughout. Words are placed together in ways that shouldn't make any sense, and yet weirdly, kind of do. And there's also potentially a psychoanalytic/semiotic reading, perhaps about the horrific inevitability of the Oedipal drama, the law of the father, the return to the Real. It's some crazy, dense, puzzling, but also fun stuff.

Through the whole last third, I became obsessed by the idea that this needs to be a movie -- a very strange, quiet, unsettling movie. Preferably directed by me. ( )
  amydross | Jul 7, 2012 |
WORST book ever. ( )
1 vote DJWins | Aug 15, 2010 |
Unless Ben Marcus stops imitating himself, you don't need to read past 'The Age of Wire and String.' ( )
  GeoffWyss | Apr 23, 2009 |
I finished reading Ben Marcus’ “Notable American Women." It’s interesting, unique, well-written and mind-bending, but still, not worth it. It reads like a car manual. I’ve checked out his short stories, which I encourage you to take a look at; they all read like car manuals.

This shouldn’t have been a whole book. It should have been a short story. “Notable American Women€? is a novel about a boy named Ben Marcus who’s raised by his parents to have no emotions. At least, that’s the description everyone gives when mentioning this book. That’s not what I thought it was about. I thought it was a painfully detailed description of the Silentist Movement, one of the cults featured in the book.

The best line in the book is: “Almonds are language neutral.â€? Believe me, that line tells you all you need to know. ( )
1 vote tawdryjones | Feb 26, 2006 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375713786, Paperback)

For the ambition and creativity he displays alone, Ben Marcus has written a very memorable debut novel with Notable American Women. Marcus demonstrates an extraordinary stylistic ability in this challenging and bizarre account of family life within an oppressive cult. The author places himself within the novel as a character whose mother joins and hosts a feminist group known as the Silentists, whose goal is to put "an end to motion and noise" for the purpose of complete "emotion removal."

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:02 -0400)

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