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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Marcus’

The Surreal Life

August 14, 2013 | by

Leonora-Carrington-Studio-Paris-Review

A young woman from an affluent family finds herself dreading her formal entrance into high society. An affable hyena offers to take her place; the young woman acquiesces, but the hyena demands a face to wear in place of her own. A maid enters, and the hyena murders her. The debutante doesn’t object; she merely asks that the killing be done quickly. Later, the debutante learns of what transpired at dinner: the hyena’s masquerade persisted until she took umbrage to the cake being served. She stood, tore off her false face, and escaped through a window.

All of this takes place in Leonora Carrington’s short story “The Debutante.” The motifs it contains recur throughout her fiction: an occasionally amoral protagonist; animals that speak and attract no alarm while doing so; and a satirical jab at certain institutions—here, the wealthy. Carrington is best known for her surrealist paintings and sculptures, but her idiosyncratic literary legacy is equally deserving of attention.

Carrington’s best-known work of prose, the novel The Hearing Trumpet, begins on a note of gentle absurdity and gradually becomes truly bizarre. Marian Leatherby, the novel’s protagonist, is an elderly woman living with her son and daughter-in-law. Using the titular device, she learns that they plan to place her in a home; after she arrives there, her narration gives way to a low-grade conspiracy narrative. Marian discovers evidence of mysterious gatherings, disappearances, and hints of the supernatural. Ultimately, all this leads to a total reordering of the terrestrial order: a world "transformed by the snow and ice.” Marian anticipates the day when “the planet is peopled with cats, werewolves, bees, and goats. We all fervently hope that this will be an improvement on humanity …” Read More »

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Pinning Down: A Conversation with Catrin Morgan

June 5, 2013 | by

Air dies elsewhere, graphite on paper, 10cm x 10cm

Air dies elsewhere, graphite on paper, 10 cm x 10 cm.

Catrin Morgan has a history of sticking pins through words. (Check out her ongoing project, Pinning, which was installed at the Bromley House Library.) Maybe this is her real attraction to Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String, which she just illustrated for Granta’s new edition: finally, a book with text she can’t easily pin down. In graphite drawings, Morgan builds disassembled—or, nonrationally assembled—architectural objects, maps, and containers, many of which seem to act as entry points to systems with unfamiliar parameters. The illustrations define and rely on their own language, complementing the language of The Age of Wire and String nicely, self-contained discourses with overlapping vocabularies.

Your designs for The Age of Wire and String are almost all diagrams, fanciful maps or systems that have some kind of chronological or other organizational logic. Can you explain how the content and structure of the book informed your decisions here?

It seemed to me that by attempting to illustrate The Age of Wire and String directly, by illustrating very faithfully the images suggested by the text, I would close it down. What I love about The Age of Wire and String is the space it opens up in my imagination and I didn’t want my images to take that space away from new readers. In the end, the images I created aimed to respond to the tone and construction of the text and to behave in a similar way. The text subverts our expectations of familiar patterns of language, and so I created images that appear familiar but in fact are always doing something that belies their appearance, so what appears to be a map is in fact composed of sleeping figures, and a circuit diagram is based on the floor plans of a building. The images also reference directly illustrations from manuals and encyclopedias, as I felt like the deadpan tone of this kind of illustration suited perfectly the tone of the novel.

The set of illustrations I ended up with are a representation of the world that The Age of Wire and String projects within my mind, and some of them were created without planning exactly where they would go in the text. When placing them I looked for shared co-ordinates between an image and a piece of text, so that the image and text spoke to, but did not explain each other.

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See You There: The Paris Review at the Strand, Tonight!

October 10, 2012 | by

Join us at the Strand tonight for another installment of our reading series. Readings by actor and filmmaker Alex Karpovsky, currently on HBO’s Girls, and author Ben Marcus, a contributor to our new anthology, Object Lessons. Wine will be served.

Wednesday, October 10, 7 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
The Strand Bookstore, third-floor Rare Book Room
828 Broadway at Twelfth Street

Admission: Buy a copy of the current Paris Review or a $10 Strand gift card.

To reserve your seat, click here.


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Great Gatsby, Great Casting, Commas

May 24, 2012 | by

Dubious.

  • Electric Literature’s Required Reading kicks off with a Ben Marcus story and accompanying animation.
  • Your new favorite time waster: I Shot the Serif.
  • Zach Galifianakis is Ignatius J. Reilly.
  • Most comma mistakes.
  • Zelda draws Scott.
  • Speaking of, the first glimpse of Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby trailer elicits … strong emotions.
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