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Notable American Women

Marcus, Ben

901 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0375713786 / ISBN 13: 9780375713781
Published by Vintage Contemporaries, 2000
Used Condition: Fine Soft cover
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About this Item

First Edition (first printing). The first novel by the author of THE AGE OF WIRE AND STRING, the story of a group of Ohio women who practice behavior modification to achieve complete stillness and silence. Fine in pictorial wraps (with "French-flaps") as issued. Signed by Marcus on the title page. Bookseller Inventory # 70723

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Notable American Women

Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Soft Cover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: No Jacket

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: 1st Edition.

About this title


Ben Marcus achieved cult status and gained the admiration of his peers with his first book, The Age of Wire and String. With Notable American Women he goes well beyond that first achievement to create something radically wonderful, a novel set in a world so fully imagined that it creates its own reality.

On a farm in Ohio, American women led by Jane Dark practice all means of behavior modification in an attempt to attain complete stillness and silence. Witnessing (and subjected to) their cultish actions is one Ben Marcus, whose father, Michael Marcus, may be buried in the back yard, and whose mother, Jane Marcus, enthusiastically condones the use of her son for (generally unsuccessful) breeding purposes, among other things. Inventing his own uses for language, the author Ben Marcus has written a harrowing, hilarious, strangely moving, altogether engrossing work of fiction that will be read and argued over for years to come.


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

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