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Books: novelist Ben Marcus returns to the short story in Leaving the Sea

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Future literary scholars may look back to the second decade of the Twenty-first Century as a silver age of the short story. The golden age would be the late Nineteenth through the middle of the Twentieth Century.

After that a writer's book of short stories became more often than not a journeyman’s apprenticeship on her way to becoming a novelist. Until recently writers like John Updike, who continued to publish in several genres over the decades, have been the exception.

Now more fiction writers alternate between the novel and the short story. Junot Diaz, for example, followed his debut novel with a second collection of short stories instead of with another novel. After four decades of novel writing Amos Oz returned to the short story in his last two fiction books. And last year the Nobel Prize in literature was awarded to Alice Munro who only writes short stories.

And now novelist Ben Marcus returns to the short story in Leaving the Sea, a book of short stories published today by New York publisher Knopf. Some of its 15 stories predate his most recent novel The Flame Alphabet and several share its dystopian theme. For a fuller discussion of Leaving the Sea see my New York Journal of Books review in which I recommend it to serious readers.

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