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A book trailer worth watching: Ben Marcus' 'Flame Alphabet' [video]

January 5, 2012 |  1:33 pm

To kick off the publication of Ben Marcus' "The Flame Alphabet" this month, Knopf has posted a video for it that's worth watching.

To be honest, I'm not sure whether it's good. But since it's a book trailer that's trying to do something more interesting that simply be an advertisement, I consider it three minutes well spent.

Created by artist Erin Cosgrove, the animation uses text from the book in voiceover and illustrates, in action, some of what happens in the book. Partway through it uses a news broadcast to explain the novel's premise, which is one of my least favorite narrative devices. In this case, however, it's forgivable because the setup is pretty odd: In "The Flame Alphabet," children's language has become toxic to adults.

Even with the explanation, the trailer is a bit puzzling. It left me confused enough to go elsewhere to learn more about Marcus' book.

Maybe that's the task of a book trailer -- to fill the viewer with curiosity about the book. Although I'm not sure whether confusion and curiosity are quite the same thing.

Marcus will be in Los Angeles in February, at the Hammer on Feb. 1 and Skylight Books on Feb. 2. Maybe things will become clear then.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

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