Maybe The Flame Alphabet is right and we need to forge a new language. Maybe there are a thousand shades of nausea, and feelings are most accurately conveyed by precise descriptions of mold or the color of blood coming out of a man's ear. Even if they're not, it seems John D'Agata is onto something:

"At some point the reader needs to stop demanding that they be spoon-fed like infants and start figuring out on their own how to deal with art that they disagree with — and how to do so without throwing a fucking temper tantrum or banning that art from ever appearing again. . . . [We're] adolescent when it comes to art."

After reading two worthy, difficult novels, I feel almost middle-aged.

The Flame Alphabet | By Ben Marcus | Alfred A. Knopf | 304 pages | $25.95 BEN MARCUS + HEIDI JULAVITS read at Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard Street, Brookline, March 29 @ 7 pm

Threats | By Amelia Gray | Farrar, Straus and Giroux | 288 pages | $14 [paper] AMELIA GRAY reads at Bookline Booksmith on April 11 @ 7 pm | brooklinebooksmith.com | 617.566.6660

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