If Words Could Kill: 'The Flame Alphabet' Video Book Trailer

Flame Alphabet

The book trailer -- a short video designed to introduce a new book prior to its publication -- is a relatively new form, but Erin Cosgrove's new video (see below) for Ben Marcus' novel "The Flame Alphabet" is among the best.

The three-minute video depicts the haunting world of Marcus' novel, where the voices of children sicken and eventually kill their parents. Cosgrove, who earned an MFA in the New Genres department at UCLA, said that she was inspired by the book's incredible imagery.

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'Flame Alphabet'"The book is so visceral oftentimes, especially in particular scenes," she says, "and combines images that you can imagine, but are so completely wacky and never make perfect sense. Ben creates worlds that use everything from our world, but in ways that you don't expect"

The video opens with a flashlight sweeping across the walls of a home, and cuts to a man carrying a woman to an ambulance as people in Hazmat suits move through a toxic streets. Faces twist and contort in pain and sickness, and bodies double over, wracked by illness. Meanwhile, children appear alternately innocent and monstrous. A voice-over explains the disease and its effects, and later, a radio announcement tells of the resulting devastation.

'Flame Alphabet'Marcus and Cosgrove met through the artists' organization Creative Capital. Cosgrove had read Marcus' earlier work, including "Notable American Women," and liked it. Last summer, Marcus invited her to collaborate, and Cosgrove responded with a format for the trailer. "I suggested that there was a good passage in the book that introduced the premise without giving too much away," she explains. "The radio segment, too, is in the book, and both help. With things as strange as they are, it's nice to have something that takes you through the piece narratively, so you have some moorings."

Asked what appeals to her about the book trailer format, Cosgrove says she likes the collision of books, video and the Internet. "It's the book medium trying to connect to the way the Internet works," she says. "Things get weirdly passed around online." She also 'Flame Alphabet'liked the fact that the video would bring the book to a range of audiences. Among her own favorite trailers is the video for Glenn Beck's novel The Overton Window. "In it's pomposity it's completely awesome," she says.

"The Flame Alphabet" will be published by Knopf and is due out January 17. The award-winning Marcus will join fiction writer Samantha Hunt for a reading at the Hammer Museum on Wednesday, February 1 at 7:00 p.m. and he'll be at Skylight Books on Thursday, February 2 at 7:30 p.m. to read from and sign his new book.

About the Author

Holly Willis teaches in USC's School of Cinematic Arts and writes about new media art.
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