‘First Love’ by Ben Marcus

A couple of months after I moved from Sydney to New York I went to the Franklin Park Reading Series in Crown Heights where Ben Marcus read excerpts from two stories in Leaving The Sea. I did not as yet have a job, so could not really justify buying many more books. But the stories kept niggling away at me until eventually I trudged to my local bookstore in Greenpoint during a blizzard to buy a copy of Leaving The Sea. ‘First Love’ remains my favourite of these stories, and was such a shock to my system I found myself reading pieces of it out loud. The story is at once a reflection and a manipulation of the mechanics on which human language depends, and a deeply disorienting meditation on sex and the body of the beloved. When I eventually studied with Ben Marcus at Columbia a few years later, I was vastly too cowardly to ever tell him how much this story meant to me. 

From Leaving the Sea, Knopf/Granta, 2014