Alumnus Ben Rosenthal '18 Publishes 'S-Bahn 5:32'

Nicole Saldarriaga
June 15, 2021

Alumnus Ben Rosenthal '18 recently published his debut collection of short stories, S-Bahn 5:32, through Adelaide Books. 

According to Rosenthal, "S-Bahn 5:32 is a collection of short stories linked not by characters or place but by the theme of transit - both literal and metaphorical. Characters often find themselves on trains, in cars, on buses, moving forward too quickly to sometimes comic, sometimes grotesquely tragic effect. Thus, two art students win a trip to Germany and proceed to wreak decadent havoc on the countryside as a kind of postmodern experiment. A ’70s punk band crashes an apple orchard in upstate New York. A dying European porn star is chauffeured through the hell of the Vegas Strip. A mother drives her son in circles through the Midwest. A former Soviet wolf-culler returns to the scene of the crime. The language is meant to move at the same clip as the cars and trains, even in the few stories which 'stay at home,' and the momentum creates its own sense of the world as a brutal and seductive fantasia."

The collection has already been met with high praise from several distinguished Columbia professors. Associate Professor Sam Lipsyte said, "With the flick of a sentence Rosenthal can open up worlds of comic—and not so comic—devastation. S-Bahn 5:32 is a shrewd, dark, funny and sometimes heart-shredding collection." 

Professor Ben Marcus added, "I won't compare Rosenthal's stories to those of anyone else because I can't. They are cold and hard, deranged with longing, sickly funny, and far too real for comfort. The writing? Pretty much impossibly good: impeccable, fierce, and barreling at you fast. Rosenthal has vision, skill, and control, and this book is full of stories that seem shaped out of something that's always been there. I want more of this mind, this view of our days, packaged in perfectly surgical sentences. S-Bahn 5:32 is freakishly good." 

book cover

According to adjunct professor Elissa Schappell, "There is something powerfully alive and beautiful in these stories, something dirty and true and flat out astonishing. When I wasn't marveling at Rosenthal's blazing intelligence and guffawing at passages of dark unbridled ribald hilarity, I was struck by the moments of true tenderness and genuine feeling, thinking here is a writer who sees how broken we are and celebrates it. I feel so damn lucky." 

Ben Rosenthal’s stories have appeared in Adelaide, Faultline, The Potomac Review, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of Columbia University and The New School for Social Research. His work has received grants from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in New York. This is his first book.