December 11, 2023 | Rome, Italy

View From the Seventh Layer

By |2018-03-21T18:34:06+01:00October 1st, 2008|Recent Reviews|

By Kevin Brockmeier

Pantheon Books, 2008. 267 pages.


hat are Brockmeier’s fables about? Some examples. A young woman on a nondescript island is counseled by an benign “entity” that visits her regularly (the title story). A man who buys God’s overcoat finds prayers in its pockets (“A Fable with the Slips of White Paper”). A big city embraces silence only to miss noise (“City of Silence”). Keptin — think Captain James T. — falls for Raïssa with her strange pet “tribbles” (“The Lady with the Pet Tribble”). A man having a heart attack has life pass before his eyes in perfectly convoluted order (“The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device”).

Epiphany is hard to bottle, but craftsman Brockmeir trades in secrets. These unsolvable stories flourish in the disturbances conjured by their stun-gun imagery — to wit, “words lumbering out of his mouth like brown bears…” and “a conclave of eccentrics.”

What they lack at times are characters fleshy enough to fully support their starburst illumination. Michel Faber may be Brockmeir’s superior in putting bones to gorgeous whimsy. But that doesn’t minimize Brockmeir’s gift. “There was no one alive who did not contribute his share of mystery to the world,” muses Father John Melby in a haunting story by the same name (Melby must reckon with a sex-starved ghost). Enunciating mystery is Brockmeir’s mission, invariably accomplished with immaculate prose.

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