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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

The Brief History of the Dead - Kevin Brockmeier Rating: 3.9* of fiveThe Book Description: From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation's most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between. The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out. Kevin Brockmeier alternates these two storylines to create a lyrical and haunting story about love, loss and the power of memory.My Review: I am simply appalled that my cynical shell has been breached by a man who has an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and who has been published in McSweeney's, Crazyhorse, and suchlike Writerly Venues.Appalled. But then there's this:Anyone who has ever experienced love knows that you can have too much or too little. You can have love that parches, love that defeats. You can have love measured out in the wrong proportions. It's like your sunlight and water - the wrong kind of love is just as likely to stifle hope as it is to nourish it.That, laddies and gentlewomen, needed saying and needed Brockmeier to say it. It's just that true, and just that beautifully crafted.I hate that.I make merciless fun of, and throw lots of rotten eggs at, the Writerly Writers like Eggers and Franzen and Foster Wallace for their pretty sentences going nowhere new or even all that interesting. Their self-congratulatory cadres, nay myrmidons, attack anyone who dares say, "yeah, so?" of the myrmidons' ikons. Why can't Brockmeier have inspired such a slavish, culty following, so that I may point and say, "but him! He's a good one! He's a Writerly Writer with something *interesting* to say!"Life is unfair.But anyway. The story is a good one, of dislocation in time and space with all that implies for identity...how do we survive as ourselves even knowing that we aren't in any space ever known to us?...so we're already of to a pleasing start. The Writerly Writing is an enhancement of the basic story, because the sentences being self-consciously pretty and profound make a point about the afterlife. It's a well-used technique in this instance, and doesn't feel show-offy as normally it could or even would.The ending. Well, now, all things have flaws. The important question is, is it a raku pottery crazing-type flaw, or an inclusion-in-the-diamond-type flaw? This will greatly depend on one's point of view of the afterlife. I'm on the fence with this book's ending...and I come down on the raku-pottery side only because I like the rest of the book so much. A different mood, and this would be a three-star review with a sad, impatient growl about the sentimentality of the ending.Lucky Brockmeier. I had Thin Mints before I wrote this review.