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moving under skies

NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy:  you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com. 

The Brief History of the Dead

The Brief History of the Dead - Kevin Brockmeier

I really thought I was going to like this but instead was ambivalent, bordering on hostile.* It's like Brockmeier read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and thought, as we all did, that any one of those haunting and delightful cities would make a great setting for a full book. And then went off and wrote one, but somehow failed to add any of the poignancy, beauty, and philosophy that Calvino captured in two pages of his city of the dead. It's a book that feels at once too brief and too broad; there are so many--too many--characters, all grasping towards something meaty and moving about relationships, death, memory, even consumerism, and not managing to fully own any. I felt that the setting--both of them, deadcity and antarctica--were anemically described, rife with squandered potential. Actually "squandered potential" was how I felt on the whole--putting aside discontent about suspected inspiration, how can you go wrong with such an intriguing concept? Saramago could have done it perfectly. A story like this would probably be fantastically disturbing in the hands of Chris Adrian. Calvino already wrote it, in two pages or so. Kevin Brockmeier, however, utterly failed to convince me, and I will not be reading any more of his books.*Full disclosure: I read this during and immediately after the death of one of my favorite people in the universe so perhaps I was just not in the headspace for a book like this.