Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

"The Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin Brockmeier (John Murray, 2006)

The first chapter is on the New Yorker's site. It's impressive. My interest was maintained for maybe half the book (up to and including, perhaps, "A body is more likely to die at sunset than at any other hour of the day - that's a fact. The trick then, is to keep the sun from setting. That's what we're looking for at Coca-Cola, and what we in the PR division have been fighting so hard to achieve: a sun that never sets", p.125), but the final 2 chapters in particular were disappointing; "The Marbles" too obscure and "The Crossing" too predictable.

Other reviews

  • Colin Greenland (Guardian)
  • Patrick McGrath (New York Times) (Nobody in the novel is remotely interesting, even in their responses to their extraordinary predicaments. And the plot, although rich in dramatic possibility, limps along through various tedious digressions and flashbacks, failing to stimulate any real imaginative or intellectual excitement)
  • Matthew Cheney (SF Site) (Laura's entire trek across the ice becomes a drawn-out excuse for her to remember random memories, and the vignettes in the city become predictable illustrations and variations on those memories. It's all well written and superficially captivating, but it's not satisfying because the structure creates such a write-by-numbers quality to the storytelling that most of the emotional energy built up in the first half is dispersed. )
  • Laura Miller (Salon)
  • Meghan O'Rourke (Slate) (The two threads here are as archetypal as they come - a mythological depiction of the afterlife, and an arctic survival story—but together they add up to a peculiarly original meditation on what memory means to us ... The final stage of Laura's journey is surrealistic and febrile — less clear, and more predictable, than much of the prose that preceded it.)
  • Carl V. Anderson

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