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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kevin Brockmeier

The View from the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2008, $21.95.

You may remember Kevin Brockmeier's 2006 novel, The Brief History of the Dead...about a futuristic City of the Dead. We all here at the bookstore enjoyed it, and we are looking forward to his visit this Thursday. He will be here to sign and read from his short story collection The View from the Seventh Layer. I have read several of the thirteen stories and have two favorites, first the title story, The View from the Seventh Layer. Olivia is the main character in this story, and she lives and works on a small, tourist island. She thinks she has been visited by an Entity from the seventh layer of the atmosphere which has left her in an odd state of being. Before the Entity visited her, she loved to read books and likes to describe the people who read certain authors, like, "People who read Anne Lamott, like people who read Anne Rice, believe that tragedy is romantic, but the people who read Anne Lamott believe it ironically." These little random snippets are funny to me. Also, peppered throughout the story, Olivia recalls what she wrote in her classmates' yearbooks as they graduated from high school. " In Judy Cossey's yearbook she wrote: When we were in the eighth grade, I found a love note from Daniel Diehl to you on the floor of Miss Mount's room, and I kept it in my purse for more than a week before I slipped it back into your locker." I cracked up several times reading her inscriptions and knew Olivia was touched even before the Entity touched her!

The second story I liked a lot is the last one, titled, A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets. It is about a man who purchases an overcoat at a thrift shop, and he begins to find curious notes in the pockets. Eventually, he feels like the coat must have belong to God, because the notes are very similar to prayers, "Please let my mom know I love her. I'll never touch another cigarette as long as I life if you'll just make the lump go away. Give me back the joy I used to know." The man realizes that the notes with the requests or wishes begin to appear soon after he comes in contact with the individual who is making the request or wish or prayer. And he starts to try to acknowledge the person who made the prayer. This reminded me of the theme from the movie, Pay It Forward, where if something good happens to you when you are in need, you must pay it forward by doing something good or humane to someone who is in need. This fable was so sweet and really touched me. I truly look forward to meeting Mr. Brockmeier and listening to him read from the book. Please join us this Thursday, April 17th starting at 5 pm.