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The View from the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier
The View from the Seventh Layer

hermionebadger, May 16, 2008

I've followed the writing of Kevin Brockmeier closely over the last couple of years. At first, I was amazed at his restraint, his eye for nuance, and the delicate ways that he shows us the world. I am, however, very disappointed with "The View from the Seventh Layer." The language is beautiful, as it always is with Mr. Brockmeier, but this time around, I wanted something more. A character, perhaps, whose life is something other than a reflection in a shady, quiet pool. I felt I couldn't get to know anyone in any of these stories, as everything they said or did seemed filtered through the back end of a fairy tale, filtered again and then again and again until all that's left is an imprint or a painful cliche. Why must every story be a far away and ominous version of the third person limited? Why does it seem that, after "A Brief History of the Dead" and "Things that Fall from the Sky" (both of which I loved) Kevin Brockmeier has reduced himself to a classically trained metaphorist who so desperately wishes to be Jorge Luis Borges?

Unlike his previous works, Brockmeier has given us zero characters that feel real enough for his readers to relate to. I felt like I was floating around in a cloud somewhere, looking into a crystal ball, and not really understanding the actions that I'd seen. Can a mute be heard in a city of song? Apparently, but who cares when the city of song has no hiccups, no real problems at all, and its citizens are so naive to the idea of misfortune that a man with no voice is automatically perceived to be deaf? With most of these stories, I felt like there was some deep, trecherous meaning the author was trying probe, and that I must be missing it, must be looking right past. I learned however, after several rereads, that these deep meanings were really more like subtle jabs at something too vast to be explained--which can be executed well. Brockmeier, however, missed the mark, the reason being a lack of recognizable characters and points of view that range from hazy to vague to completely absent.
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