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The Brief History of the Dead (Vintage Contemporaries)

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The Brief History of the Dead (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover

ISBN13: 9781400095957
ISBN10: 1400095956
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

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Review-A-Day

"Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead is perhaps the most densely romantic novel I have ever read to also feature a deadly airborne virus and a satire of marketing gimmicks....The idea of the city threatens, at times, to become mawkish...but it is rescued by the thoroughness and weirdness of its conceit....Brockmeier has not only written an allegory of our connection to those we have lost, but he has shot it through with the darkest fears of our times." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Remember me when I'm gone" just took on a whole new meaning.

The City is inhabited by the recently departed, who reside there only as long as they remain in the memories of the living. Among the current residents of this afterlife are Luka Sims, who prints the only newspaper in the City, with news from the other side; Coleman Kinzler, a vagrant who speaks the cautionary words of God; and Marion and Phillip Byrd, who find themselves falling in love again after decades of marriage.

On Earth, Laura Byrd is trapped by extreme weather in an Antarctic research station. She's alone and unable to contact the outside world: her radio is down and the power is failing. She's running out of supplies as quickly as she's running out of time.

Kevin Brockmeier interweaves these two stories in a spellbinding tale of human connections across boundaries of all kinds. The Brief History of the Dead is the work of a remarkably gifted writer.

Review:

"A deadly virus has spread rapidly across Earth, effectively cutting off wildlife specialist Laura Byrd at her crippled Antarctica research station from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the planet's dead populate "the city," located on a surreal Earth-like alternate plane, but their afterlives depend on the memories of the living, such as Laura, back on home turf. Forced to cross the frozen tundra, Laura free-associates to keep herself alert; her random memories work to sustain a plethora of people in the city, including her best friend from childhood, a blind man she'd met in the street, her former journalism professor and her parents. Brockmeier (The Truth About Celia) follows all of them with sympathy, from their initial, bewildered arrival in the city to their attempts to construct new lives. He meditates throughout on memory's power and resilience, and gives vivid shape to the city, a place where a giraffe's spots might detach and hover about a street conversation among denizens. He simultaneously keeps the stakes of Laura's struggle high: as she fights for survival, her parents find a second chance for love — but only if Laura can keep them afloat. Other subplots are equally convincing and reflect on relationships in a beautiful, delicate manner; the book seems to say that, in a way, the virus has already arrived." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"'Which do you like better,' one characters asks another in 'The Brief History of the Dead,' 'the idea of the past or the idea of the future?' In Kevin Brockmeier's modest but inventive novel, we have both: a story set in the near future where people seem always turning to small moments from their past. They exist, all but one, in an afterlife called the City.

The City looks like a European... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"It is both an evocative novel and a fanciful one, both spooky and riveting....What's memorable and moving about Brockmeier's novel are the pieces of consciousness that form the life and then outlive it." Boston Globe

Review:

"Brockmeier...spends too much time on earthbound Laura...and not enough on the eerie and infinitely more interesting afterworld. Although it never quite lives up to its promising premise, the novel's Borges-like spirit will appeal to select readers." Booklist

Review:

"In his brilliant new novel, The Brief History of the Dead, afterlife in the City seems pleasant enough....Brockmeier's characters are wonderful, and his images are dazzling." Detroit Free Press

Review:

"The Brief History of the Dead is a brilliant high-wire act, at turns terrifying, wise, and humane. Kevin Brockmeier builds an intricate labyrinth, then guides us through with wit and aplomb." Colson Whitehead, author of The Colossus of New York

Review:

"Beautifully written and brilliantly realized, this imaginative work from the author of The Truth About Celia delivers a startling sense of what it really means to be alive. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Brockmeier is a wonderful writer who knows how to set up an image, pick a verb and convey a sound....[N]obody should cheat themselves of the playful, disturbing, philosophical and funny riffs that Brockmeier manages." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"This could have been a spectacular book about love, loss and memory. Instead, the slow pace, endless travel, and uneventful narratives leave one disappointed and unsatisfied." Philadelphia Inquirer

Review:

"It's a gracefully written story that blends fantasy, philosophical speculation, adventure and crystalline moments of compassion without ever feeling forced or lumpy." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Review:

"[T]his writer has nothing but an enthusiasm for life, and the marvelous inventions of his stories, both lovely and loving, are a tremendous infusion of energy in an often exhausted and exhausting world." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead is moving and disquieting, a 'futuristic' novel that is really an elegy for how we live now." Kevin Baker, author of Paradise Alley

Review:

"Brockmeier's second novel, The Brief History of the Dead, is meticulously imagined. And his writing is as elegant as it was in 2003's The Truth About Celia, even if the end result isn't as wrenching. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly

Synopsis:

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 Citys 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.

About the Author

Kevin Brockmeier is the author of The Truth About Celia, Things That Fall from the Sky, and two children's novels, City of Names and Grooves: A Kind of Mystery. His stories have appeared in many publications, including the New Yorker, McSweeney's, The Georgia Review, The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and multiple editions of the O. Henry Prize Stories anthology. He is the recipient of a Nelson Algren Award, an Italo Calvino Short Fiction Award, a James Michener-Paul Engle Fellowship, three O. Henry Awards — one of which was a first prize — and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. He has taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

nancymae, February 2, 2010 (view all comments by nancymae)
I had no expectations for this book, but it sucked me right in with its alternating chapters about the City of the Dead and about Laura Byrd, alone in the Antarctic after a lethal worldwide virus. While not a long book (around 250pp.), it reminded me of 100 Years of Solitude in its brilliant depiction of the occupants of a city apart, how they relate to each other, and their ties to a woman trying to survive in bleak conditions.
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(2 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
joannaz, August 14, 2009 (view all comments by joannaz)
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel dealing with death and what may come next. As someone who is not inherently religious, I find this an interesting alternative to traditional Western ideas of the afterlife. Overall a really nice read!
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Madam Pince, July 12, 2008 (view all comments by Madam Pince)
Like most people in their forties, I've lost several friends to death, and this take on what comes beyond is not only one of the most original and thought-provoking stories I've ever read, but has prompted me to think more frequently of those who have departed. If the dead truly do live on in the memories of those they leave behind, then Kevin Brockmeier has written a field guide to the afterlife.
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(17 of 29 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 3 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400095957
Author:
Brockmeier, Kevin
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Death
Subject:
Epidemics
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Publication Date:
20070131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.02x5.26x.57 in. .45 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The Brief History of the Dead (Vintage Contemporaries) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9781400095957 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A deadly virus has spread rapidly across Earth, effectively cutting off wildlife specialist Laura Byrd at her crippled Antarctica research station from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the planet's dead populate "the city," located on a surreal Earth-like alternate plane, but their afterlives depend on the memories of the living, such as Laura, back on home turf. Forced to cross the frozen tundra, Laura free-associates to keep herself alert; her random memories work to sustain a plethora of people in the city, including her best friend from childhood, a blind man she'd met in the street, her former journalism professor and her parents. Brockmeier (The Truth About Celia) follows all of them with sympathy, from their initial, bewildered arrival in the city to their attempts to construct new lives. He meditates throughout on memory's power and resilience, and gives vivid shape to the city, a place where a giraffe's spots might detach and hover about a street conversation among denizens. He simultaneously keeps the stakes of Laura's struggle high: as she fights for survival, her parents find a second chance for love — but only if Laura can keep them afloat. Other subplots are equally convincing and reflect on relationships in a beautiful, delicate manner; the book seems to say that, in a way, the virus has already arrived." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead is perhaps the most densely romantic novel I have ever read to also feature a deadly airborne virus and a satire of marketing gimmicks....The idea of the city threatens, at times, to become mawkish...but it is rescued by the thoroughness and weirdness of its conceit....Brockmeier has not only written an allegory of our connection to those we have lost, but he has shot it through with the darkest fears of our times." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "It is both an evocative novel and a fanciful one, both spooky and riveting....What's memorable and moving about Brockmeier's novel are the pieces of consciousness that form the life and then outlive it."
"Review" by , "Brockmeier...spends too much time on earthbound Laura...and not enough on the eerie and infinitely more interesting afterworld. Although it never quite lives up to its promising premise, the novel's Borges-like spirit will appeal to select readers."
"Review" by , "In his brilliant new novel, The Brief History of the Dead, afterlife in the City seems pleasant enough....Brockmeier's characters are wonderful, and his images are dazzling."
"Review" by , "The Brief History of the Dead is a brilliant high-wire act, at turns terrifying, wise, and humane. Kevin Brockmeier builds an intricate labyrinth, then guides us through with wit and aplomb."
"Review" by , "Beautifully written and brilliantly realized, this imaginative work from the author of The Truth About Celia delivers a startling sense of what it really means to be alive. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Brockmeier is a wonderful writer who knows how to set up an image, pick a verb and convey a sound....[N]obody should cheat themselves of the playful, disturbing, philosophical and funny riffs that Brockmeier manages."
"Review" by , "This could have been a spectacular book about love, loss and memory. Instead, the slow pace, endless travel, and uneventful narratives leave one disappointed and unsatisfied."
"Review" by , "It's a gracefully written story that blends fantasy, philosophical speculation, adventure and crystalline moments of compassion without ever feeling forced or lumpy."
"Review" by , "[T]his writer has nothing but an enthusiasm for life, and the marvelous inventions of his stories, both lovely and loving, are a tremendous infusion of energy in an often exhausted and exhausting world."
"Review" by , "Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead is moving and disquieting, a 'futuristic' novel that is really an elegy for how we live now."
"Review" by , "Brockmeier's second novel, The Brief History of the Dead, is meticulously imagined. And his writing is as elegant as it was in 2003's The Truth About Celia, even if the end result isn't as wrenching. (Grade: B)"
"Synopsis" by , 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 Citys 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.
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