The View from the Seventh Layer

In his 2006 novel, The Brief History of the Dead, Kevin Brockmeier gave readers a dazzling vision of an afterlife where residents of a city are kept "alive" only as long as someone back on earth remembered them. In his new collection of short stories, The View from the Seventh Layer, Brockmeier again proves to have a boundless imagination when writing about matters of the spirit. He takes readers on a series of magical mystery tours through worlds that only resemble ours on the surface; scratch deeper, and you'll find a place that's a delirious mix of science fiction and religion. It's no accident that some of these stories are labeled "fables." One begins, "Once there was a man who happened to buy God's overcoat" (in the pockets, he discovers a never-ending supply of prayers printed on slips of paper). In another tale, a city experiences intermittent pools of silence; then, finding themselves spiritually clarified by the quiet, residents take measures to deaden all sound in the metropolis, with mixed results. Brockmeier always leaves readers with a lot to ponder, but the book is kept aloft with brisk, lucid writing of the highest caliber. To quote one of Brockmeier's own characters (speaking about an Italo Calvino novel): "You feel as if you have been immersed in life -- both your own life and the particular lives of the book's characters -- and that life, for all its misfortunes, is a pretty good place to be." -

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).