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." -

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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