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 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.