Kevin Brockmeier has received the Borders Original Voices Award, three O. Henry Awards (one, a first prize), the PEN USA Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Grant. He was also named one of Granta Magazine's "Best Young American Novelists". He is known for his imaginative interpretations of modern life, his emphasis on the wonders around us, and the power of human connection. Illumination is his fifth novel; here's a look at some of his other works:
Things That Fall From the Sky (2002): Weaving together loss and anxiety with fantastic elements and literary sleight-of-hand, this collection of short stories views the nagging realities of the world through a hopeful lens. One of the stories, "The Ceiling," won an O Henry Award in 2000.
The Truth About Celia (2003): Brockmeier's first novel for adults (following City of Names, a novel for younger readers published in 2002). While playing alone in her backyard one afternoon, seven-year-old Celia suddenly disappears while her father Christopher is inside giving a tour of their historic house and her mother Janet is at an orchestra rehearsal. Utterly shattered, Christopher, a writer of fantasy and science fiction, withdraws from everyone around him, especially his wife, losing himself in his writing by conjuring up worlds where Celia still exists - as a child, as a teenager, as a young single mother - and revealing in his stories not only his own point of view but also those of Janet, the policeman in charge of the case, and the townspeople affected by the tragedy, ultimately culminating in a portrait of a small town changed forever. Brockmeier was praised for his ability to turn a story of devastation into a joyous reading experience.
The Brief History of the Dead (2006): The first chapter of his second novel appeared as a short story in The New Yorker. It was that story that made me eagerly await what proved to be his breakout book. 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 are clearing out. 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 due to a virus that is decimating the human race. Almost uniformly rave reviews brought Brockmeier wide recognition. I found reading this story like being in a dream where not everything makes sense but you are filled with wonder.
The View from the Seventh Layer (2008): This collection of stories of a fantastical world that is intimately familiar but somehow distant and beautiful brought Brockmeier more critical acclaim for the craft of his prose and the breadth of genres covered.
This article was originally published in February 2011, and has been updated for the
February 2012 paperback release.
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